My younger sister has always been kind of a fuck-up. She parties a lot, has never held a steady job, and has always mooched off our parents (I paid my way for college; she took on a lot of debt and eventually manipulated my dad into paying it off).
Now that we’re both in our late twenties, my parents have made the decision to officially turn off the funds. They’ve told her she’s not drawing on the bank of mom and dad anymore, and that they’ve changed their wills to reflect the cost of her tuition. She’s LIVID. She won’t speak to my parents, and for the first time in our lives, she’s calling me frequently, mostly trying to persuade me to make our parents change their minds. I don’t want to, because I honestly think she needs to grow the hell up. But I’ve been too afraid to tell her that, for fear of alienating her, too. Do I have to smooth this over to keep our family intact? It’s not about the money, I just don’t like her behavior.
-The Responsible One
You don’t need to smooth this over. In fact, you shouldn’t.
Your instinct is dead-on: all this “help” for your sister has left her helpless (or just hopelessly spoiled), and you’re doing no one any favors by trying to maintain the status quo.
You’re not helping your parents–not only did they pay for a college education they presumably hadn’t planned to (since yours was self-funded and hers started out that way), they’ve probably been hit up endlessly over the years. You’re not helping yourself–resenting your sister’s behavior is natural, but it’s toxic to your relationship with her, to you, and might even sour your relationship with your parents. And you’re certainly not helping your sister.
It might seem like never having any responsibility is a life anyone would dream of, but it’s actually kinda terrible. The longer your sister sponges her way through life, the less self-worth she’s going to have. Think about it; it’s hard to feel good about yourself when you’re not even taking care of yourself. There’s a reason toddlers are said to crave rules and the elderly fear losing independence: because zero direction and zero agency is a scary, unhappy place to be.
So next time she calls to bitch about your parents, tell her you’re sorry, but you agree with them, it’s time for her to figure out what she really wants.
If it’s truly nothing more than a free ride, then it doesn’t sound like a relationship worth smoothing over.