Raising 2 Boys Who Aren’t my Own at 23-Years-Old
So, I can confidently say that I’ve been pondering the way to approach this subject for weeks. How do I tell this story objectively? How do I tell my truth without turning my sibling into a villain? The truth is, I can’t. I can only tell my story the way I see it, knowing that people are imperfect, myself included.
So, here it goes.
For the past 18 months, my two wonderful nephews, aged 11 and 12, who make constant appearances on my Instagram stories, have been living with my mother and I. My sibling, their parent, has not.
It’s a hard thing to come to terms with, and even harder when something like that is forced on someone. It wasn’t a choice. The harsh reality is, that if my mother and I didn’t take the boys in, they would have been put into foster care. With strangers. With limited access to family members. Possibly in a different school district.
So, did we really have a choice?
Family comes before everything, even yourself sometimes. I’m a 23-year-old single woman, who can’t get a date because guys just can’t understand how I have so much responsibility. How I’m a package deal with two little boys who I didn’t give birth to. I don’t think I would want a man who didn’t understand that situation or approach it with compassion anyway, but just the fact that none of them seem to understand or are willing to give it a chance is discouraging. I have spent years of my life working on myself, physically and mentally, to come to a place where I feel comfortable in my own skin and like the person I’ve become. I’ve worked on my writing, my career, my interpersonal relationships. I’m ready, but the rest of my life isn’t.
This summer, I was asked to stay home and watch the children, instead of searching for another job as mine was only for the school year. Again, it’s a hard decision to come to, but could I really say no? We couldn’t afford to put the kids in camp, and if I had gotten a job, my pay for the summer would’ve been just enough to pay for camp for each of the boys, and I still would’ve had to pack lunches, drop them off, pick them up, and take care of them after camp.
I’m at a very strange place in my life. I don’t go out for drinks with friends or go to clubs. Not that clubs would be my scene anyway, but not having the option can wear on you. Wanting to live the normal life of a 23-year-old and not having the ability can wear on you. Not that I know what a “normal” life is, because this has been the only life I’ve known since my eldest nephew was born when I was 11.
People around me don’t understand this situation. I have hockey mom friends, and I’m already planning on being a soccer mom in the fall. I spent all day Saturday dropping my nephew off in Pennsylvania at soccer camp and did the same for my other nephew today for his hockey camp.
I have been counting down the days until I get a day and a half with no children in the house this week because they both will be away at sleep away camp at the same time. Wednesday, my entire day will be spent driving back into Pennsylvania to pick Jonny up from soccer, and Thursday is dedicated to picking Joey up. I have a day and a half to myself, but even that will likely be spent cleaning the house because not having Legos littering the floor and socks and shoes in the hallway would be nice for a day.
I’m 23 years old, and this isn’t supposed to be my life. I have a 12-year-old nephew who is starting puberty and asking me questions about his body that I have no clue how to answer. The other one cries when his parent comes to our house and yells at my mother and I for “taking away their kids” when we weren’t really given a choice in the matter.
There are days I hate this situation. This life. But who doesn’t spend time being unsatisfied with life now and again? I feel like I should look around and be grateful. For the opportunity to give these boys a better life, knowing what awaited them if I said “no.” But they are almost teenagers. And teenagers suck. And I feel like an awful person for reaching the end of my rope. For snapping at them, or needing a minute, or feeling like you’re not the right person to do this. How could I possibly raise a teenager when just a few years ago I technically still was one? I don’t know how to be an adult. I barely remember to feed myself sometimes, and yet I am supposed to keep these boys alive 24/7 this summer.
I just hate that I feel like I’m supposed to have this figured out. It feels like losing your patience makes you bad at this. They’re not mine, and even though I love them almost like they are, I still lose my patience with them. I still feel my eye twitch when they don’t do their chores, or feel a headache coming on when they burst into my room screaming about something awful the other one did to them.
And I don’t want to make anyone the villain in the story, because I want my sibling to get their life together and be better so that they can be the person that these two beautiful little boys need, but they have their own apartment. And they go on dates and go out with friends. They started school again to further their career. And they get to come for their two-hour visit once a week with these children, and then walk away and not be bothered by them until the next week. You may think that’s cruel of me to say, but that's my reality in this moment. That may not be the whole truth, but that is how it feels sometimes. They are thriving in their freedom and living their best life while I am drowning under their responsibilities for their children.
No phone calls come in asking how the children are. I have not heard a word from them since I dropped their child off at camp today, asking how it went. I get no inquiries about school or sports or how counselling went with the kids last week.
And I get so angry sometimes. I don’t want to be angry. Because you take care of family. You do what you need to do for family. And I was asked to help take care of these kids, so, even though it wasn’t a choice I necessarily made, it’s a choice that I don’t regret and that I’m living with. I just wish that my sibling cared a little more, and tried a little harder, but sometimes you can only ask so much of people until they’re ready to give you more.
So today I have to be OK with where we’re at. Today I have to be OK with the fact that my oldest nephew can’t even speak to his parents in complete sentences without turning in to an emotional mess. I have to be OK with the fact that these relationships may not be salvageable, and this mom role that I’m playing it might be for the rest of my life. These boys have been around since I was 11 years old, and the only time they didn’t live with me was when I was in college, but they still lived with my mother. My sibling didn’t even make it a month on their own before my two nephews were put back in my house and my sibling wasn’t.
It’s a weird place to be in my life, but I guess sometimes you just have to roll with the punches. I’m not saying I have it figured out, because I absolutely don’t. I’ve had at least three breakdowns this week. But I’m trying to take it day by day, work with my mother, and do the best we can for these boys, because they always come first.
Any tips are greatly appreciated in the comments! I’d love to hear your stories and know I’m not alone.
That’s all I have for today guys. Thank you for listening to my madness and sorting through the endless run-on sentences. This is just where I’m at today.