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Brother Jekyll & Uncle Hyde

Brother Jekyll & Uncle Hyde

By Amalah

Amy,

You helped me out when I was pregnant and when I had my newborn and so I turn to you again, with a very sticky situation. Bit of a long story, so I do apologize, but I am at my wit’s end and am hoping having an impartial person hear the story can provide some insight.

My son was born in this past spring and just turned a year old. He is my first child and the first grandchild on both sides of the family. My son is a sweet, wonderful bundle of joy – we love him so much!

My brother was married in this past summer in a neighboring state, in a city neither I, my husband, or my family was familiar with. During the leadup to the wedding and after the wedding itself, I found out that my brother is very resentful and bitter towards me and my husband (and our son by proxy) because he and his wife feel that “(my son) gets all the attention” and that he “steals their spotlight”. 

When I called to tell my brother I was pregnant, after a perfunctory congratulations, he told me (angrily) he would have no children at his wedding (the only communication I received regarding the matter more than a year in advance). Despite stress and anxiety leading up to the wedding, my son did not appear at any wedding related functions, despite some family members having to miss parts of the wedding (namely my husband missing the ceremony and my aunt missing the reception) – I didn’t want to leave my three month old with a stranger in a strange town and I was reading in the wedding – I offered to take my aunt’s place to let her attend both the ceremony and the reception, but was turned down, as she was “dying to babysit”, but still obviously an inconvenience to her to miss the reception and an inconvenience to my husband to miss the ceremony.  At the time of the wedding, my son was three months old. He was invited to the rehearsal dinner my parents were hosting, but was uninvited after my brother, to put it bluntly, pitched a fit. While I did not agree with his decision to not invite children (a decision that only affected me and one other person – and she came to the wedding with her baby!), I mainly was hurt by how he handled it.

My brother and I were very close as children – two peas in a pod, if you will. We are four years apart and since his attending college and my graduating college and moving into the real world, we have slowly grown apart. Some of it the natural course of two busy people, but also that I slowly no longer recognize the person he has become. Since the wedding especially, but somewhat prior to that, we have become virtual strangers, exchanging only the bare minimum of pleasantries, all initiated by me.

I am not one to beat around the bush (ain’t nobody got time for that), so I did address the awkwardness with my brother a few weeks ago and was told that my son would have “stolen their spotlight” at the wedding (the wedding that was almost a year ago that my son did not attend) and they were “very frustrated” with my husband and myself (and my parents) – saying he’s frustrated/angry that people consider my son to be more important than his wedding. I am not saying weddings aren’t wonderful and obviously happy occasions, but my son is a person and a wedding is a day, so it is hard for me to see his point – again, maybe that’s unreasonable. However, whenever we asked them about their wedding (focusing on them), we would get curt, one word answers. “How’s wedding planning?” “Fine” – after four or five of those types of answers, you tend to want to give up. 

My brother has never shown any interest in his nephew, despite saying he doesn’t “hate him” – gee, thanks. He didn’t call/text me after birth to find out if I was okay after my c-section (I had placenta previa) and that my son was born, saying over a year later “I didn’t know how surgery worked” – *eye roll*. Here’s a small hint – it doesn’t take a week, a month, a year, etc. He has since not had any interaction with his only nephew outside of attending his baptism, where he showed no interest in him and refused to hold him (minor, but annoying) and seeing him at my grandmother’s funeral, Thanksgiving, and Christmas (and by seeing him, please read he laid eyeballs on him – no interactions). I’m not saying he has to be super excited about my son, but nothing? Nothing for your only nephew? My brother loves children, so this is hard for me to wrap my mind around. It is doubly hard given his insistence that he “doesn’t hate him” – his actions seem to suggest otherwise – maybe I’m reading too much into this?

My son’s first birthday was a few weeks ago and my brother was the only close family member who did not in any sense acknowledge the day (I’m not saying it had to be complicated – a text would have sufficed). We didn’t really have a party – just each set of grandparents down on two back to back weekends – my son is pretty introverted and is shy initially around strangers, so I didn’t want to bombard him with a huge party. I didn’t invite my brother – partially, because I knew he wouldn’t come (assuming I heard back at all) and partially, because I didn’t want to have someone around my son who doesn’t like him. Maybe that’s unreasonable?

Even if the wedding wasn’t bad enough, now apparently my son ruins other events for them as well. My cousin gave birth to a baby boy only 4 weeks after my son, which is wonderful – he’s such a sweet little boy. At Thanksgiving, we all (whole extended family – 20+ people) got together for dinner, like we do every year and the two sets of parents (me/husband, cousin/husband and one of our other cousins) had both babies in a quieter room, so they could roll around and interact. My brother and his wife were in another room watching football, with 8 – 10 other family members. I hardly spoke 4 words to them all day – what I did say was met with silence or terse one word answers – things like “how is work?” – unrelated to my son. However, my brother informed my parents that Thanksgiving was “the (my son) and (my cousin’s baby) show.” My brother has also implied in other conversations that my cousin and I decided to get pregnant to “upstage his wedding” – I can’t believe I’m saying this, but let me assure you that was not the case. My husband and I got very, very lucky and got pregnant the first time we tried – we decided to try for a baby at the time that was best for our family, not because of my brother – *shudder*. 

I try to the best of my ability to not have my child be a bother – I obviously don’t want to be a parent that assumes their child can do no wrong and that everyone loves them as much as they do. I don’t like being the center of attention as a general rule, but two adorable, chubby-cheeked babies, in a family that loves children, do tend to have people love on them – I’m genuinely not trying to make anything worse. I don’t have him cry and annoy everyone – if he gets fussy, I take him out of the situation. But he’s generally a super happy baby, rarely fussy, sleeps like a champ, and generally very well-behaved (sometimes better than you could expect a 1 year old to be). I also try to not constantly bombard my brother and his wife with talk of my son – I know they’re not his biggest fans. I don’t want them to pretend he doesn’t exist though, so every (stilted, awkward) conversation is a balancing act.

Long story short, I don’t know what to do. I see my brother and his wife five or six times a year, including most major holidays. I obviously don’t want to make the situation worse (and I apologized to my brother during our recent conversation for anything I might have done to make things at his wedding not the way he wanted them, but he’s very deeply frustrated/angry about events of a year ago that I can’t do anything about, beyond apologizing). Am I being unreasonable to be hurt by this? I am deeply hurt, both on my own behalf and on my son’s.

I obviously want to protect my son now, and as he gets older, from any unwanted comments (assuming there are any) and I NEVER want him to feel unwanted or unloved, because he is both and I don’t want him to feel he has to apologize around his uncle, just for being there, but I don’t know how to proceed going forward – even after clearing the air, when asked that question, my brother responded “there’s nothing you can do.” My son will be around for many years and I would hate to have this be the thing that permanently drives my brother and I apart. Any advice you have would be greatly appreciated!

I’m sorry. Your brother is a jerk. A selfish, immature jerk.

I come from a pretty big family myself, and your letter hit me in a few soft personal spots because I am relating so hard to certain aspects here: The growing up and apart, followed by the painful, almost crushing realization that the sibling you loved/protected/idolized simply isn’t the person you thought they were. Were they even really that person? Have they really changed that much? Or were the signs of selfish jerkdom always there and you just missed them?

We could all sit here and hypothesize till the cows came home about the “why” behind your brother’s behavior towards his nephew: He’s lost his place as the baby of the family and isn’t handling it well? He’s got a lifetime of bitterness in his bitter bag over milestones he feels he didn’t get equal credit for? A general need/desire to be the center of attention at all times? Massive gaping insecurity? Some weird dynamic going on with the new wife? Maybe he really doesn’t “love” children so much after all?

But honestly, I don’t think any of that matters all that much, in the end. His behavior speaks for itself, and it’s clearly becoming established behavior. Not to mention APPALLING behavior. And I know it’s disappointing to witness and difficult to call it what it is, but yeah. He’s not being a very nice person, much less a supportive brother.

It’s perfectly fine to opt for a child-free wedding, but a decent human person will recognize that decision creates inconvenience for some guests and a decent human host will do whatever they can to minimize the inconvenience. And it’s one thing to not want unpredictable crying infants at the ceremony (understandable!), but to openly refuse to permit children (and only two! that you are related to!) on the basis that they’ll “steal the attention/spotlight” is some super immature bride/groomzilla crap that deserves little more than a “bless your heart” and a bunch of eyerolls from the grown-ups. So to pitch a fit and uninvite a 3 month old to a rehearsal dinner, and to continue to harp on that baby’s audacity to exist at the same time you were getting married! almost a year later is just all-around, classic immature jerk behavior. Welcome to adulthood, cupcake. It isn’t always about you.

“Oh, there’s Uncle Jerkface! He loves you so much. Go give him a hug and ask him where your birthday present is!” Nope. Don’t try to force any sort of relationship between the two of them.

This is not to say you should bother having another big showdown or confrontation with him about it. Let HIM be the person still whining about his stupid wedding that nobody else in the world cares about anymore. You’re the bigger person and (obviously) the grown-up in the room. So I think you need to stop trying to figure out how to “fix this” and get things back to how they were, and instead focus on how to navigate a relationship with the person he is now.

You’re right to be concerned about his coldness/indifference around your son as he gets older. But he’s likely to only notice it if you and the rest of the family give him an indication that he should expect anything different in the first place. “Oh, there’s Uncle Jerkface! He loves you so much. Go give him a hug and ask him where your birthday present is!” Nope. Don’t try to force any sort of relationship between the two of them, and your son will most likely not see his uncle’s behavior as any kind of rejection. He’s just stand-offish and not the fun sort of grown-up. Let him stay in the other room watching football; it’ll probably be better for everybody if you just keep the interaction short or even non-existent. Focus on the family members who do, truly, love babies and children and are delighted to spend time with your son. (Your aunt sounds like good people, and was probably right there with you in secretly thinking your brother’s wedding tantrums were ridiculous, but babysat for you anyway.)

In reality, yeah, your brother is harboring some really weird jealousy/resentment towards your son (and your cousin’s baby), and doesn’t seem to care that his treatment of his nephew is costing him a relationship with you. And if he doesn’t care, he probably won’t change. Unless he grows up a bit more, which of course everyone is capable of, and so of course you can give him a second or third chance down the road if he seems to exhibit a bit more self-awareness and less groomzilla-ur-baby-ruined-my-special-dayyyyyyy nonsense.  Don’t look at this as any one “thing” that is driving you further apart. Your brother is the one with his foot solidly on the gas pedal driving off in the opposite direction, unfortunately. Maybe he’ll relate to your son better at an older age, maybe he’ll chill out when he and his wife have a baby of their own (but may God have mercy on any woman who dares get pregnant at the same time), or maybe this is just the person he is now. You will always love that person, but it’s okay to admit that you don’t particularly like that person anymore, and proceed accordingly.

Photo source: Depositphotos/atholpady

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Amalah
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch

Amalah

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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irishredhead
Guest
irishredhead

Just a thought (that totally does not excuse him being a jerk!); perhaps your brother and his wife are facing fertility issues, and he’s having a hard time dealing with babies in the family knowing that they will struggle/possibly never be able to have the same thing?

Leslie
Guest
Leslie

This was what I was thinking too as I read it

kefi18
Guest
kefi18

If they’ve been facing fertility issues since before their wedding that was over a year ago, it seems highly unlikely to me that nobody in their immediate family would be in the know. And really, if they can’t be nice to people with babies because they’re struggling to have one, they need to not come to things, instead of showing up and being mean TO THE BABY and treating him like uninvited vermin.

CKD1
Guest
CKD1

Agreed. Infertile over here and I have excused myself from baby showers where I knew that the crowd would be up in my grill over when were we going to have kids, but would happily spend time in smaller, “safer” settings with family members and friends with little ones! We were open with our families once we knew what was what and they get it. And not to toot my own horn but I’m for sure the favorite Auntie, not some jerk who gets mad that a baby is being tended to! Basically, there’s a decent way to handle that… Read more »

irishredhead
Guest
irishredhead

I completely agree. However, not all human beings are sane and rational unfortunately.

And no, family members don’t always know about fertility issues. If you feel comfortable sharing with your family, and leaning on them for support, power to you. Not every one feels that way.

CKD1
Guest
CKD1

Totally. And we’ve been selective in who we have confided in, because I also don’t feel like interrogations and discussions about my ovaries are really my jam during Easter brunch. Sadly it seems like OP is really trying to connect and understand and could possibly be a good source of support if her brother would be straight with her. The one weird thing I’ve learned over the last 4-5 years is that support and sensitivity has come from surprising places. That also means that people I thought I could lean on have, also surprisingly, disappointed and straight-up hurt me. And… Read more »

CKD1
Guest
CKD1

Wow. I am so sorry you’re having to deal with this! Full disclosure: I was one of those evil people with a childfree wedding (a cost-saving/space-saving measure), but made exceptions for babies – especially people from out of town! Jeez. The fact that he couldn’t come to the rehearsal dinner shows that your brother (and I’m going to be awful and lump his wife in here) has major issues that go beyond babies. He (they) require all the attention and if someone else is getting that it’s A Thing. Knowing he was annoyed by your cousin’s baby too definitely shows… Read more »

LMo
Guest
LMo

I also had a kid-free wedding. That included my own half-siblings, who I knew would be allowed by my dad to run amok and wouldn’t enjoy the reception anyway (formal sit-down dinner and conversation, no dancing). But the difference is, I had NO issue with anyone not attending because they had children and couldn’t make it, including a cousin of mine. It’s just life! OP’s brother is just an ass, pure and simple. As Amy said, we could speculate all day long. But no matter what tragedy may be unfolding behind the scenes, it doesn’t excuse his taking his hurt… Read more »

Rachel
Guest
Rachel

I would wonder what was going on, because it seems like something is, and maybe he could use someone in the family (not the OP, since he doesn’t seem to open up to the OP) to be concerned about him. So, he is acting like a jerk and immature, but his feelings are all signals that he needs some him focus from, probably, your parents. Is the baby all they talk about? Maybe. First grandbabies are a big deal, and they were excited, so maybe them focusing on baby! more than wedding! is a source. The OP also doesn’t seem… Read more »

Vickie
Guest
Vickie

I give you a lot of credit for going to the wedding at all. Because with an uninvited three month old, I personally would not have gone. Brother, sister, cousin, no matter. I would not have been mad, I think people have a right to have childless weddings, but that does not mean I have to go. I have had some version of this come up with a couple out of town family weddings. We sent nice gifts, did not go, and did not get upset about it. (Interestingly, some of them did get upset about our not attending.) And… Read more »

guest
Guest
guest

I just wanted to say, I’m so sorry. I come from a large family and was extremely close to the brother just older than me growing up too. He was my best friend growing up, and now we barely talk. In fact, he refused to talk to me for over a year because when we were trying to organize a family trip to get everyone together (one of my siblings lives on the other coast, so it is extremely rare we ALL get together) this brother recommended a place that was two hours away from his house in the opposite… Read more »

Lauren
Guest

Just going to add this- is the brother in his mid 20s? That is the onset time for quite a few mental illnesses, and this behavior is in no way normal for even “baby of the family being an a**hole.” Schizophrenia is no joke, and paranoia plays a big role in it. And if the new wife has similar issues… this could have very serious consequences for both of them and the extended family. And i don’t think for one minute this guy isn’t going to be verbally snide and obviously rude to a sensitive kid… time to protect him… Read more »

Ros
Guest
Ros

… As my oh-so-emotionally-sensitive father would say (probably to his face): suck it up, buttercup. Seriously, though. He’s acting like a complete ass. I’ll second the other commenter who suggests a screening for mental health might be in order (because wowza), which might be something to mention to your parents? But barring that… There’s a certain point where the person you loved is treating you and those you love and care for like crap, and it’s entirely reasonable to say ‘look, I love you, but this is behaviour I Will Not Stand For. I’ll be reachable by facebook/phone when you… Read more »

kefi18
Guest
kefi18

I agree! If you want to have family, you have to be family, and family doesn’t treat family (especially freaking INFANTS) like vermin, which is exactly what this jackass is doing to his nephew. No thanks, see you later, BYE FELICIA.

Ros
Guest
Ros

And to be clear: it’s NOT easy to set that sort of boundary and enforce it, especially when it may cost you a relationship with someone you (used to) value. 100% I get that.

But it’s easier than setting yourself and your kid for years of groveling for decent treatment.

Immediate pain of setting the boundary and enforcing it vs long-term pain of not. I’m not saying it’s easy… but it IS worth it.

kefi18
Guest
kefi18

I totally get the kid-free (especially baby-free) wedding thing. My SIL actually had to miss our ceremony because our 13 month old niece hadn’t napped in the car on the way to the wedding like they’d hoped she would, so she was a screaming, shrieking mess and my husband finally had to bite the bullet and tell her to take the baby outside so we could start the ceremony. It sucked, but that’s a risk with babies and weddings! It happens. Beyond that, though, your brother is being a straight-up ASS, and also a huge diva. I’d stop apologizing and… Read more »

Empress of the Iguana People
Guest
Empress of the Iguana People

Yep, monumentally childish maneuver on his part. Accusing you of having babies to overshadow his big day sounds seriously paranoid, too.

Kim
Guest
Kim

Geez. I was 6 months pregnant at my best friend’s wedding and I’m going to be pregnant again at my older sister’s wedding. Nobody made a fuss or will make a fuss because when you’re having the best day of your life, who has time to worry about someone else? You’re so busy worrying about wedding plans and/or staring lovingly into your spouse’s eyes that you don’t even notice anyone else! One time, my husband’s friend told us after we rsvped that my baby wouldn’t be allowed to come to her wedding. I was a bit peeved to be told… Read more »

Kari
Guest
Kari

To me this all sounds like your brother is really struggling with something, be it infertility issues, mental illness, or some other big stress factor, especially since you say that you used to be really close and that he supposedly loves children, I have a hard time imagining that someone could just flip a switch and become a total ass without there being something else behind it. I second the suggestion of getting your parents (or does he have any close friends that you also know?) to talk to him, not like: “Why are you being such an asshole?” but:… Read more »

Original Poster
Guest
Original Poster

I am the original poster – thank you so much for your sympathy. It has been a very hard situation to go through. To address some of the points that were brought up: 1. I don’t want to speak on behalf of my parents, but to clear up some points mentioned, my parents have had a much harder time with my brother than I have. They have experienced the same behavior I have – different motivation perhaps, but same behavior – with regards to his wedding. He expected them to pay for his honeymoon after he had booked it –… Read more »

Jennifer
Guest
Jennifer

I know this is all the rage to “diagnose” people with, but it really does sound like he has some narcissistic tendencies. A full-blown narcissist sees people as close to objects, living only to please or serve the narcissist in some way, and if they are of no use to the person, they are ignored or dropped. As with most things, there is a continuum, and what I see in your description is at the least an extreme self-centeredness (and stubbornness). “It’s not about you” is just very difficult for some people to accept. Heck, I’d say it’s hard for… Read more »

d
Guest
d

This is my brother . He and his wife were mad that I did not fly across the country to their wedding. I was coming off unpaid maternity leave and was not invited to be in the wedding party. Two plane flights and ground transportation for a newborn and a three year old were not an option. They made it clear children with the exclusion of my sister in laws nieces who were in the wedding party were not welcome at the resort. Needless to say no one from my large family went to the wedding except my parents. They… Read more »

Marisa
Guest
Marisa

Borderline personality disorder. That’s what it sounds like to me. You can’t ever win and somehow when he is on his worst behavior, you leave feeling guilty?