Should I tell my brother-in-law?

The facts: My daughter just turned 16, my niece (my husband’s brother’s daughter) will be 17 in October. They played together a lot when they were little because we used to babysit for each other. Now they are very different and really only see each other at family gatherings.

Also, my brother-in-law was divorced from my niece’s mother quite a few years ago. He has the main custody, although the kids (also a 13-yr-old son) go back and forth pretty much equally. They go to school in my brother-in-law’s community.

We were all at a wedding this past weekend. When we got home I was talking to my daughter about another nephew drinking some beers (he is 19–this is not the problem in my post) (maybe it should be another post??) and my daughter told me that my niece told her the only way to have fun is to drink. Also, that she gets alcohol (I don’t know if it’s beer or liquor or what) from her mother’s boyfriend.

I know this sounds convoluted…I’m trying not to say their names.

So should I: Call my brother-in-law and tell him his daughter is getting liquor from the ex-wife’s boyfriend? Get my husband or my mother-in-law to do it? Talk to my niece about it?

What do I know? Am I being a nosy busybody? I don’t drink at all, so am I being a prude? Am I being a tattletale?


hhmmm… you are stepping into dangerous territory…

I’d say drop a clue and say she should be giving more attention to what her kids are doing. Don’t be too specific. Maybe the story isn’t 100% true… but the kid is “borrowing” alcohol.

I’d be concerned that the alcohol is only part of the story. This is not normal behavior exhibited by an adult toward a young lady- my fear is that they’ve been ‘bartering’ for it.

The girl may have been talking out of her ass to sound grown up, but I do think this bears follow up on your part. I’d probably take it to a relative who has access to the girl and can observe without seeming threatening…involving your brother, and his subsequent actions, might be seen as more of a conflict between parents than a genuine effort to keep the girl safe.

If you are saying “bartering” = sexual favors, I say nonsense. While it is possible, I wouldn’t immediately jump to that conclusion. Lots…LOTS of parents give their kids booze. And the mother is probably well aware of it. She may be embellishing the truth. Maybe it’s a couple beers on a special occasion. Or it could be the kid lives at a party house where the adults supply tons of booze. I would deal directly with the mother so as not to be perceived as a troublemaker.

I call BS on this, too. Plenty of adults will give kids beers. My first experiences with alcohol & drugs were with substances provided by my friend’s parents. They thought it was no big deal to give 12 year olds their “first try” in a “supervised” situation.


I have to agree with this, too. My first experience with booze (other than being given a sip or two of wine by my mom) was when I was 14. A friend’s parents invited us all to stay at their farm and provided us all with liquor out the wazoo.

However, I think you should worry that the girl in question said “the only way to have fun is to drink.” Yeah, she could have just been trying to sound grown-up, but that’s not the best view for a kid to have. I think that’s the problem you might want to take issue with.

I fully admit that I might be jumping the gun, but I generally don’t see mom’s boyfriend = parent (i say this as a former mom’s boyfriend myself). My own prejudices, and mom might know and be cool with it, but I think there’s still a moral obligation to find out what’s actually going on.

What kind of relationship do you have with the niece? Maybe you could speak directly to her about your concerns.

Were I divorced and my ex’s SO was giving my kid booze, I would want to know about it.

Could be that the kid’s dad already knows and doesn’t have a problem with a near-17 year old drinking. Some parents really DO go the “I want you to have your first drink with me around” route. Still, he should know about this.

“The only way to have fun is to drink” sounds like something an alcoholic would say; that’s the part that’s worrying me the most. A 17 year old should know all sorts of ways to have fun that don’t involve drinking.

I agree. Providing alcohol does not automatically mean she is trading favors. The first time I ever got drunk was from a few beers provided by my uncle (my Aunt’s husband) and he never, ever, made any moves towards me. Maybe it wasn’t the right thing for him to do (provide a definitely underage girl booze), but my family’s attitude towards alcohol is not as uptight as many.

What is the family’s attitude about drinking? I don’t think you should get involved unless you suspect she may be having a problem with it. I think that maybe because you don’t drink you have a different attitude about it, but not everyone is like that and even teens can drink responsibly.

Brother-in-law has main custody. Ex-wife’s boyfriend is clearly out of line here. I think Brother-in-law needs to know about this. Even if Ex-wife is condoning it, it is a decision up to the parents, not the boyfriend.

As the mother of an almost 17 year old, who is forced to listen to more teenage conversations than anyone in their right mind would wish to, the whole “You have to drink to have fun” thing sounds like typical showoff meant to impress behavior, and could mean no more than that the girl has had a sip of her mother’s boyfriend’s beer. But I live in Europe, so I find the whole concept of underage drinking very strange anyway.

Okay, thanks for the responses. I’ve decided to tell my brother-in-law. (I tried to get my husband to do it, but he wants me to do it…they aren’t necessarily close.)

I don’t see my niece that often so it would be very awkward to talk to her in person.

She is wanting to change high schools to the community where her mother lives…which is where we live. (Her dad is the custodial parent.) I thought this was fine until I heard about her mother’s boyfriend supplying her with alcohol. I don’t know if the boyfriend is live-in. Mom has been married and divorced three times, has three children–one with each husband. My brother-in-law is husband #2 and he adopted said niece when he married her mother. Later on, mom moved out, took the cats and the rabbit but left the kids. He ended up with main custody. Child #3 is shared with husband #3.

This is extraneous information, but I’m trying to show that mom does not always make the best decisions.

I have left a message for brother-in-law to call me.

Any update?

Just read this thread, but I was planning to say mention it to your brother-in-law and see that you have already decided to do so. It may be innocent or your niece may be heading for trouble. Her parent can decide that; but parents can’t intervene if they don’t know. How your brother-in-law uses the information will be his decision. My guess is that regardless of how he views your information he will appreciate your straightforwardness.

Kind of puts my whiny thread in perspective when it comes to BiL’s. If anyone ever offers to my kids drugs or alcohol, well, just one more thing I’ll need bail money for. If I want my kid to experience/learn about alcohol before they’re legal, I’ll decide when.

Sorry I never reported what happened…

I told my b-i-l on the phone–we don’t see each other often. He didn’t seem particularly surprised or upset. He said my niece had told him that her mom let her have a party when her mom was not home and that a couple of boys had brought bear. My b-i-l said that the story sounded fishy to him and he wasn’t sure what really happened.

He said the boyfriend lives in Philly or Pittsburgh (they both start with P…I forget) but is planning to move in with his ex in the fall. (We are in Ohio.)

He said he was already planning to meet with his ex to discuss many issues.

So it is out of my hands, I felt I did the right thing, and he didn’t seem to be annoyed by me, nor particularly thankful. I haven’t heard anything else about it.

There are a lot of unfortunate issues in the whole saga of my niece and nephew. I had hoped that they would always know they could call me if they needed help. So far I’ve only had one call. Last summer my niece called to see if I could drive her to summer school the next day because her mom was sick. (In our area summer school is held at one high school for many area suburbs.) Of course I drove her. Later on, at 4th of July, I (stupidly) mentioned it to my b-i-l and his significant other and they seemed annoyed. They thought she should have ridden her bike.

Yes, technically she could have ridden her bike, but it was a little far and I would have driven my own daughter that distance. However, according to some people, I am overprotective, etc. Oh well, my daughter has turned out pretty well so far. Two more years and I won’t be driving her around any more, so I’m going to to it if I want to. And I will give my niece and nephew a ride if they ever call me for any reason, if physically possible. Then I will keep my mouth shut.

Thanks for your thoughts.


Oh sh**!! The boys did NOT bring BEAR. They brought BEER.

Well, it’s pretty late at night and I CAN’T SLEEP. I’m watching an interview of Richard M. Nixon from 1992. Why? I have no idea!!! I think I’ll switch back to “Bringing Up Baby.”

I’m going to be really sleepy when 6 a.m. rolls around. Unfortunately, I work on Sundays…early.