Dear Savvy Auntie,

I have been helping to financially support a 21 year old niece in college. She lived with me during the school year. Last year I paid for her to live at school. I won't go on about the amount of $$ I am spending; I am blessed to be able to help. Right now, though, I am livid.

I am writing because I need a sanity check and some advice. Beautiful Niece is a liberal arts major, despite my best advice (years ago) about studying something that leads to a well-paying job. She figures she will end up in food service management because she works one day a week in a chain restaurant (hopefully more often this summer). I have connections to a James Beard winning restaurant organization. I got her an interview, which is a try-out. They said they do more than one try-out, and would get back to her. She has been worried that the people would be "a**holes" because the restaurants are more upscale. I believe she is intimidated and letting her anxiety get the best of her. She said the staff was nice.

Beautiful Niece, at my urging, emailed the front-end manager to say thank you. Or at least she told me she did. She didn't hear anything from them. Or at least that's what she told me. I saw the top managers on Saturday and they were unaware she had tried out. I asked Beautiful Niece to call one of them. She refused. She said she wants to work at the chain. I told her I was disappointed and embarrassed

 She came back with a torrent of rationalizations and attacks on me. Short story long, she (literally, in writing) told me I am controlling, she is making her own decision and that she is putting her foot down. I told her she needed to grow up and not just take the easy path. I told her repeatedly to stop texting me because I was angry and was afraid I'd say something I'd regret. I didn't, though I am sure she thinks otherwise. She just kept coming at me. And that's where we are

I bit my tongue so hard blood was spurting out of my mouth. I believe she is being short-sighted because she gets anxious (anxiety runs deep in my gene pool). I believe if she doesn't want to work in restaurants, she will make better contacts via the customers in a fine dining establishment than those in a chain restaurant. When we discussed this, she agreed. I don't know what to do now. I am willing to apologize, even though I don't think I did or said anything wrong, and I am not sorry for what I did say. Moreover, I don't know what apologizing will do except let Beautiful Niece off the hook. Frankly, if she is "making her own decisions," she shouldn't be shielded from the consequences, one of which is Auntie being angry.

I really need some advice. I am going to do and say nothing for now to her. What do I say to the managers of the restaurant group when I see (and I see them a few times a month)? What do I say to her mother/my sister? Do I tell Beautiful Niece not to move back in come September? Do I tell her to come get all her stuff? (She left the room she stays in so disgusting I am afraid to enter.) Do I suck it all up? I have to admit, I have a very hard time forgetting when someone has hurt me. I am having a hard time with her attitude in light of my generosity. Perhaps that isn't fair, since my assistance wasn't conditioned on her working where I think she should work. It was conditioned on her keeping her temper in check and keeping her room clean. Major fail on both.

Side note: I reached out to my sister but she has not contacted me. She is the kind of person who makes excuses for things she doesn't want to deal with so I don't expect her to respond. I imagine she agrees with Beautiful Niece, who thinks I am over-reacting. That is the easiest thing to do, to stick her head in the sand. Help!

Livid Auntie

Dear Livid Auntie,

You have indeed been very generous to your niece and are wise to believe it is without strings attached.
Have you ever seen a baby bird getting ready to leave the nest? They flutter their wings, take hopping steps, and are extremely awkward. Then one glorious day they spread their wings and soar into the sky.

Your niece is in the stage of trying out her wings which is totally appropriate  at her age and stage. You are trying to steer her with the wisdom and experience you have gathered throughout your years. You give and even demand she learn what you already know. She wants and needs to discover how to “fly” on her own. She will make mistakes, be awkward, and perhaps even is her time to learn her lessons on her own. So, I advise apologizing for dictating to her, although it was with the best intentions and invite her back for the next semester. However, the rule of tidiness and anger management need to be discussed in detail with plans hatched and consequences established if she doesn’t follow the rules.
Try to picture and emulate the mother bird as she stands by watching her baby falter, yet still feeds her. And speculate how she feels when baby bird flies off and prepare yourself for your empty nest days knowing that you did a “Savvy Auntie” job and will be proud and love your niece no matter what course she takes.
Best of Luck,
Natalie Robinson Garfield

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