DEAR SOMEONE ELSE’S MOM: My brother and I have had issues on and off for the last 10 years. Over the last few years, we reconnected, and it’s been great. We both moved to our home state and were getting along great.
The other night, he was clearly intoxicated and called my cell phone, which my 6-year-old son was watching videos on. My son brought me my phone, and I could hear my brother screaming on the other end. He was yelling something to the effect of, “Bring your mother the f---ing phone,” and when I spoke with him he continued on with the cussing, telling me how my son should not be allowed to use my phone, and that if I continue letting him, I’ll have nothing but problems with my son, who he called a “little f---er” and so on.
I bit my tongue hoping he was talking in a joking way. Well, he was not, and continued cussing and referring to my son as a “little f---er”.
Whatever he said to my son hurt his feeling so much that he cried. He loves his uncle so much.
I waited until the next day to confront my brother. I told him how his behavior hurt my son and that I hoped that he was just having a bad day. Well, as I figured would happen, he told me to never speak to him again.
He has three children, two of them have birthdays this month. They have been estranged for about 10 years and he does not have relationships with them. They have not been a part of his life since they were five and six. So I figure he was just dealing with that in a bad way. Even so, I will not allow anyone to speak to my children that way.
I guess my question is, do I try to mend this relationship, or do I let it go? Last time I let it go, it lasted 5 years.
Our father passed away in 2011 and I do not speak to our mother. My stepmother just passed away a few weeks ago. I am running out of family. --- BROKENHEARTED SISTER
DEAR BROKENHEARTED SISTER: I rarely see anything being gained by permanently cutting someone off after a confrontation. Without communication, there’s no hope for healing. However, that doesn’t mean a cooling-off period isn’t useful.
Right now feelings are raw, and if your theory is correct about your brother having a particularly bad time because of the absence of his own kids in his life, then his being around a more intact family may be another aggravation of his pain.
I think you should give it a little time. While how the holidays will shape up in this pandemic world may be uncertain, they could still be a viable excuse for reaching out to your brother one more time. If you’re concerned his being around your children may set off his anger or sorrow, perhaps consider taking the first steps back into his life as a solo act, and then after a meeting or two, you may get a better feel for how advisable it would be to reintroduce him to your immediate family circle.
Protecting your children is a top priority, and if you don’t feel your brother’s ready to behave around them, then there’s no good to be had rushing a reintroduction.