I'd think at this point the most helpful thing you can do is listen. If they volunteer something like that -- and you might have to really listen for it -- you can validate what they're saying, "yeah, I know she can be difficult," whatever. But I think just coming up with that out of the blue would be more likely to add to their burden than lessen it.
Good for you for wanting to help, though.
I agree with what you've said. It really would put the kids in a bind by bringing up anything negative about her. They're innocents. I really feel for them, being pushed and pulled in so many directions. The benefit I had when I went to see her was I could leave.
You can always write letters, even about basic stuff like how school is. I don't see how your sister could get bent outta shape in any way (I'm not saying you suggested that) if you just write her kids letters. Just very generic things. The kids will know you care, and will have contact. If they want to write back, they can. This is around/beyond anything else you might want to do.
Definitely a good idea. I was thinking of writing them letters as well. I'd send them to the father's house, because if my sister sees a letter addressed to her kids at her address she wouldn't think there was anything wrong with a) opening and reading them or b) trying to get information from them over what the letters said.
If they had a positive relationship with her it would be another matter, but quite frankly, she's too caught up in invading their privacy to begin with. Despite their ages (young) they still need to have a psychological sense of privacy, and my sister doesn't understand this.
I'd probably resist the temptation to talk about your sister and her personality or temperament. She is their mom and no one likes to hear their parent cut down. I had an extremely difficult relationship with my father growing up, but I still didn't want anyone talking badly about him. I, on the other hand, gave myself permission to say all the bad things I wanted to about him. If they want to vent about her, let them vent, but I wouldn't add any fuel to the fire.
Absolutely true. It would be unfair to bring up my own unresolved issues about her to her kids. Believe me, my unresolved issues with her are legion. And I agree about who is at liberty to critisize whom-- let them have and form their own opinions about her, my role is to be a supportive adult to them.
I had a carefully crafted response all ready to post and then I read JPB's.
Erased mine, which was altogether too stilted, in favour of hers.
Personally, I think if you followed her lead in this, you'd be giving them a great gift.
Yes, it would be a great gift, to provide them some sense of security instead of hostility and confusion.
Agree with JPB.
Ah, my niece's mother was trouble from the get go - I don't think it's right for me to elaborate here, but the mess she caused was unbelievable. At the same time, myself and my husband weren't all sanguine with his brother either. Who are we to judge? Good question, but let's say the mess was very complicated. I've been a steady person in my niece's life, have listened and listened and listened and listened, and talked from my experience in not a Voice of Authority way.
I never said anything to undercut her love of her mother. When she brought up, over the years, all sorts of bad stuff, I agreed but also expressed sympathy for how the mother, or dad, could be that way. As she got into her mid teens, our talks got more like the talks here on a2k - she and I talking as sort of peers across the ages, quite straightforward talk of anything and everything. Peers in that I listened to her as hard as she listened to me.
The mother died a while ago now. She and I became near-friends in a way, whereas we both started out thinking the other was entirely evil, or some other horrible adjective.
I've messed up in various ways in my life, but I feel right about my role re my niece.
Thanks osso, especially because you went through it. Very sound advice, I appreciate it.
I can relate. I have few good memories of my sister growing up. However, she has no children as she is now a lesbian Marxist with anger issues. I suppose I should consider myself lucky -- she's much worse now.
Not only are you lucky she didn't have kids, but her unborn children are especially fortunate.
The children have nothing to do with your relationship with your sister, their mother. Why burden them with it?
I agree with the why burden them with it part. It's just a matter of my steering clear of my sister so my conflicts with her don't infringe on the kids.
Thanks everyone for your time and energy on this, it's been very helpful. I really appreciate it.