Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Maybe I’m Just a Sucker

I have a nephew who is always a victim; usually of his own imagination, but occasionally a real need or injury is present.

What do you do with the boy who cries wolf all the time?

How does a person perceive the real need and ignore the false cries for help?

When should I step in to help; when should I let him learn from life experience; and when do I simply ignore his blubbering?

I think every parent (or person in place of a parent) struggles with things like this. My problems are: 1) he doesn’t live with us, but he used to and I still feel like I have to rush to his rescue. Besides, my brother-in-law (his father) does little or nothing for him; 2) I am not always in a position to know or ascertain all the facts; and 3) as my oldest son tells me, “Mom you’re a sucker for a sad story.”

So here’s an example. He comes to me and complains that his younger brothers don’t listen to him and are disrespectful. He wants to move back in with us to escape his brothers. They don’t let him do his homework because they think he should do all the chores because he is the oldest, etc., etc.

I tell him that things are no different in most families, he needs to have patience and that respect is something that is earned rather than demanded. His eyes begin to glaze over, and “blah, blah, blah,” is all he hears.

I have taken the hook, though, and he is reeling me in. He seizes his opportunity and begins, “My brothers always spend all the money so we don’t have food money for breakfast and lunch. I only get to eat one meal a day. Look at my face, I am so skinny now.”

So what do I do?

I start to feel sorry for him. (He really does look thinner to me.)

I tell him to come over every afternoon to do his homework; I give him some money, send him some credit for his phone and tell him to stop by the house for lunch tomorrow.

Reflection time:

Was most of what he said true? Sort of. I found out that there was a grain of truth and a sprinkle of accuracy, but most was just exaggeration or making the exception seem like the rule.

Did I do too much? Probably.

Did he take advantage of my sympathy/pity? Definitely. Pity is a powerful force. This nephew is a master at soliciting pity and sympathy. He can wring every last drop of it from someone and walk away richer for his troubles.

Will it happen to me again? Probably. Like my son said, I’m a sucker for a sad story.

I think of it this way: I’d rather be a sucker than be too selfish and fail to do enough for him. So, here’s to all the suckers out there.

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