The Yomiuri ShimbunDear Troubleshooter:
I’m a male university student in my late teens. I want to consult with you on the relationships in my family.
I live with 50-something parents who both work and a younger sister in her mid-teens. My mother started working again last year like she had wanted, saying the time had come because she was done raising children. She was really doing her best. I congratulated her from the bottom of my heart for going back to work.
My conservative father was initially against her new job, but came to accept it as her own decision. But soon after she started working again, we found out that my sister had stolen money from my mother’s purse and gone shopping for cosmetics and stuff. Surprised, my mother made my sister apologize, but it didn’t stop her from continuing to tell lies and run around acting foolishly.
My mother has tried to keep a watchful eye on my sister by coming home early from work, but my sister continues to double-cross her. My father also lambasted my mother, saying it was her lack of supervision that caused problems with my sister, and pressed her to stop working.
My mother has looked after the family during such tumultuous times as my rebellious period and my father’s infidelity. I want to support my mom, but I don’t know how to do it.
W, Kanagawa Prefecture
Dear Mr. W:
Family relationships are not always peaceful. I think families grow by overcoming conflict and turbulence.
The problem your family faces now is your sister who is in the midst of puberty. Girls in this period are said to be unable to become independent unless they clash with and overcome their mothers.
Your mother is an indefatigable, hardworking person, so it is difficult for your sister to overcome her. All parents have difficulty dealing with their children when they reach a period in which they become independent in society.
However, this is not an ordeal to be lamented. The time will come when your parents will surely remember this period with thoughts such as, “We faced difficult times back then but ...” Parental love is expressed as such.
Rather, the problem lies with your father. Fathers are most needed when children need to become independent and adapt to society. I don’t think it’s appropriate for him to hold only his wife responsible.
However, if you as their son intervene in the matter, the situation will become more complicated. For the time being, you should stay cheerful without giving in. Please remember you have a role to play in alleviating tensions between your family members. If there is only one family member who sides with your mother, she will definitely be able to overcome this difficult period.
Megumi Hisada, writer