Dear Savvy Auntie,

I’m a struggling artist, but pretty happy in general. My sister is married to a pretty wealthy guy and is a stay at home mom. She married him right after college so never had to work a day in her life. Meanwhile, I work my butt off to pay the rent.  The other day, I had brought over an artist’s kit for my 6 year old niece. She was so excited and wanted to start painting right then. As we were working on her artwork, my sister came over to see how my niece was doing. I mentioned that I was very proud of her and she might be a future artist. To that, my sister exclaimed: “Great. Now she can struggle for the rest of her life just like you.”  Now I don’t want my niece to struggle, but what kind of values is my sister teaching her? Not everything in life comes easy.

Struggling Auntie

Dear Struggling Auntie,

You are not alone! So many aunties (and grandparents) have different values than the parents. There are two issues here… the first is your hurt feelings at your sister’s demeaning comment about you; the second is the different value system you and your sister have. Please talk to your sister and tell her that when she said “a struggling artist like you”, you felt demeaned and your feelings were hurt. If you can talk to her about differences in values, a more difficult topic, explain that your niece can only benefit from a range of values. She doesn’t have to choose one or the other. Be sure to make it clear that your niece is their child and will be far more influenced by her parents’ attitudes since your sister obviously feels threatened by your input. Art projects with your niece can be your special activity together, not secret but, not involving your sister.

Happy Painting,
Natalie Robinson Garfield


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