my aunt and uncle are extreme helicopter parents — and I work with their son

A reader writes:

I graduated from college in 2015 and am currently working at my first post-graduation job in the area I went to school for. I have been working here for 18 months. My cousin is a year younger than me and he graduated from college last summer. He has been working here for six months. The company we work for is large and well-known (many of your American readers would recognize the name). We work in different divisions, on different floors, and below the executive level our work doesn’t cross into each other’s division. We don’t see each other at work except for the rare occasion.

I do have a concern: my aunt and uncle are helicopter parents. They are involved in every aspect of my cousin’s life. They do his laundry, cook his food, pay his bills, and take him shopping for clothes, shoes, and toiletries. He has never spent the night away from both his parents at once. When he was in college, they drove him every day because the bus was “too scary” and he “wasn’t ready.” They helped him with his homework and would call professors and show up at the school if they felt his grades were too low or he was being treated unfairly.

This pattern has continued into his working life. They drove him to interviews and insisted on sitting in the lobby while he was interviewing. He didn’t get offers because of this (plus the fact that, besides this current one, he has never had a job, internship, or any other kind of work). On the day he interviewed for the job here, my aunt was still looking for parking when he was called in, so no one realized that the woman who came to to the lobby later was his mother.

I know that my aunt and uncle have called his boss as well as upper management when they feel he is being “unfairly treated.” My aunt once came in and demanded to speak to the executive management about my cousin being denied vacation time before he had accrued any. I’m concerned because my cousin and I have the same rare Welsh surname, the same Welsh accent and look somewhat alike (both have red hair and freckles). I’m afraid people will associate me with him and my aunt and uncle.

The last time my uncle called here, I heard people talking about it in the elevator. No one has said anything to me, but our respective managers both go to the same meetings. People in his division are friends with people in other divisions, including mine. And our work crosses at the executive level so they might have seen my name and associated it with his.

My cousin is not developmentally delayed or on the spectrum so there is no reason for him to need assistance in his every day life. I have worked other jobs and have always worked hard and my reviews here have noted my competence, work ethic and professionalism. I don’t want my family to affect my reputation or standing. Since no one has said anything to me, should I just leave things alone? Or is this worth addressing with my boss and my peers?

I don’t know why this kind of child-rearing isn’t considered as abusive and negligent as not potty-training your kid or never sending them to school.

These parents have failed at their fundamental job of raising a self-sufficient adult and instead are actively thwarting his ability to thrive in the world.

But you know that, so I’ll leave that rant there and answer your actual question.

I think there’s a 99% chance that you’ll be fine just leaving this alone and that you don’t need to say anything about it. First, in a big company, the fact that you have the same last name and coloring as another employee isn’t likely to feel especially conclusive to anyone. But more importantly, your aunt and uncle haven’t called your employer about you, and you’ve established a track record of being professional and of not having relatives intervene in your work. You can trust that colleagues will see that you and your cousin are different people, and that the strangeness surrounding him hasn’t rubbed off on you.

That said, I’d make a point of not doing anything that could inadvertently lump the two of you together — like if you’re horribly ill, make a point of calling in yourself, rather than having someone else do it for you. That’s a good practice anyway, but it probably matters more in your situation. And I’m sorry to say it, but you probably shouldn’t do a lot of hanging out with your cousin at work events. You want a clear separation.

However, if you’d get some peace of mind by mentioning the situation to your boss, you could say something like, “I don’t know if you know that Fergus Burtlebott is my cousin. I’ve heard some of the stories of how his parents have been trying to intervene with his job, and I’m horrified. I’ve been a little worried that that craziness will reflect on me, and so I wanted to let you know that I think it’s as bizarre as I’m sure everyone else finds it, and we do not have a family resemblance in this regard.”

But that would be for your own peace of mind more than anything else. People will judge you by your own actions (and the lack of actions from your parents, in your case), and they’ll draw the right conclusions.

Meanwhile, though, would it make sense for you to try to help your cousin to see how inappropriate his parents are being and how it’s harming him at work? I don’t know how close you are or what the family dynamics are and you may not want to get involved to that extent, but if you think you have any chance of influencing his thinking, it would be a kindness.

Read updates to this letter here and here.

{ 534 comments… read them below }

      1. MashaKasha*

        I have two sons in the same age group as OP and OP’s cousin. My jaw is currently under the table. These parents really took helicopter parenting to a new level I have not heard of before.

  1. Bevina del Rey*

    I think the fact that you’ve had a year’s worth of lead time on your cousin in terms of how much time you’ve each been employed there really helps. If it were reversed and he’d been there 18 months and you’d just started or were relatively new, I think you’d have a little more to worry about, but even then–you’re your own person. It’s cringeworthy, and if it’ll help you feel better, you should consider taking Alison’s advice just to get it off of your mind so you can focus on your work.

    1. Aphrodite*

      I just wouldn’t be able to have peace of mind until I talked to my boss even though I’d believe it wouldn’t reflect on me either.

      And, OP, I’d stay far, far away from your cousin at work or work-related events including no lunch together, ever. If you give him advice, do it on your own time.

      1. MissGirl*

        The flip side of that is the risk it makes known a connection where none might be suspected. Her boss and colleagues may have no idea they’re related. By going to her boss, it draws attention to it. I’d let it go unless someone asked. Then I’d make some joke about crazy relatives, which we all have.

        1. Tyrannosaurus Regina*

          Same. I wouldn’t hesitate to clarify *if* it came up, but I wouldn’t connect those dots for anyone on my own initiative.

    2. LBK*

      Agreed – I think you’ve probably established yourself enough that people will look at it as “Wow, can’t believe someone as normal as Jane has relatives who are this batty” rather than “Wow, can’t believe I always liked Jane but now realize she must be nuts because of her relatives.”

  2. k*

    Well you’ve officially boggled my mind. Do your aunt and uncle have jobs? Have the worked in offices? I can’t imagine any adult who’s held a job thinking this is in anyway not crazy.

    1. ThatAspie*

      I know, right? I have a slightly overprotective mother, but at least she doesn’t do this kind of crap! Plus, I am disabled (autistic, more specifically, Aspie), so I do need some level of assistance in daily life (nothing major, I’m only a little autistic, but I do need some help), but even some of my friends and family with much more severe disabilities than I have wouldn’t need this kind of crap (seriously, not even my extremely Aspergian and extremely ADH niece would need that in her work life when she gets one, and this is someone who cannot even sit still for more than a second at a time!) It’s crazy.

      1. SystemsLady*

        My mother works as an autism paraeducator and has far more heavily anonymized horror stories of parents like this trying to force their neurotypical children (who happen to get mediocre grades) into her program and parents of autism spectrum children not caring than she does of parents of children on the spectrum asking for more services than are appropriate. (Though she has all three)

        So sadly this doesn’t surprise me!

        1. SystemsLady*

          (and yes, because of this we more than agree with Alison this should be acknowledged as a form of abuse!)

        2. D.A.R.N.*

          god… why do the parents of the average NT kids do that? As an Honors student and Autistic+ADHD person, it just boggles the mind.

          1. Zombii*

            Because they refuse to believe that their child could possibly be “average.” If their kid is failing, it’s because they must have an undiagnosed learning disability or any other answer the parents have read about on the internet lately–it’s definitely not that their kid isn’t doing the work because they’re irresponsible.

            If they can’t get their kid into a program they don’t need to be in, they may start thinking that “they’re not being challenged enough.” (Definitely not average though. Not average and not lazy.)

            1. Zombii*

              (Note: I’m not implying that Autism/Aspergers is a learning disability. I’m just more familiar with the learning disability angle because Aspergers wasn’t something that was diagnosed much when I was a kid. Parents of this type usually tried for dyslexic back then.)

            2. Zip Zap*

              And failing to consider things they could be doing differently at home. I can’t count the number of times someone has said to me, “We’re having [kid] assessed for learning disabilities,” and there are obvious signs that something at home could be a contributing factor. I don’t pass judgment on individual families, but that does seem to be a pattern.

      2. Tau*

        +1 – I’m also Aspie and also need some assistance in daily life (which I generally don’t have, causing Interesting Times, but that’s another story), but my parents NEVER acted like this. Even when I was having extreme problems attending lectures and was worried I was going to fail out of uni and my mother was basically gnawing her fingernails off with worry, she didn’t jump in to take over. Which I’m really grateful for, because managing to be as independent as I am now was a real struggle and it would have been so, so easy for her to sabotage that by accident.

      3. anon718*

        When I was in elementary school I “had” (we possessed these names at the time) selective mutism. I didn’t talk to a single person at school until 5th grade. Well, my father only visited the principal on few occasions: 1: to make sure I was in a normal classroom, not special ed (thankfully), and 2: to go buckwild when I got bullied (that only had to happen once.)

    2. LBK*

      Plus, who has time for this crap? My mom has her own job to do that keeps her much too busy to be interfering with mine.

    3. Edith*

      It’s possible only the uncle works or the aunt works but only part time. I had a coworker who would only work during the hours her children were in school, so 9:30-2:30 during the year and not at all during the summer. Literally. She would take a three month leave of absence every summer. Her husband is a corporate VP, so she didn’t have to work. Her job was essentially just a hobby for her– something to pass the time while her (junior high and high school aged) kids were in class. I don’t know if they were controlling or helicopter parents, but it always struck me as sad that the kids never spent a second alone at home. It must have felt claustrophobic.

      1. Anon for this*

        My SIL doesn’t allow her 17-18 yo kids to stay home alone. see, when she was a teenager she was a latchkey kid, and it made her feel SO VERY ABANDONED and UNLOVED, and she couldn’t ever put her children through that. so now even when they assure her that they’ll be fine while she runs to the grocery store, they are absolutely not allowed to stay home alone for even a few minutes. (That is, when she actually goes to the grocery store herself, instead of calling and trying to get my mother to do it for her, because she’s also scared that if she leaves the house she’ll get in a car accident. Really I just think she needs a lot of therapy.)

        1. Lissa*

          holy crap! Not allowing your legal-age adult children to stay home alone for even a few minutes is..yikes. Does she expect when they move out they’ll be fine going from never not having Mommy around to living completely alone? Or does she plan on them living with her always or something? it’s always so odd to me when people want to give 16-18 year olds basically no freedom/increased responsibility but expect them to then know everything the second they turn 18/leave home.

          1. Panda Bandit*

            Those kids are never leaving. I know someone in their late 50s who is the child of helicopter parents. Never ever leaving.

            1. Audiophile*

              Seconding this. No way are those kids moving out.

              I know someone in their 60s, who did leave and returned after graduation, never left. Never married, but held a job and was self-sufficient.

              1. Bigglesworth*

                My in-laws are bad (not as bad as OP’s, but close). They told my husband that we should move into their basement for our first year of marriage. It would be easier on the finances, they could feed us, we’d have a washer and dryer nearby, etc. I told him that if we couldn’t afford to be on our own, then we couldn’t afford to get married and that I had no problem postponing the marriage until that was possible. Let’s just say he’s grateful now we didn’t move in with his folks. We’ve seen how that worked when his sister and her new husband moved in right after the honeymoon. Helicopter parenting is bad enough, but trying to parent your adult child’s spouse takes it to a whole different level…

                And they wonder why their other son’s depression, anxiety, and OCD went through the roof while living with them.

                1. Julia*

                  My mother wants the same from my fiancé and me, even though there are no jobs for us in this area.
                  When we told his parents we would get married and move near them for a while (we’re an international couple) and asked if it would make sense to rent a room from them because they have the space and furniture and we’d only be there for a year, they flipped and yelled that if we couldn’t even live on our owns, we had no business getting married. That was certainly interesting.

                2. chocoholic*

                  Oh yes. My ILs are bad. I don’t think DH truly understood how bad they were until we started dating and I pushed back on a lot of things (BIL/SIL were dating at the same time and SIL was pushing back on things). We had a lot of boundary setting moments and eventually DH and I moved to another state. They didn’t speak to us for 6 months following our move, and didn’t visit us until we had a baby 2 years after we moved.

                3. Anonygoose*

                  My Future Sister in Law takes this to a whole other level. Her parents are mild helicopter parents (I kind of forced some independence into my fiance by moving us to another country for a year; he’s been good since we moved back). So she is 26, living at home and engaged. Her parents have actually (surprisingly) said that they don’t want her and her fiance living with them after they get married in December, so she is now trying to convince her parents to move out and sell them the house so SHE NEVER HAS TO LEAVE HOME.

                  You can see why we did not take the in laws up on their offer to also live in their house while getting back on our feet…

                4. Optimistic Prime*

                  I have two friends that moved in the basement apartment of one of their parents in their first year of marriage, for all the same reasons – save money, washer/dryer, shared meals, etc. Within 6 months they were already looking to move out.

              2. Anonymous for this*

                You assume the kids are OK with this. It may also be the kids move out and become estranged from the helicopter parent.

            2. MashaKasha*

              They’re either never leaving, or they are bolting for that door the minute it opens, and never coming back.

          2. Taiga*

            My parents wouldn’t let me stay at home alone when I was that age and would have my YOUNGER brother stay with me if they were away, because I’m a *girl* and Bad Men would break in and hurt me if I were home alone. Why they thought my brother would be safe from these Bad Men I don’t know.
            (My brother and I grew up to be perfectly competent and well-adjusted adults who moved out at the age-appropriate time, thank you.)

        2. Notorious MCG*

          Sounds like a patron that just went nuclear on my coworker last week. The state music conference was in town and at our performing arts center. The last concert was general admission (in a 2000+ seat hall, literal insanity) and the kids who played first/early were only allowed to sit in the last four rows of the balcony to watch the rest of the performance because we couldn’t have family after family saving seats for their phantom kids that would only be there a portion of the time. Also this was a policy dictated by the association, not the center. Anyway, these two parents come to my coworker to tell her their son cannot possibly sit by himself because he is too young to be on his own even in the same concert hall as them and we MUST make an exception. Of course she says no, but the parents can feel free to go to the balcony. The kid is crying because he’s embarrassed, and the dad moves toward my coworker so quickly that security ran over to deal with the situation. The dad eventually pulled the whole family out of the concert.

          The kid was 16.

      2. LC*

        That’s totally batty. I mean, at that point just become a teacher at your kids’ school. I’m surprised there are jobs that even let employees routinely take the whole summer off!

        1. Edith*

          Yeah, I honestly don’t know how she finagled it. She was our reserves librarian, but this isn’t the kind of school with fewer classes or lower enrollment in the summer. And the reserves librarians we’ve had since she left certainly seem to have enough work to keep them busy year round.

    4. Artemesia*

      My mother’s next door neighbors were like this. They lived in Seattle and their daughter got a job in California. They told my Mom they were heading to southern Cal to look for an apartment for their daughter; my Mom offered to get their mail and water the plants but they said ‘oh Pattysue will be here.’ Yes they went to SC rented an apartment for her, furnished it, and then went to meet with her boss. Can’t imagine how any parent would feel that an appropriate behavior.

      When I taught in a university I had a few parents like this. They really ruined their kids experience. I remember one case in particular where the parents got overly involved in her poor work in a class first semester. It wasn’t that big a deal but they were like jailhouse lawyers trying to get the grade dropped, blaming the university for canceling another class she had originally enrolled in, blaming the professor for being a poor instructor, blaming me for poor advising, and they kept this up for four years until their perfectly okay kid was unhappy and constantly whining about and blaming every professor she had for less than perfect performance. They ruined her college years by not letting her live her life and take her lumps.

      1. JustaTech*

        Ha, my parents are the total opposite. When they moved West after they retired all their friends asked “are you going to move to X state?” “No, because JustaTech already lives there.”
        Yes, I claimed an entire state to myself.
        (I love my folks deeply and we get along really well and did when I was a kid, but they’re also big believers in having your own space, doing your own thing and *not* being able to just pop in for dinner unannounced.)

  3. Merci Dee*

    Holy mother of biscuits.

    Sounds almost like my ex, but I don’t remember his parents calling to intervene in his work affairs. Though, when we got married, he had no idea he was supposed to separate laundry before washing it, and he had no idea how to write a check. He was the youngest of 3 boys, and everyone had gone out of their way to treat him like the baby.

    He wasn’t a bad guy by any means, but he certainly wasn’t ready to be a husband or a father. As much as I wish him the best in life, I have to admit that life started getting easier for my daughter and me once we unhitched our wagons.

    1. Sketchee*

      Very similar to my ex. I told him there was a free atm nearby when he needed cash. He said he never used an atm before, his mom banked for him. (He was 30.) Never heard of chips and dip. And he blamed his parents for most of his problems, since he felt no responsibility for them. It was more sad than anything

      1. Anonymoose*

        Wait. How can you not have heard (or simply UNDERSTOOD) what flippin’ chips and dip are (is?).

        But technically his parents were the problem. Though once he’s out of the nest, he really shouldn’t be using that excuse, at least not vocally.

        1. Antilles*

          Wait. How can you not have heard (or simply UNDERSTOOD) what flippin’ chips and dip are (is?).
          This must be a regional thing, because growing up, I pretty much exclusively heard the phrase “chips and salsa” (even if the ‘salsa’ actually was bean dip).
          I never heard someone use the phrase “chips and dip” until I was well into my 20’s.

          1. Anna*

            I think salsa wasn’t as ubiquitous as it is now, but most people I know would understand what chips and dip is because they’ve seen things that aren’t salsa. Or been to a grocery where they sell dip that isn’t salsa.

          2. The Rat-Catcher*

            Where I am, “chips and dip” and “chips and salsa” are both used to mean totally different things. Salsa is salsa and dip is basically everything else (save for queso).

            1. Cactus*

              Interesting. To me, if someone refers to chips and dip, they mean “potato chips and either onion or ranch dip.” “Chips and salsa” would indicate tortilla chips, as would chips served with guacamole. Hummus is a more versatile beast.
              Still, though, “chips and dip”=pretty basic, even if you’re not sure what the chips are made from or what’s in the dip.

        2. Pwyll*

          I think maybe the implication is that every meal at home was an elaborate affair, so he effectively grew up having never been exposed to less-elaborate snacks?

        3. Elizabeth H.*

          Agree! I am intrigued! It should be an intuitive concept. Is it even a CONCEPT??? Chips and dip stay pretty consistent in their fundamental nature even when they are combined.

      2. Connie*

        I had a similarly coddled ex, and he knew it was ridiculous — but the sad thing was, his parents hadn’t always been that overprotective. It began when he was in junior high and his older brother suddenly died of freak natural causes. My ex genuinely wanted more independence, but felt like he owed it to his parents to let them manage him bc that was what eased their anxiety. I honestly felt it wasn’t doing any of the three any favors, but I understood it came from a place of terrible fear & loss with them, and from a place of both guilt and love from their son.

        1. D.A.R.N.*

          That’s terrible! This is the one situation where I think it’s understandable and sympathetic… it isn’t as if your ex’s parents thought he was immature, they were just really scared. :(

        2. Evie*

          I went through a bit of his as a teenager although thankfully not due to a death but some family not so greatness where my parent who used to give me a decent amount of freedom pulled tight on the reigns and really pulled the rug out from my feelings of independence. I can understand entirety where it came from but it was the opposite of helpful.

    2. Another Lawyer*

      My SO is one of 3 boys too and I remember the first time we were doing laundry together, he watched me do it and took notes of everything I did. What kinds of clothes went in each load, what wasn’t dried, what was handwashed, how much detergent, etc. Even though it boggled my mind entirely that he had no clue, I totally loved him for taking notes “so he wouldn’t have to ask next time”

      1. Anonymoose*

        Yes, that was sweet. :) My husband just called me at work to ask me how to format his text as a transparency in power point. I admit, this can be difficult if you’re new to the tool but this is the third time he’s asked. Like, write it down.

      2. That Would Be a Good Band Name*

        My husband used to use index cards. However, he got his notes from his mom because he saw me do laundry at the dorm when I was broke and thought that I didn’t know to separate. However, it’s 17 years later and I can probably count on 1 hand the number of times I’ve done laundry so I’m ok with that. :)

        1. Maggie*

          I had to teach my beau to do the laundry, particularly, my laundry. (“I don’t care that you chuck all your things into the dryer willy-nilly but YOU CANNOT PUT MY WOOL DRESS IN THE DRYER!”)

          Once he realized that I preferred to have most of my clothes hang-dry, though, I haven’t had to do laundry since. That’s wonderful… even if I do come home sometimes to find my pajamas hanging up on the drying rack. (“You hung up my nightgown?” “It looked like one of your dresses.” “That’s weirdly sweet of you.”)

          1. hermit crab*

            Instead of separating my clothes into lights and darks (because we wash everything on cold anyway), I separate them into “dryer” and “not dryer.” I think I actually learned this tip from someone on AAM! Anyway, ever since I started doing that, my spouse (whose mother still does his laundry when he goes to visit his parents…) has been completely fine with doing my laundry. It’s so wonderful.

            1. Talvi*

              I do that, too! Mind you, it’s partly because I don’t own enough light-coloured clothes to justify doing a separate load for lights… That said, it makes doing laundry much more efficient all around. No more worrying about finding socks that should have gone in the dryer while hanging up the rest of my clothes to dry.

            2. Red Reader*

              haha, we do that too. One hamper for non-dryer and one hamper for dryer-safe, and it’s been a gamehanger.

            3. KG, Ph.D.*

              I got one of those awesome hampers with 4 (!!!) compartments! Colors, whites, delicates, and workout clothes (because we go through them quickly and they smell ATROCIOUS, plus they are all quick-wicking material and can be dried for a much shorter period of time). I’d really love to have a fifth compartment for towels and cloth napkins, but I make do with a separate hamper for those. :)

              1. TrainerGirl*

                Aren’t those the best? I have one with 3 compartments, along with a hanging rod. It’s made my life so much easier.

            4. bearing*

              That is really a brilliant idea. (I’ve never really understood the need to separate lights and darks, except maybe to be careful not to wash a *new* dark item with the lights… aren’t most things colorfast these days, at least in cold?)

              I’m the only person in our family to own anything that can’t be dried in the dryer, and there are 5 people who do laundry, so the simplest solution has been a rule that only *I* put my own clothes in the dryer. I don’t mind if it sits around in a basket wet for a little while until I get around to it.

              1. Kris*

                I’m in charge of drying my own clothes, too, for this reason. And I rarely separate lights & darks. Instead it’s regular clothes in one group and socks/towels, etc. in the other. Teenage son does his own laundry, not well, but he does it, which is all that matters to me. I don’t have the time or inclination to helicopter!

            5. Halpful*

              for me it’s “low dryer” and “delicate dryer”. :) we only own, like, two white things each, and if I’m suspicious of a new item I just make sure it’s not in with those on the first wash.

              (I suspect this comment might trigger the replying-to-wrong-comment bug, so, it is supposed to be in reply to hermit crab’s #1367718)

              1. MashaKasha*

                Me too, low/delicate.

                Nobody is allowed to do my laundry though. The kids each do their own. I don’t necessarily agree with how they do it, but hey, not my circus, not my monkeys. Kid #2 (19yo at the time) once asked me to move his load from the washer into the dryer because he was going out, and I thought I was hallucinating, because, no matter how many clothes I took out of the washer, there kept being more in it! I ended up splitting his load into three and redoing it and explaining the whole overloading thing to him when he came home the next day. He’s been better since, afaik.

            6. boop the first*

              Thanks for this… I don’t separate laundry either (because I live in a building that shares a few machines and it gets crowded and costs actual money for each load) and I was starting to feel like some kind of slob.

            7. Candi*

              People separate into lights and darks? (I kid.)

              I separate into “hot” load -towels, washcloths, underwear, socks, etc.- and “cold” loads eveyrthing else. The denims and heavy cloth get separated from lighter items, and delicates are their own load. I also have an ‘odds and ends’ basket for stuff like throw pillows. (Love my throw pillows.)

              Delicates are made easier by that our dryer has an “air” option -no heat, gentle tumbling.

              My kids know how to do laundry… I just prefer to do it because I have a system. Same for the kitchen. It helps. X didn’t get washed or they want Y for dinner instead of Z? They can wash it themselves or make dinner themselves. And yes, they -especially my son- do cook dinner at times. Mostly Friday nights.

            8. Optimistic Prime*

              My husband does this too, I just found out. He washes almost everything in cold and his separation is mostly how he’s going to dry the stuff. (He does all our laundry.)

          2. TootsNYC*

            I put all non-dryer things in net bags. (They usually need that anyway to keep from stretching.)

            That code works really well! I take the clothes off and put them in a net bag. Plus, I sort out my own laundry for him to do, so if I miss it at undressing time, I do it at sorting time.

            1. Liza*

              Yes, I do the “net bag for clothes that don’t go in the dryer” too! It’s been really helpful even though I do my own laundry.

            2. Pickles*

              YES. I was just going to say this. That’s the system we use too and it takes all the guesswork out. Mesh bags in a load of laundry mean two things:
              *The items in the bags are not to be put in the dryer
              *Everything else in the load needs a light dryer

        2. Another Lawyer*

          Awwwwww. Mine actually keeps a notes folder on his phone of all of my preferences so that when I ask him to grab coffee on his way home he knows I mean whatever medium roast is on sale, etc. etc.

      3. Fenchurch*

        I had to have my SO prepare dinner one night. He asked that I not look at his Google search as it was full of questions like “how to dice bell peppers” hahahahaha. Admittedly, bell peppers are a pain to cut up.

        1. SKA*

          My first few months of living on my own (early 20s, just post-college), I probably called my mom two or three times a week to ask her what were, in retrospect, insanely easy/obvious cooking questions. I certainly could’ve Googled them, but my mom seemed to enjoy hearing from me.

          Now, if I had kept up with those questions into my 30s, that might’ve been a bigger issue!

          1. SarahKay*

            SKA, that was me, too. Google didn’t exist when I was in my early 20’s; instead I had an incredibly good cookery book , (Delia Smith’s Complete Illustrated Cookery Course FTW) which had all the basic stuff of cooking times for vegetables. I could cook – had been baking from about age 7, and could do a great stew or pie…I just totally lacked some of the real basics.

            1. bluesboy*

              Oh, how I can relate. And I still use that book. Stews are great when you’re learning to cook, just chop everything up and chuck it in, don’t let it boil dry, and get the time roughly correct. Done! And you can even freeze them!

              Of course it would have helped if my Mum could cook anything other than frozen food and roast beef, but Delia did the job (and the wholemeal bread recipe, the first one in the bread chapter is still my bread go to recipe!)

          2. Poppy*

            Ha, I’m 30 and I still sometimes ask me mom cooking questions! It’s still pretty rare, just a few times a year, but it makes her happy to know I’m cooking and I figure if it helps me avoid food poisoning or food waste, it’s not that bad :)

            1. Phyllis B*

              I’m 65 and still occasionally call my 86 year old mother for guidance. I think she kind of likes it.

              1. hermit crab*

                My mom definitely asked her mother for advice on all sorts of things, right up until she (my grandma) died at age 93! And my mom and I share recipe tips all the time, and we help each other brainstorm solutions to our respective job problems (except I have way more problems/questions than she does, so both of those things are kinda lopsided, haha). I think we can all agree that there’s a completely healthy and helpful level of asking your elders about stuff!

          3. Annonymouse*

            But at least you are trying to adult and be independent and do it yourself.

            If you called your mum crying because you couldn’t cooking basic/cleaning basic and please can she come over and help you? Then I’d say your on OPs family scale…..

          4. Phyllis B*

            This reminds me of when my son was in college. He lived in a fraternity house and the cook didn’t work weekends so the guys would get in the kitchen and experiment. One day he was going to make potato salad and of course he called Mom because “You make the world’s best potato salad.” Shameless flattery, I know, but I loved it. :-) It took ten phone calls to get that potato salad made. He kept forgetting to ask something, or I would remember something I forgot. All I can say is, thank goodness for cell phones. P.S. It was a huge hit. The guys said from then on he was in charge of potato salad.

            1. Phyllis B*

              Also, my husband and his first wife married very young. (Sixteen and Nineteen.) He was in the Marines out in California and she called his mother collect to ask how to cook turnip greens.

          5. Whippers.*

            I don’t understand, why would it be an issue? It’s surely not that big of a deal to call your mom a couple of times a week.

            1. Elizabeth H.*

              I read it more like, after the first few times of calling for instructions on how to do a basic cooking task, you would get the hang of it and not need to get walked through it each time. Not like the calling your mom for advice itself was a problem, just that you’d expect someone to have figured out basic cooking by that point in life.

              1. JessaB*

                Or at least write it down, or google it the second or third time. It’s different now to when google didn’t exist.

          6. BananaPants*

            For my college graduation gift, my aunt and uncle gave me a book called, “Where’s Mom Now That I Need Her?”. I still have it on the bookshelf a decade and a half later.

            1. Amadeo*

              My mother also got me that one when I graduated high school. I also still have it. In a box. Somewhere. It lived in my kitchen next to the microwave before I suffered from the recession and had to come back home for a while. Super useful!

          7. TootsNYC*

            Google and YouTube have really messed up one of the natural transitions of the adult-child / parent relationship.

            I think these sorts of “Mom, how do you…” questions are an important way that you transition out of a child relationship and into an adult one.

            I know that often that was the only time I’d call my mother (that, or if I was miserable).

            1. JennyFair*

              This reminds me of the text I got at 3 am from my oldest son. “Please call when you’re up, I have an emergency.” A few minutes later he sent another text. “Not like a bloody emergency, just a canning emergency.”

          8. Candi*

            Teaching cooking also helps with school.

            My son was having MAJOR trouble with fractions. Serious trouble. Just could not get it.

            We went into the kitchen and made cookies, doubling the recipe.

            The look on his face as understanding dawned.

            I also taught both my kids that the way to tell a good cookbook was how complicated they made a recipe for meatloaf. (Seriously, meatloaf is not a complicated concept.) Right now, I swear by my Better Homes & Gardens cookbook. :p

          9. Shayland*

            I have always had extreme difficulty in the kitchen but also love to cook. I love texting my mom questions, comments, and pictures of whatever I’ve been working on (in and out of the kitchen!). I just recently made shepherd’s pie (it came out so good!) and had to text her the instructions on cutting the carrot because I was confused about what the final, desired shape was. (The anwser was half circle.)

            I’m at a point in my life where I still really need my parents, (19 or 20 y/0 in college, disabled). I love them so much.

        2. alter_ego*

          Oh man, I have to google how to hard boil eggs every single time I make them. And I’m a good cook! I have to remind myself of that every time I want to judge my roommate for not knowing that rice requires a specific amount of water, unlike pasta.

          1. PlainJane*

            I’m cracking up over here, because I live at 7000 feet altitude, which makes cooking some things interesting. I have to Google for hard boiled eggs too, because I always forget how much time to add for altitude, and we cook rice like pasta here, because the usual “measure the water” way really doesn’t work very well. (In case anyone is new to high altitude cooking and wants to know: cook your rice for the same time as at sea level but cook it like pasta in a whole bunch of water. Drain it, put it back in the pan, put the pan lid on, and cook it over low heat for about 2 minutes so it can absorb any extra moisture. Perfect every time.)

            1. Hurricane Wakeen*

              My parents lived at high altitude for a long time and I suddenly know why their rice always comes out soggy.

              Does a rice cooker work at high altitude?

              1. Chinook*

                My rice cooker works at high altitude (and all of Alberta is high altitude), but I also rinse all the starch off it before cooking (a tip I had drummed into me by various Japanese housewives).

                I had the opposite problem when I moved to sea level – the water kept taking forever to boil and I couldn’t get the pasta or eggs right while I lived there.

          2. Jean*

            I ended up throwing away some eggs that I had attempted to hard-boil just the other day. I’ve done it before successfully; I must have just not been paying attention.

          3. Cordelia Naismith*

            Rice doesn’t really require a specific amount of water, though. You can cook it like pasta; it turns out just fine. A little fluffier than if you cook it the “right” way, but perfectly tasty.

              1. Chinook*

                The high altitude affects the temperature water boils at (it boils at a lower temp.), so I can very much see it affecting rice cooked on a stove.

        3. FD*

          Although bell peppers are a little non-intuitive to cut up! I’ve been cooking since I was 10 but I had to Google a video of how to cut them up a few years back. (Partly because my mom just threw them into a food processor, so I never had to do them the old fashioned way.)

        4. TootsNYC*

          My husband (when he was my boyfriend and first lived in his own place–an apartment his parents owned) had to ask me how to clean the bathroom. Right down to “which cloth” and “which product.”

          It made me realize it is NOT quite as simple as it seems. Or, it can be, but you have to believe that it is.

            1. shadowedge*

              Vinegar, diluted or not, pretty much cleans most things. I like something a little more germ killing for bathrooms because ew, but for stuff like soap scum, vinegar is one of my go-to’s. I tend to use bleach for the toilet and sink, soft scrub for the tub, and vinegar for everything else.

      4. SusanIvanova*

        Back in college I was waiting at the Greyhound station and noticed a bunch of guys come in and drop off bundles. The station manager explained it – they were sending their laundry home to to their moms.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Watching me iron a shirt did my MIL in. Eh, no one taught me to iron. I wanted my clothes ironed so one day I grabbed the board and iron and just started doing it. I think I was about eight years old. By the time I was 30 my bad habits were set in stone. I was totally amused by being told “you can’t iron a shirt like that”. Gee, I have been doing it this way for 22 years, you’re the first person to complain.

          1. another person*

            Yeah, no one really taught me to iron, and I don’t really own any clothes that need to be ironed, so I seldom do ironing. Only if I want to be helpful when my husband has busy season since his work shirts do need to be ironed and then it’s still sort of inefficient, but I just haven’t done it enough, nor do I need to, to become skilled at ironing.

            (I am however, really good at ironing pleated skirts after 13 years of Catholic school.)

          2. MashaKasha*

            When my future-ex-husband first took me to his home town to meet his family, the MIL walked into the room on our first morning there, saw me ironing my clothes, left, and returned with a dress shirt saying, “Here, can you iron this for (FIL) real quick?” My FIL worked in construction all his life. His main hobby that took up all his spare time was binge drinking. I never saw the man wear, or need, a dress shirt in my life. Clearly it was a test. What MIL didn’t know was that ironing my dad’s shirts was one of my chores growing up, and that I could iron one with my eyes closed. I passed the test. Admittedly, she only looked at the results, not at how I was doing it. Future ex and I were maybe 22 and 23 at the time.

      1. StrikingFalcon*

        I didn’t use to, but I found over time (like a couple years) the whites got greyish. And sometimes red things bleed. But otherwise, it’s never seemed that important. I would be more surprised that an adult has never done laundry than that they don’t sort their clothes.

          1. turquoisecow*

            Yeah, I don’t have enough whites to justify it. My husband wears white t-shirts, but only under other shirts, so he doesn’t care if they’re grey. Especially when I was single, if I had to do a whites-only load, I would have ended up only washing them once a month.

            1. Lablizard*

              Our only whites are gym socks and the gentleman of the house’s undershirts, which are worn under other shirts. We live in an arid climate and just can’t do the white only wash because it is a waste of water.

            1. Artemesia*

              We were traveling this summer and I got my husband a t-shirt in Moscow with the metro on it — very cool looking. Washing traveling is not easy and so I just threw it in with everything else — all long worn mostly darks. It wrecked the shirt — totally greyed it out. That will teach me not to separate lights and darks.

              1. MashaKasha*

                Uh, yeah, while I can safely count on the US-bought clothes’ colors not to run 99% of the time, I would not try it with a shirt bought in Moscow. BTDT. I also ruined a top/skirt combo made in Hungary once, by soaking it in cold soapy water before washing it, back when I didn’t have a washing machine and handwashed everything. It was colorblock (because the 80s) and the non-white blocks of cloth bled all over the white ones.

          2. TootsNYC*

            I’m about to replace all our towels, and I’m going to get all white this time, so that I can fill up one load with towels and sheets and socks and underwear.

            I tried to do that for my son, but he wanted dark sheets, so the only whites he has are socks and towels. I told him not to worry about sorting them. Who cares if they get a little dingy?

        1. CDM*

          When whites get grey, you can fix that by soaking overnight in oxyclean, then washing. I do that maybe once every 12-18 months.

          I stopped sorting clothing by whites, knits, denim, towels, about twenty years ago, no regrets. I wash each kids’ stuff separately so I don’t have to fold and sort.

          1. SignalLost*

            I’ll have to try that. My only real whites for washing purposes are a couple of button-down shirts that I take to the laundromat when they start getting gray.

      2. Becky*

        I usually don’t separate it, but if I have something newer that might bleed color I do (once dyed most of my underthings green that way…).

        1. Amber T*

          Oh man, I have a pair of magenta underwear, and it’s THE WORST. I wash all my whites together (by whites I mean bras, underwear, and socks…which now I’m thinking none of those, except for a few athletic socks, are actually white), but everything gets dyed pink. I have a portable washing machine that sits in my tub (can’t install in my unit and the building ones are… icky), and the color water that comes out of that thing, especially when magenta panties are involved… just wow.

      3. Elemeno P.*

        I didn’t until I had my own washer and dryer, to be honest. If you have clothes that are predominately dark or light, it’s too expensive to run a whole cycle in a coin-operated machine for just a couple of articles of clothing!

        1. Anon...but just today!*

          agreed! I do separate towels and sheets from the rest but that’s it. It’s too expensive otherwise.

        2. turquoisecow*

          Yes, yes, yes. I shoved as much clothing as I possibly could into a washer or dryer when I had to pay for each load. I didn’t care WHAT it was.

          I kind of still do that now that I don’t. But that’s more laziness than anything. I don’t want to have to trek up and down the stairs to our basement laundry room more than I have to.

          1. hermit crab*

            I still do too. Someone once told me that high-efficiency washers work better when there’s a lot of stuff crammed in there, and I’ve taken that and run with it ever since.

      4. Cucumberzucchini*

        I don’t separate by colors as much as a separate by clothing type or weight of fabrics. Like I don’t wash denim with other materials. Because I wash almost exclusively in cold water, I don’t worry about color transfer too much.

        1. MegaMoose, Esq*

          I used to do the same when I did my own laundry – plus I buy almost exclusively used clothing, so I don’t worry about colors running. I’ve been trying to convince my husband that it’s fine just to sort by types but not color, but I haven’t quite convinced him yet. Amusingly, this means my lights get mixed in with his color loads, and the lights load is just his ratty socks and t-shirts.

        2. blushingflower*

          This. I separate knits and delicates out, and I usually do my linens in their own load (with warmer water), but I don’t normally bother to separate by color. My black cotton bras and my white cotton socks can get washed together, it’s fine. (When I had to wear a white shirt for work, I did do a load of whites with bleach, but I don’t bother now)

        3. Hush42*

          This- I always wash my “heavy” clothes separate from my “light” clothes. I found that if you wash Jeans with T-shirts then the T-shirts will end up with little holes in them. Unless I have a lot of laundry I don’t separate by color but I also own exactly 1 white shirt.

      5. Nancie*

        Same! Brand-new jeans and towels will go through the wash by themselves a couple of times; everything else needs to play together nicely, or it’s gone. (It probably helps that I almost never wear white, or much of anything really pale.)

      6. Rachel 2: Electric Boogaloo*

        I only separate things likely to bleed from lighter colored things. That’s about it.

      7. LawBee*

        +1 me either. I use one of those sheets that suck up the excess dye in the water, but I tend to forget that as well. Everything’s on tap cold anyway, and I’m more concerned about clothes shrinking in the dryer.

      8. SusanIvanova*

        I sort them into “safe to be in the same load as bras” and “not safe” – knits, anything that would catch on the hooks. But that’s it.

      9. FD*

        +1 and I just wash everything on cold. I suspect that they’ve gotten better at color-fixing dyes than they were when my parent’s generation was washing clothes.

      10. asteramella*

        My spouse solved this problem by being basically an adult goth. All of their laundry is black, and I do mean ALL of it (with the exception of one lavender sweatshirt that gets put in with my clothes instead).

    3. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

      When I was in college in the early 90s I ran across a young woman in the dormitory laundry room who was in near hysterical tears because she had thrown all of her clothes into the washer on “hot” and now they were all shades of pinkish purple. There were dry clean only clothes in there too. I helped her sort out what was salvageable and rewash the whites in cold with some bleach to try to fix it — she probably lost about 1/3 of her wardrobe and a total loss of some expensive things. Her “logic” at the time was that the coin op machines were expensive and it was time consuming to separate and wait for multiple loads — so she knew the concept but not the reasons behind it. Sometimes, people just gotta fail spectacularly in order to really learn and not just memorize.

      1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        Oof! I’m quite tall, and my stepmother is very short; I learned about laundry differences when she threw all my clothes in a hot washer and hot dryer, and suddenly all my shirts had 3/4 sleeves and showed my midriff!

        1. SarahKay*

          My (small) mum washed my (tall) stepdad’s wool socks on a hot wash; they shrunk so much that they would only fit Mum. She swears blind it was an accident and that we should take no notice of the fact that she’d been eyeing up those socks enviously….

      2. Nerfmobile*

        My freshman college roommate did this! She had bought a new college sweatshirt (our colors were red and white and this was RED), and washed it with a load of all sorts of other clothing. Result = pink everything. In her case, she had never done laundry before because she was from the Philippines and her family had a housekeeper. I got to give her a lesson in separating laundry….

      3. frog*

        I had a classmate in boarding school (I was one of the “poor” scholarship students – firmly middle class at home, but, you know, my parents did not own their own island, so) pull this -despite identifying as a communist, he’d never done his own laundry, because his parents were expats, so of course they had a maid to take care of those things.

        He washed a brand-new, bright red, cheaply made t-shirt (with a gold star in the middle – the Vietnamese flag) along with his socks, underwear, and school uniform shirts. To his credit, after someone showed him how to re-wash the whites with a little bleach, he did end up wearing slightly pink-tinged socks and uniform shirts (and presumably underwear) for the rest of the school year, rather than waste all of that material.

        He spoke three languages fluently, and I later heard he graduated from Harvard before he was old enough to drink in this country, but I did wonder if his parents still had to bring him basic toiletries every time they visited, because he just “couldn’t remember” to get them for himself.

    4. JennyFair*

      My youngest went away to a USNSCC training camp when he was about 13, and he made the mistake of telling me they’d made him laundry officer. I informed him that if the US Navy trusted him to do laundry, so did I, and it was his job from then on. Casualties were rare :)

      1. BananaPants*

        This brings back memories of going to NSCC training for the first time and having to label EVERYTHING with a stencil and fabric marker, down to my underwear and sports bras. And then we did laundry in gigantic mesh laundry bags, all mixed together, but I think the instructors did it for us. It wasn’t until I went to POLA that I had to do my own laundry!

    5. alston*

      A guy at my uni was so wealthy he’d grown up with servants doing everything for him. He did not know cereal and milk were packaged separetly until he saw it in the dining hall. And at first he just thought something was wrong with cereal.

      1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

        How did he think it was packaged?? Like the yogurts that have a separate section of jam or chocolate chips for you to dump in? Surely he didn’t think they came mixed together, as even an extremely coddled person must still have noticed that cereal gets soggy??

      2. bluesboy*

        There was a British Duke (I want to say the Duke of Newcastle?) who had a problem when his valet went on holiday. He complained that his toothbrush “wasn’t frothing properly.”

        Apparently his valet would put the toothpaste on his toothbrush every morning and the Duke had no idea…

  4. Electric Hedgehog*

    Maybe talk to your grandparents and have them tell your aunt and uncle to knock it off. They clearly set a lot of store in parent-child relationships…

    1. Sas*

      Speaking with their grandparents isn’t likely to do a lot. These adults have been treating others badly while parenting for a long LONG time. Plus, that really only feeds into the situation. OP’s cousin is an adult! She could talk to him, possibly (out of work, in a cool, collected manner.) My ex was like this. It was horrible to see how his parent (one of them in that situation) treated others for the sake of her son. (He was 30. It doesn’t get better. And, that parent is unlikely to EVER see another view.) To people who don’t see the damage in helicoptering an adult SON, yikes. Read this.

      1. RipRiley*

        I would talk to the cousin if he is a reasonable person – i.e. doesn’t go along with it like Mr. CC my mom on office emails guy. If he just seems naive but nice you could pull him aside and say hey, I’m just giving you a head’s up that this is not normal, that I’m hearing about it at all levels in our company, and I’m worried that it will negatively impact you. I would offer to be a mentor of the real world to the kid if receptive and probably request that my name not be mentioned to aunt/uncle. Obviously still be prepared for aunt and uncle to hear about it though and keep that in mind when choosing your words.

        1. Cordelia Naismith*

          Agreed. This is really the cousin’s to handle. I get that it will be hard for him since he’s lived his entire life this way, but if he ever wants to be an adult instead of a child for the rest of his life, he needs to step up and talk to his parents.

          1. E*

            Information diet. Teach the cousin how to not share everything with his parents. If they don’t know that x is happening with work, they might have less reason to involve themselves. He might also benefit from learning the “grey rock” principle where he would be as uninteresting as possible in conversations with them.

        2. Not So NewReader*

          Yeah, think carefully about a boomerang here. If you try to help your cousin that might go right back to his parents. Peach. Then his parents come to visit your boss.
          Let sleeping dogs lie.

          1. Anna*

            If OP’s aunt and uncle come knocking at the boss’ door, I think it’ll be pretty clear who the problem is. And because it’s aunt and uncle, it will be pretty easy to put a stop to it.

      2. Gadfly*

        And often parents like this seem to resent their parents for having not been this way. At least in my experience.

        1. AllTheFiles*

          Yes! I find people parent the way they wanted to be parented. Except they forget the fact that the child, circumstances, and surroundings are completely different so it will not work the way you think it will.

          1. Aurion*

            Interesting, I’ve never thought about it that way, but it makes sense!

            My parents are mildly helicopter-y (emphasis on mild) and I lecture them about it pretty regularly, but at least they back off. But whereas they overstep on things they technically can (but shouldn’t) “take care of” for us, they also want us to turn around and “take care of” them in the same way for other things (usually involving English, since we’re immigrants). It’s very much a “treat others the way you want to be treated” thing, except I subscribe more to the platinum rule than the golden one. :)

    2. Mephyle*

      Note that her query doesn’t touch at all the problem of how to fix her aunt and uncle nor even how to rescue her cousin. And that’s smart. Given the deeply-entrenched pattern, trying to improve things for him is likely only to hurt her or make things worse for him or both.

      1. fposte*

        Yeah, she isn’t going to have the power to fix this–all she can do is minimize the spillage on her.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Agreed. OP you have your wits about you and you are looking at the situation clearly. You will probably do well with this and land okay.

  5. Menacia*

    I’m curious how OP *knows* all of this about her cousin and his parents in relation to the job at the company where they work. I think you need to take a step back because this is his life, not yours and only if you allow it to be a reflection on you will it be. Of course you can be a mentor to your cousin but don’t take on too much because at some point, he needs to realize his parents are going to end up costing him his career. What an awful thing to do to a kid, he’s going to have some tough times ahead the relationship he has with his parents does not develop some boundaries.

    1. k*

      To be fair, I’m guessing just about everyone at this office is aware of the situation. Someone’s parents calling in, not to mention showing up in person, to complain to bosses is a pretty weird and gossip worthy story.

        1. Rachel 2: Electric Boogaloo*

          This. Especially since it sounds like these are close relatives (aunt, uncle, first cousin). Pulling something like barging in and demanding to talk to company executives would definitely be fodder for family gossip.

      1. NewDoc*

        I agree that everyone is likely aware because it’s so bizarre. My husband (an MD) is in a fellowship program and one of his co-fellows had her mother call to request extra time off to study for her boards — and it was somehow granted, so everyone else in the fellowship had to cover the call shifts. You can bet everyone talked about it, especially since they didn’t get time off to study for *their* boards (we’re doctors! Being able to study for tests while working is an important skill — you have to re-certify for boards every ten years the rest of your career and future employers don’t let you take several weeks off to study!)

        1. Anonymoose*

          As someone who works in the education of doctors – I agree 100%. It’s not like she can take time off to research a case. That’s not how the job is, period. You’re constantly juggling.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        One place I worked an employee’s parent came in ONCE to advocate on behalf of the employee. We all knew about it before the week was over and this was a one time thing.

        Stuff like this just flies around. OP, you can be pretty sure that your cousin’s boss sees what is going on, knows he has a problem and is just taking calculated steps. I think it’s only a matter of time before your cousin is shown the door.

      3. Lablizard*

        Between work and family, the OP probably knows more than she ever wanted to. I know at my work, mom and dad calling executive management about an employee who didn’t get leave because he hadn’t earned it would spread to everyone within 4 hours. A good WTF story has legs. And if it was family, I would probably know within 1 hour because my family talks…a lot…. about everything….All the damned time

    2. TL -*

      If it’s anything like my family, things make it through the grapevine whether you want to know or not. Yes, there’s a reasonable amount of filtering one can do but if you have even a baseline decent relationship with your immediate family and a larger extended family, you get the gossip eventually.

    3. Mephyle*

      Note that the query doesn’t touch at all the problem of how to fix OP’s aunt and uncle nor even how to rescue the cousin. OP is not asking how to mentor him or save him or interfere in his life. OP is asking how to make sure his parents’ interference won’t reflect on OP.

      1. Mephyle*

        That is, if everyone in the office is aware, OP doesn’t want to be known as ‘the one with the crazy aunt and uncle.’

    4. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      only if you allow it to be a reflection on you will it be

      I think this is a pretty naïve view. People may make assumptions without the OP doing anything in particular to prompt it.

      1. Zombii*

        Agreed. It is naive to the point of detrimental to believe that you get to “allow” other people whether to make negative opinions of you or not.

        Storytime. I’ve worked at the same company as my brother exactly one time because my brother is a huge glassbowl. He has no patience, and thinks he knows everything better than everyone else, and takes everything personally. This definitely reflected on me (in ways ranging from “I can’t believe you’re X’s sister–you’re so nice!” to “Just don’t yell at me like your brother, okay?”).

    5. another person*

      My mother would definitely tell me if one of her siblings was doing this (or possibly with more delight… if one of my father’s siblings was doing this). But also, I feel like the sort of person who would do this is also the sort of person who would tell people loudly at family gatherings all about how all these companies were so horrible to her son and I had to call them about X and Y …

    6. TootsNYC*

      also, I would bet the extended family knows about it too. And talks about it.

      People who think this is normal will also brag about it, or simply share it.

  6. Ann Cognito*

    Yikes! Hard as it is to allow my kids (10 and 11) to have some independence like biking to/from school, to/from their friends’ houses or to the local shop to pick-up some small items, we allow it because how else will they cope in the world if we do everything for them, then expect them to cope once they leave home?

    I hope you can maybe have a word with your cousin because this does not reflect well on him. In your situation, I would speak with my boss using Alison’s wording.

    1. AllTheFiles*

      Bless you for making the tough choice that will result in more well rounded children. My parents always said it was much harder to make a mistake and learn a lesson as an adult than as a 9 year old.

      1. Your Weird Uncle*

        That’s totally the concept of Love & Logic, a parenting concept that my hubby and I use with his kids. The idea is that making mistakes when young is affordable (i.e., blowing all of their allowance on bubble gum) whereas making the same sort of mistake when an adult is not (i.e., blowing an entire paycheck on, I dunno, a binge-drinking session?). It can be hard but it totally works, and we feel like parenting ninjas when people comment on how well-behaved the kids are!

      2. Ann Cognito*

        I will never forget the first day my son, 9 at the time, biked home from school by himself (my daughter had a late class that day) – he was sooooo proud of himself! You could see it on his face and his chest was all puffed-out with pride!

        But yes, we want them to make mistakes now and learn from them. We want them to move out of home in the first place, and know how to run their own households! When they go to college, we don’t want them texting 20 times a day for help with basic decisions. They can already cook basic meals, and know how to work the dishwasher, washing machine and dryer.

    2. PlanetAlly*

      I had a former coworker whose sons were 28 and 30. They still lived at home. I don’t think she interfered with their work lives, but she cooked for them and made their beds and did their laundry and basically any other thing at home that they needed done. She explicitly told me that she expected their future wives to do all this stuff for her sons once they got married. So she didn’t expect them to cope in the least.

      1. Anonymoose*

        Ha, good luck with that. Most ladies these days (I am one of them) would just raise an eyebrow and say: ‘their your socks. Why would I pick them off the ground for you? And while you’re at it – get that wet towel off the carpet!’.

        1. AdAgencyChick*

          …sigh, if my mother had known this, she wouldn’t have married my dad. I mean, I’m glad I exist and all, but I hate seeing him sit around expecting her to wait on him hand and foot!

          1. Frozen Up North*

            My parental units have the same dynamic. It makes me crazy. I’ve done my share of advocating for mom when I see it happen, but that comes with a huge grain of salt to dad because of ‘Powdered Butt Syndrome” (If I’ve powdered your butt, I don’t want your advice on life choices).

          2. Chinook*

            This behavior is why my grandmother never remarried after my grandfather died in his 60’s. She said that all the men her age want a woman to wait on them and she wanted to retire from being a housewife (which she slowly did by moving into assisted living and slowly paying more for others to cook and clean for her.)

        2. SusanIvanova*

          There’s an ad running that stands out because it avoids the usual “ad husbands are useless, ad wives treat them like children” trope: Husband is on the couch, looking miserable. “Mom used to make me soup when I was sick!” he whines.
          “Hmm,” says the wife, obviously on her way to work, and tosses him a phone. “Guess you should call your mom then.”
          Cut to husband making his own soup :)

        1. PlanetAlly*

          She was very old-fashioned. I wouldn’t be surprised if she went out and found women who were willing to take care of her children this way and then told her sons, “I found you wives.”

        2. AKJ*

          My mother did! My Dad, apparently, was exactly like this when they were first married. My mother figured taking care of a husband is just what wives do, so she did everything for him until she finally had enough. Surprise ending: it turned out Dad was happy to learn how to cook, clean, and do laundry, but since he’d had all of those things done for him for so long he didn’t realize how much went into it. Once Mom asked him to help, he jumped right in. So perhaps there is hope.

          (My father is a wonderful man, but he tends to live in his own head and not notice things until they are explicitly pointed out to him.)

          1. Anna*

            It reminds me of that ad going around where the guy thinks there’s a magic table and laundry basket because he’s so clueless he doesn’t realize his girlfriend does all the cleaning.

          2. Chinook*

            “Surprise ending: it turned out Dad was happy to learn how to cook, clean, and do laundry, but since he’d had all of those things done for him for so long he didn’t realize how much went into it. Once Mom asked him to help, he jumped right in. So perhaps there is hope.”

            My grandfather also eventually learned. It took my grandmother having hip surgery and being bed bound for weeks, but he eventually learned to pitch in with cleaning and laundry. To his credit, he always did some cooking and I grew up thinking that making pancakes Sunday morning and anything cooked over open fire was “man’s work” thanks to both my grandfather and my dad.

        3. Elfie*

          Shockingly, I am friends with someone who WANTS to keep her husband dependent on her so that he won’t leave her. She’s actually said as much. And I know other people who behave the same. C’mon guys, it’s 2017!!! I’m completely the opposite – I want my husband to have as much independence as possible, because he’s disabled, and it’s a degenerative condition, so gradually his independence will slip away, and he hates the thought of it.

      2. Anon...but just today!*

        I worked with a woman like this. She had very definite opinions on what constituted women’s work and she used to chastise the other women in the office if she thought we weren’t treating our men right.

        1. RipRiley*

          If I never see another Facebook post of “do this for your man, or (insert other woman, usually writer of stupid post) will” it will be too soon. Your husband can make himself a plate of food, I promise you his hands will not fall off his body.

          1. Michele*

            I work with a woman who is in that type of marriage. Her husband literally refuses to eat unless she provides the food. If she goes out to dinner with friends, she has to order something to take home for him. I say she let him skip a meal or two until he figures out how to make a bowl of cereal.

            1. alter_ego*

              I have a coworker whose wife cuts his food for him. Yes, even at our office holiday party. It’s exactly as bizarre as you imagine it to be.

              1. Izzy*

                In some cultures this is apparently what women do. A hostess in one of those cultures who had invited my boyfriend (also of that culture) and me for dinner handed me a plate and told me to fix my boyfriend’s plate! I later married another man from that culture and all my (ex, now) sisters in law or girlfriends in law fixed their men’s plates and cut their meat. It kind of freaked me out.

            2. AliceBD*

              I remember being in elementary school and visiting my grandparents, and my grandmother made my grandfather lunch before she went somewhere with us. I was flabbergasted. At the time he was still pretty mobile (when he was older I would have understood it, as he had more trouble getting around/holding objects/etc) and he was a grownup, which meant he could reach everything and was allowed to use the stove, so why couldn’t he make his own lunch? I know he knew how to cook for himself, since he’d been a bachelor and then in the Army during WWII, and then had a job where he lived away from home some of the time (although he might have only ate at restaurants then), but he never had to.

        2. Anon13*

          The weird is, in both your situation and PlanetAlly’s, these women worked. Did they both believe that women should work outside the home and do everything for their husbands? (Not that those who stay at home should be expected to do everything, either, but I think there is a bit more of an expectation that if only one spouse works outside the home, the one who stays home will do a little bit more work around the house.)

          1. DoDah*

            My mother worked outside the home and she just did everything, because—actually I don’t know. I do know she taught me how to make lunch for my father at age 5, in case she had to work on the weekend. I remember making him a sandwich and getting scolded for using too much lunchmeat.

            1. PlanetAlly*

              Oh, I had to pack my dad’s lunches sometimes too! It was so bizarre. I’d pack my own and then pack his. I also had to take his work boots off every night.

              My mom thinks it’s “cute” when I don’t do certain things for my husband. “You’re supposed to do that! Tee hee hee.” Uh, no, he is capable of doing it and I’m tired.

              1. DoDah*

                …And she only bought/made the food he liked, which was like two things.

                Additionally, he never did any of the upkeep on the house/property (what he would consider being man’s work) nor would he take out life insurance. He said, “If I die, I don’t care what happens to you. ” He died in his 40’s, the house was a wreck and left no money for her and my 13-year-old baby sister.

                So not cool.

                1. Collar*

                  My dad only likes meat that has been cooked to the color of slate and the texture of particle board, so that’s how my mom cooks.

                  I thought I hated steak until a friend cooked me a medium-rare filet mignon and I realized, oh, THIS is why people rave about steak.

            2. Gen*

              My dad used to expect three or four options to choose from for his dinner and two different lunches, even when he was out of work or on strike while my mum was working 70 hour weeks. They’ve been divorced 22 years but when he found out he had ceoliac 6 years ago she started cooking for him again because she felt responsible for accidentally poisoning when they were married, like it was her job to manage his digestion!

        3. Annonymouse*

          I provide unconditional love, sex and occasional laundry service (I’ve had to ban him from laundry duties) . Anything else is a bonus.

          In all honesty he does most of the cooking and cleaning because of my work hours.

      3. heatherskib*

        Sure hope these guys have the income to support a 50’s era housewife!
        I’m finding this a lot with my female friends, and I had to lay it down with my husband once too. If we’re working the same hours, than the division of labor at home needs to be realistically divided too. Lady parts =/= maid!

      4. selenejmr*

        I dated a guy for 5 1/2 years that still lived with his parents. He was 39 when I broke up with him. His brother, who was only a couple of years younger, also lived at home. It wasn’t that they had moved back home, they had never left! Mom cooked all of the meals and made their lunches to take to work. Dad did their laundry. Mom did all the ironing, even t-shirts! I’m not sure they contributed financially to their parents. This former boyfriend still works at the only place he’s ever been employed. I worked there for 5 years and still keep in touch with some of my friends there. Last I heard (1 or 2 years ago) he was still living at home.

        1. PlanetAlly*

          My former coworker ironed her son’s sheets for crying out loud.

          Her sons definitely did not contribute towards the household expenses. She said she wanted them to save their money so they could buy houses when they got married.

      5. Marcela*

        My mom did that. She made my responsibility to clean the house from one side to the other and take care of everything. My brother did not have to move a finger. I was supposed to have a -useless- husband some day, he was supposed to have a house-proud wife (says google translate of my original hacendosa, a word that means you are always willing to spend as much time doing house chores as you can, and your house will be always spotless and nobody will have to help you). Luckily I got a husband who can live by himself, because my MIL is not as dumb as my mom. And even better, he likes to cook while I hate it. Of course, my mom always asks me if “my poor husband” is still cooking for us.

      6. hermit crab*

        My grandpa was 95 when his wife (my grandma) died. In the last year of her life, he learned how to do laundry, make his own coffee, and all number of other things he’d never had to do for himself before. If he can do it, then it’s NEVER too late. :)

    3. Anon...but just today!*

      One of my neighbors went from a full time job to a part time job just so her daughter didn’t have to walk home. The middle school doesn’t bus our kids because it’s too close. She’s barely making ends meet, just had to sell her car, but still won’t let her daughter walk. It’s not even like she’d walk alone…there are about 10 kids who walk in our neighborhood and they all just walk in a big group for safety. My daughter says everyone just puts their music on and they just walk..about 6 minutes from school to home. Boggles my mind that my neighbor would rather be broke than to give her kid any kind of freedom. And her daughter begs…every day. We all hear it.

        1. JennyFair*

          Yeah, we have a problem in this country with creeping standards. First a few parents are super protective, then others get drawn in, it becomes the new normal, and before you know it, the legal standard is changed. It’s ridiculous. My kids are in their early 20s, so raising them wasn’t that long ago, and today’s parents would probably think I was neglectful. They were allowed to stay home alone (ages 9 and 11 or so) while I worked (but not to throw knives or hatchets, or shoot arrows when I wasn’t home). They played outside largely unsupervised, with boundaries that depended on the general safety of our neighborhood. Occasionally they could run errands and so on. These were super normal things when I was a kid (ok, my parents didn’t have the knife/hatchet/arrow rule).

          1. PlainJane*

            And the really bizarre part is that crime rates are lower now than they were when “free range kids” were just, “kids.” So many of our fears are completely irrational.

          2. Drew*

            I learned to ride a bike when I was 10 or 11 and from then on my parents said “please don’t ride in the street and if you stop at a friend’s house, ask to use the phone so we know where you are at dinnertime.” Including biking straight over an unimproved, overgrown hill known for the impressive size of its rattlesnakes. (Never saw one up close; they heard the bike coming and skedaddled.) I don’t think it would even have occurred to them to worry about it.

            If my parents knew some of the stupid stuff I did, like riding on the sides of a drainage culvert at about a 30-degree angle from vertical, they would be…completely unsurprised, probably. Apart from a broken collarbone that had nothing at all to do with being reckless, just unlucky, I never had any problems.

            1. Candi*

              I believe it. My son took a flying leap from a swing one time and a few years later drank about a quarter of a bottle of Simple Green… because his friends “kind of dared him to”.

              Doctor’s trip for the first (just bruised, orders to take it easy), a very uncomfortable night with stomach problems for the second. (Simple Green is a great environmentally friendly cleaner, but is in no way an antiseptic or dangerous to life.”

              We also had the talk about NOT doing everything your friends suggest… and making me “the bad guy” if need be.

          3. Matt*

            Not just in the US, here in Europe it’s just the same.

            I was born in 1980 and remember walking to and from elementary school, in a small town, on my own. Once we went on a field trip, something went wrong with pickup organisation, teacher forgot that parents were waiting at the railway station and took us back to the school, or something like that … I remember my teacher asking me if I would be able to walk home on my own, I said yes, of course, and that was it. When I was ten, we moved to the big city, I was thrilled and spent a lot of my spare time roaming the city exploring all available lines of public transport, all alone. If this time of my life would be taking place today, I guess my parents and teachers would be in prison and myself in care of the state, or crisis foster parents, or the like …

        2. MashaKasha*

          Yes!! I remember having that fear when my kids were preteens. And I remember telling them to be careful when they went outside on their own, to make sure no one would call the authorities on them. Luckily my kids were very tall for their ages and we never got in trouble. I hope this ridiculousness finally ends by the time they have kids of their own.

      1. AllTheFiles*

        Oh, I’ll do you one better. One year they moved the bus stop right in front of our house and my little brother was thrilled. Not even by the end of the week was it moved up 3 DRIVEWAYS so it could be directly in front of helicopter parent’s home. Unreal.

        1. AliceBD*

          That’s excessive! Although when I was in 5th grade my parents did get the bus stop moved from the corner to be the end of our driveway. But that was because the bus passed our house anyway and I was the only kid on our block, so it was less out of protectiveness (my parents could see the corner from any window on the front of the house, if they had cared enough to watch) than out of letting me wait indoors when it was cold out.

        2. Tagg*

          When I went to the elementary school that was literally at the end of my street (early 90s), they still wouldn’t let us walk home “because there weren’t any sidewalks.” -_- I was always so salty about that cuz during the summer/weekends we would ALWAYS bike/walk up there to play on the playgrounds.

          Then when I was in Middle School (early 2000s) my bus stopped a few houses down from mine. But the drop off spot was close to the retaining wall for the creek that ran behind our houses, and the bus driver was afraid I was gonna fall in. She wouldn’t let me get off at that spot anymore, instead dropping me (and my brother) off right at our driveway. Which, whatever that’s fine, but we literally played in that creek darn near 365 days a year… and in fact used that retaining wall section to build a dam that would allow us to cross and get to the path thru the trees to our grandparent’s house…

        3. Candi*

          I did have the bus stop moved, from two driveways and a street down to the end of my street, when my kids were in elementary school. BUT:

          My kids were two of the ~five kids on our street using that bus. (People moved in and out of some of the houses over the years.)

          The bus went from a Y crossroads about a mile up to a T-intersection two streets and four driveways down as part of its regular route. It simply stopped about a half a block sooner at the new stop.

          I will (still, almost a decade later) argue that it was safer for the bus, driver, and other kids for the bus to stop at the end of our street. That part of the big street is flat for about half a block; the former stop meant stopping on a fairly steep hill. We often get some nasty winter ice overnight up here, and it generally isn’t thawed by the time the buses are running.

          The district moved it again once my kids were in high school, farther toward the Y intersection. Because that’s where it was needed then.

          It was a Big Deal in middle school when they were allowed to wait for the bus By Themselves. :P Although that was dependent on whether the sun was up. (Call me a little bit paranoid.)

          Technically, all three of their schools have been in walking distance. But being allowed to walk depended on weather/temperature (especially in the morning!), afterschool activities (the activity buses had some weird routes), and the kids’ personal responsibility. My son was allowed to walk a few years ago; my daughter wasn’t until this year.

          My son remains focused (enough) and doesn’t get distracted; my daughter was getting distracted by everything, which is a bad thing walking home along a nice, tree-line road with animals, butterflies, and flowers. (Yes, the attention issue caused other problems; she’s been seeing a counselor and has been assessed, and we’re working with her school.)

          It’s another example of blanket rules being a bad idea, and of a situation that demands personalization.

      2. Turkletina*

        One time (one!) when I was 9 or 10, my parents allowed me to walk home from my dance lesson. It was less than a 10 minute walk, all residential. My dance teacher saw me walking, stopped her car, made me get in, and drove me home. It seemed really unnecessary, especially since my teacher knew where we lived.

        1. Anon...but just today!*

          LOL! I was always a walker when I was in school. By the time I was in a school far enough for me to not walk, it was time to use the public bus. I remember on those cold days hoping and praying that one of my teachers or neighbors would drive by me, see me freezing, and offer me a ride home. Never happened.

          1. Lily Rowan*

            Yep, back in olden days in a good-sized urban area, I went from walking alone (we had crossing guards! it was fine) to taking the city bus.

          2. Notorious MCG*

            My mom was one who never let me ride the bus in the mornings, but just because she didn’t want me to have to wait in all kinds of weather for the bus to come and she was a dean at a college so the schedules matched up pretty well. But once I could drive I had free rein to go as I pleased, and I regular picked up the people I knew standing at the bus stops as I was driving by.

      3. aj*

        So, I think this varies by region. We just moved from one suburb in a state to a different suburb in a different state. The old school did not allow children to be released to walk home alone. Here, it’s the norm. My two kids walk together to school (young elementary).

        1. Liane*

          Also the kinds of roads. One of the elementary schools my kids attended, you couldn’t get to without crossing at least one busy street with no close traffic lights. The solution was that ALL kids, even those in the same neighborhood, like us, got bus service.

          1. blushingflower*

            Yeah, my elementary school was probably technically walking distance from my childhood home, but you had to walk along a busy road with no sidewalks, so everyone got bused.
            One of the other elementary schools was in the village, where there were sidewalks, and students who lived a certain distance walked.

        2. MashaKasha*

          My kids’ elementary school (early 2000s) had crossing guards and some of the kids who lived close walked to school and back on their own. So maybe, our district was more lenient about this.

      4. KarenK*

        I walked to and from school starting in kindergarten – a half-mile each way – without parental supervision. My mom took me on the first day and that was the last time. This was in 1962. We used to come home for lunch every day, too. There was a whole bunch of kids that lived in my neighborhood, so we never walked alone, but there were no parents in sight.

        1. AKJ*

          I did the same thing, but in the late 1980’s – early 1990’s. My mom recruited an older neighbor girl to walk with me until I was in third grade, when I asked if I could walk myself because the neighbor girl was snobby and mean and didn’t like the job. If I remember right, it took some convincing.

        2. MashaKasha*

          Same exact thing, but the 70s and not in the US. It was a 30-minute walk for me. And, of course, the kids all played outside till dark with no parents in sight.

      5. Aurion*

        Heh, growing up we were a 10 minute (15 minute at most with short legs) walk from my elementary school, but my mother always picked us up. Her rationale is that if anything went wrong she wouldn’t even begin to know who or where to ask for help (we’re immigrants, my parents’ English isn’t so great).

        Once we were allowed to walk home ourselves because that day she was busy with something and was unable to pick us up. She ended up rushing around and busted her ass to still make it on time to pick us up…but we got so mad at her for it and there was a fight. Her view was that she busted her butt to drive us around and we got mad at her, whereas we were angry that we were finally allowed to do this Grown Up Thing that got taken away last minute.

        I can’t remember if that was the start of You Can Walk Your Ass Home or not, but we still occasionally mention this story at the dinner table nowadays.

      6. Poppy*

        In high school I was once assigned a super early gym class that would have required me to wake up a good hour earlier than usual and walk to a farther bus stop. We lived in a super safe town– basically no crime, amazing schools — but my mom was worried about me walking two blocks further than usual in the early morning so she called the cops to ask their opinion. I thought was somewhat of an overreaction, but lo and behold, turns out there had been reports of a man flashing kids in the early morning right near what would be my future bus stop! Sometimes what appears to be a safe situation is a little sketchier than you’d expect. And yes, my mom used that info to get me transferred to a different, later gym class!

        1. Not So NewReader*

          I can remember the nuns telling us we had to walk with the younger kids. I was in 5th or 6th grade and pretty naive so I thought nothing of it. I do remember hearing adults whispering.
          One night around dusk I was out walking my dog- this was between the school and my home. A strange man approached me and asked if he could pet the dog. My intuition went into warp-drive. I said no. He asked again. I said no, I lied and told the man that she bites and my 135 pound dog growled, as if on cue.
          The dog won.

          1. Old Admin*

            The dog actually picked up on your reaction (wary of the man) and did the logical thing – defend you!
            Well done.

          2. Candi*

            For reference to readers, a German Shepherd averages 66-88 pounds, a pit bull 35-65, a rott 77-130, and a Doberman 60-100.

            And working dogs aside, all but one (a pitbull) I’ve met were love bugs who just luuurved attention. (That pittbull had a glassbowl owner, so that’s where I put the blame.

      7. hodie-hi*

        In the early 70s, when I was in kindergarten and first grade, we lived in a very small town–a village really– and both the house and school were on the main drag. (USA btw.) My mother would watch to make sure we crossed the road safely, then my little sister and I would walk down the hill ALONE to the center of “town” across the street from the school, where the crossing guard was.

        One time Mom sent us on our way on a Saturday. We stood on that corner looking at the crossing guard’s pile of stogie butts on the ground, wondering where he was. We eventually gave up and went back up the hill and crossed that busy road all by ourselves. Mom thought it was funny, but we were pissed because Saturday Morning Cartoons!

      8. Elizabeth H.*

        I am only 29 and it’s not THAT long ago that I was in elementary school. Which I walked to. It was over a mile away but mostly along the brook path in my town which was mostly frequented by kids walking. There was one busy road but we had a crossing guard (I still remember her). My mom would drive and pick me up from school in 3rd grade (I was new and didn’t know many kids yet) but in 4th and 5th grade I had friends to walk with I walked every day. The idea of kids not being allowed to be released to walk just seems crazy to me.

    4. copy run start*

      My mom took the city bus to work my last few years of high school so I could take the car. She said she wanted me to learn to get to places on time, which I appreciate now.

      She also explained checks, budgets and expected me to clean my room and bathroom and laundry from my early teens. I learned to pick up my laundry after discovering piles = homes for wayward bugs! And that it’s much easier to clean lightly regularly than deeply rarely.

      1. copy run start*

        To elaborate, these weren’t chores. She just stopped doing it and pointed out that I could do it myself when I whined….

      2. MegaMoose, Esq*

        I feel like the “easier to clean lightly regularly than deeply rarely” is one of those things that can take a long time to really sink in, but it’s SO TRUE. We’ve been doing a room-by-room purge and deep clean, and it’s continually astonishing to me how much easier it is to keep a room clean when it’s in really good shape to start off. I mean, I’ve been wiping down the kitchen surfaces every-freaking day and don’t feel like Cinderella. It’s amazing.

        1. Aurion*

          Yeah, it’s so much easier for me to keep the kitchen tidy and clean, but so much more work to keep my desk area tidy and clean. Kitchen gets cleaned daily in the course of cooking and washing dishes…desk area I just sacrifice on the altar of entropy. :P

      3. TL -*

        I’m so confused by kids who don’t have chores. I had them since I started making memories; I learned to cook, clean, and do laundry in elementary school. Nothing elaborate – I started with moving clothes from washer to dryer and then to towels and then to clothes and then to delicates as I got older.

        1. PlanetAlly*

          Yes, I was dusting the house from a very early age, and when we moved to our little farm, I was tending to animals and vegetable gardens. I never really did laundry or the dishes that often. My mother loved doing those things.

        2. Anonak*

          I never had chores growing up, and quite frankly, it plagues me to this day. I am extremely messy, to the point that my apartment has become a place I dont want to be. I think it was just easier for my mom to do it herself when we were little, but then when we were teenagers, my parents would just expect us to see a mess and act, which didnt occur to us. They also started telling us to perform a chore right away (i.e. dinner is done, so go clean the kitchen). I asked for some sort of chore schedule, mostly because I like to mentally prepare for things I disliked doing, but also so that we didn’t end up with one person cleaning up several days of mess. They refused and nothing really changed. I mean, I would perform the task, but it irritated me immensely and they would get mad that I was irritated (I also had untreated anxiety and depression, which didn’t help). So, I guess that this is just another example of how spoiling children can actually be detrimental to them. Also, my parents and I get along much better that I don’t live with the..

        3. Trillian*

          My mother had chores, and hated them. So in reaction, she didn’t give us chores. But she also expected us to always be offering to help when she wanted it. I’d rather have had chores than the nebulous expectation that I would anticipate when I was wanted. Chores would have been finite.

        4. AliceBD*

          Same! I had to set the table and do the dishes and empty the trash cans starting in kindergarten or first grade. Doing the dishes started with just clearing the table of the plates and cups when I was younger and ended with putting away the leftovers, clearing the table, washing all pots and pans, starting the dishwasher, and wiping down the counters etc. by the time I was in high school. And other chores were added on.

          Also, I just fell into some chores. Doing laundry and ironing was never an explicitly assigned chore, for example. But if I wanted a certain piece of clothing to wear on a certain day I could either tell my mom way in advance or just do the family laundry myself. (We had a laundry chute, so everyone’s dirty clothes were mixed together, and we separated them as they came out of the dryer.) And we had to have a certain uniform outfit ironed and ready to wear on certain days, and again it was just easier to do it myself than to tell my mom ahead of time. In middle school I got really good at ironing a top and skirt in 5 minutes while dressed in a bathrobe, undergarments, and panythose.

          And when my mom started traveling for work when I was in middle school I automatically did more laundry and dishes than when she was home.

          1. TL -*

            I’m pretty sure we all started cooking with shaking the shake’n’bake for mom (yum!!!) but that turned into making things from boxes and that turned into cooking from recipes and that turned into being able to cook. (I mean, there were a lot of mistakes along the way but that was always okay in our house.)

            Things were assigned less specifically as we got older – we got specific chores when younger and “clean the kitchen/living room/do some laundry (we also had communal laundry)” when older. I think my mom stopped taking specific laundry requests in middle school, except for sports uniforms, which all got washed Sat/Sun.

        5. Drew*

          I didn’t have a lot of chores, but I did my own laundry by choice from about the age of 13 on. Turns out that having a mom ask her teenage son to explain certain…stains…is REALLY motivating.

          1. Anonak*

            I actually took over my own laundry around that sge, but not for the same reason. My problem was that my mom kept shrinking my shirts, ans I was not someone who could pull off crop tops.

      4. Gogglemarks*

        I drove my mom to work every morning and picked her up most evenings my senior year of high school because it was on the way and it meant I could have the car in the afternoons. My friends expected me to be annoyed about it, but I still think it was a great system.

        I was also in charge of running the dishwasher, taking care of the cats, and doing all of the laundry for the house, because that meant I never had to take out the trash or clean the bathrooms. I did this starting in middle school.

        1. DoDah*

          I started dinner every night and cleaned up after. I had to do all the yard work (mow, edge, shovel, rake, plant grass, etc.) take out the trash to the curb, clean and maintain the pool, handle dog-related tasks.

          Our next-door neighbors called me Cinderella. My parents radically changed when it came time for my sister. She didn’t have any chores.

    5. Noah*

      “Hard as it is to allow my kids (10 and 11) to have some independence like biking to/from school, to/from their friends’ houses or to the local shop to pick-up some small items, we allow it”

      Watch out where you share this. On Dear Abby, the commenters mostly consider this to be child abuse.

      1. PlainJane*

        Not just on Dear Abby. Some !@#$% in my former neighborhood told my 13-year-old son that I must not love him, because I allowed him to walk to their house to play with her kids. The house was half a block away on a quiet residential street.

      2. Anna*

        That is the stupidest thing ever. How about people worry about actual child abuse, and hunger, and cruelty, and let the parents doing all right continue to do all right?

  7. Marche*

    Your cousin’s never CC’d his mother on work emails, by any chance?

    I’m suddenly very worried for how he’s going to cope if he ever lives on his own.

    1. Nervous Accountant*

      I’m guessing he wont ever live on his own.

      Seriously, I thought my parents were overprotective and sheltering, but nowhere NEAR this extent. JEez

      1. Tatertot*

        Well, he’s either got to find the type of girl who puts up with him being utterly helpless (rare these days) OR he will wind up on his own when his parents pass away or are unable to do anything for him anymore.

        I’m trying to imagine a 50 year old with helicopter parents…

        1. Anonymous for this*

          I have an older cousin (my parents’ age, and I’m 37) who is in this situation. I doubt his parents ever got involved in his work, but he was/is incapable of taking care of adult things (paying taxes, bills, etc). Recently, his mother passed away after a year of being ill and it was found that none of those things had been taken care of in the house since his father passed a few years ago. In fact, it was discovered that he was never really taking care of his mother properly (as he lived with her his whole adult life) once she became ill. This all came out after she passed. The house was filthy, bills piled up and insurance and taxes were unpaid. His sister had to step in and take care of a bunch of stuff just so the estate could be settled, but she has had to let go of responsibility for him. It’s a really sad situation and exactly why you have to let kids have some autonomy to make mistakes and learn from them. It’s mind boggling that he doesn’t know how to be an adult…

          1. Anonymous for this*

            Oh, and I should mention that he was the only male child and was doted and waited on for this reason. Since he never married, and no one ever made him contribute at home, he didn’t learn how. His mother begged his sisters to “take care of him” after she passed, but it is highly unfair to raise a child that can’t be “set free” to take care of themselves and then expect your other children to take on the mess you made.

        2. Michele*

          I was wondering what would happen when his parents die, too. It sounds like they are in good health, but a woman would have to be really desperate to marry a guy like that (and put up with his crazy parents). It sounds like he doesn’t know how to drive or pay bills or do even the most basic adult functions. That is not going to end well.

  8. Snarkus Aurelius*

    I can’t tell from what you wrote, but do people know you’re related? If not, then I wouldn’t say anything because you don’t need to draw attention to it. If so, then try to treat it like a joke while acknowledging the obvious. “Yes, we’re related, but DNA is all we have in common.” Have faith your work record will speak for itself.

    As for your cousin, I know it can be frustrating to watch, but you don’t know what you don’t know, and if you’re that sheltered, you *really* don’t know what you don’t know. I had to remind myself of that when I dealt with an intern in similar circumstances. (Bonus: her mom dropped her off and picked her up every day in the reception area.)

    1. Lora*

      Yeah, this.

      I have many many cousins who only share DNA with me. In fact I am sort of the black sheep of the family, and it’s more likely that people assume my cousins (and brother) are NOT related to me, because we are that different. At some point, someone may mention, “haha, you’re not related to That Guy, are you?” and all you have to do is sigh deeply, and say “technically…” through gritted teeth and people get the message. If you never, ever mention your cousin even in passing, unless you have a really unique last name, people will generally assume it’s a coincidence.

      At my last job, they had another Lora (lastname) at another site. Same spelling, everything, but the last name was actually her husband’s. People constantly confused us even though we looked nothing alike, even when we explicitly said, “You are referring to Other Lora, I don’t work in that department, here is the correct contact info” they would insist they had the right one. I’m in R&D, she’s in Marketing.

    2. designbot*

      Agreed, don’t say a word! Speaking up might make you feel better at the moment, but draws attention to something that people likely would not have noticed.

    3. Gen*

      One of my cousins has been a high school teacher for five years and her mum still drops her off every day. Unsurprisingly she has zero classroom control since all the kids witness this each morning.

      1. RavensandOwls*

        Yipes. As a former high school teacher, that’s like a kiss of death. I caught flak when my spouse occasionally dropped me off! (Good-natured flak; my kids liked to tease.)

    4. Temperance*

      Yes, this. I’m nothing like my extended family, so if you met another Brennan, you wouldn’t assume we’re related.

    5. Ama*

      I have a fairly unusual last name, and me, my brothers, and two of my cousins (themselves brothers) attended the same school at various times; most of the teachers couldn’t tell whether any of us were related or how. I remember running into my old lit teacher and mentioning that she had my cousin in her class and she had matched my cousin to one of my brothers but thought my other brother and myself were an unrelated family.

      I’d also add that unless it’s a coworker whose name I have to type out frequently, I usually have to think for a second to even recall my coworkers’ last names, so it’s likely most people haven’t even picked up on the two of you having the same name.

      1. SarahKay*

        Oh, yes, this is so true. In my old job I used to have to call customers to tell them their purchases were ready to be collected from the store. They’d usually leave a work number and we’d call and ask to speak to Ms Lastname, and by far the most common response was to reach someone else and hear them saying “Ms Lastname…. hmm, that might be Jane – let me check”. Frequently followed by the sound of them asking one of their co-workers “Fergus – is Jane’s last name Lastname, do you know?”
        OP, Ama is quite right, there’s a very good chance that most coworkers won’t be particularly aware of you sharing a surname.

      2. Emily, admin extraordinaire*

        My brother and I overlapped our stint in high school by two years– he’s a grade ahead of me. We have an extremely unusual last name. His way of welcoming me/guiding his little sister in high school was to ignore me completely in the hallways. He couldn’t exactly ignore me in our shared classes (we both made the high school musical and were in the same choir) or with our shared friends group, but outside of those small circles, people assumed we were cousins, if we were related at all.

        Everyone knew my younger sisters were sisters, though, because they’re identical twins and had really similar schedules due to shared interests.

      3. Nerfmobile*

        eh, this depends on the size of the company. I work for a large company (nearly 10000) – you bet that I need to know people’s last names so I make sure I send email to the right Pat, Chris, Mike, Bob, William, John, Amy, Jennifer, Greg, Ann….

      4. Shayland*

        My twin sister and I went to the same highschool. We had the same uncommon last name and shared several classes. People were still shocked SHOCKED to discover we were related.

    6. MegaMoose, Esq*

      The OP does mention an unusual last name plus shared accent (which I assume varies from most people around them) and shared somewhat unusual coloring – I don’t think it’s that much of a stretch for people to wonder if they’re related. I agree that it’s probably best to make light of the connection if it comes up, though.

      1. hermit crab*

        Yeah, I don’t think it’s a stretch either. I mean, people I went to school with just seemed to assume that I was related to someone else in the class with the same last name, even though we looked nothing alike. (Our first names also started with the same two letters, which led to some annoying mixups. One time, my parents got a truancy notice in the mail that was about the other girl…!)

        1. MegaMoose, Esq*

          I have a moderately unusual last name and always get asked if I’m related to people with the same last name. It happens most often with the famous person with the same last name as me, but pretty consistently with other people as well.

        2. Zombii*

          I lived all of high school in the shadow of a girl named Annie SameLastName. Not related, no idea who she was, but the teachers had all loved her, and were so disappointed when I told them I wasn’t her sister.

  9. Ergononomice*

    A kindness might be welcomed for a relation of yours who might not otherwise realize what a disservice he’s been done. Akin to pointing out, without anyone else noticing, that your dining companion has a piece of lettuce stuck in his teeth (or, in this case, more like an unnoticed whole head of lettuce stuck on his shoulder as if it were a second head.)

    Beware, however, the response of those who are in a bubble and do not realize they are in one – even slight contact with the outside world can be painful.

  10. LoiraSafada*

    It hurts, as a 20-something job-seeker that is currently underemployed, to hear about people like this getting hired at all.

    1. ZVA*

      In all fairness, we don’t know what kind of employee the cousin is… The letter doesn’t go into that at all. Maybe he’s good at his job. Obviously, his parents may well be harming his reputation or prospects—but I don’t think having helicopter parents is a disqualifier in and of itself, at least not when it comes to hiring.

      1. Observer*

        Well, from what the OP writes, had they known about his parent’s helicoptering, it might have hurt his chances.

    2. Sadsack*

      You have no reason to think he was a bad hire with respect to his work. I am curious though what the conversation with his boss was l I keep after his mother called to complain. At least I hope the boss told him that one get that to stop.

      1. Ann O'Nemity*

        Even if he was good at his job, he may still be a “bad hire” because of the drama of dealing with his helicopter parents. As a manager, I wouldn’t want to deal with that kind of crap. And yes, it would hurt my perception of him for not putting a stop to their meddlesome ways sooner.

        1. StrikingFalcon*

          I think Alison’s right here though that it can be a form of abuse. There are certainly abusive parents whose form of abuse extends to controlling everything, and yes, that can extend into adulthood. There’s someone I know (not close, a friend of a friend) whose parents still enforce a curfew, even though their child is nearly 30. And I frankly wouldn’t be remotely surprised if they were calling work. It’s an awful situation, as abuse usually is. While I understand it’s managers want to deal with, it’s not always the adult child’s fault.

        2. Michele*

          I agree. If I were his manager, I would have said something to him about his parents’ behavior being inappropriate.
          Also, this letter makes me glad that we have caller ID and security gates so crazy relatives can’t show up at work.

          1. Lablizard*

            If he was my employee, I would have to tell him that I didn’t have time for this and if he wanted mom & dad on the “do not transfer” call list. His answer would determine what happened next

      2. Sas*

        The main comment basically was already addressed by Hammock. But this “You have no reason to think he was a bad hire with respect to his work”. It is and this is why. People at this cousin’s work/ OP are also adults. At work people should be treated similarly. Cousin’s parents do NOT do that. It is ONLY the cousin’s responsibility to manage their work/ environment. The cousin’s parents overreacting and not respecting others is not something that most people would want to take on at their jobs. Is it because he is young that you feel inclined to this position? He is a GROWN MAN. (Not yelling, emphasis.) As someone who has been around this type of topic for years, it is not at all likely that this grown man does not realize that there are other people in the world. He doesn’t respect those other people by allowing his parents to treat them the way that he does. Some men are married with children at this person’s age. It is not likely that he hasn’t watched porn many times. (Nothing wrong with that, but this man, MAN!, is not a five year old boy.) That is what makes him possibly a bad hire. “I don’t know why this kind of child-rearing isn’t considered as abusive and negligent” Part of the problem is that outside people having a conversation about the subject allow “poor so-and-so’s childhood” to be an exception in any capacity, instead of saying “Past is in the past, he is a grown man, Now what?” It’s his job, not his parents job.

        ZVA: Your sitting at work. Op’s cousin’s parents call you. “Our son, (a grown man (with no other exceptional issues)) is not being treated fairly..” Do you want to take that on? in college,on a regular basis he allowed parents to call his instructors because he wasn’t getting good enough grades because he didn’t want to do the work?? Mic drop.

        Also, there’s a reason why a Bar Mitzvah isn’t the only thing it takes to become a man. It takes work.

        (Also, what is wrong with me for typing this out?)

        1. Tinker*

          I would like to have this power to not allow my parents to do things and have it result in those things not happening. That would be nice. I would probably use it on things like “Thanksgiving is for hospitality, not for spending three days sniping at me about my sexual orientation” before I used it to manage their interactions, which I am not necessarily even a witness to, with other people who have the ability to set their own boundaries. But still. It would be a nice power to have. If I had it. Which I don’t.

          1. Tinker*

            I’m trying to think of how to explain this to the inexperienced. How to say…

            A while back I set a boundary with my parents, and their reaction did not go so awesomely either at the time or later. As a result of their immediate reaction, I went around to all my friends for whom my mother had gotten their phone numbers — barring one case, they didn’t do that with my permission or input either — and told them that they might end up getting called as part of the fallout and that I had no problem with them handling such a situation as they saw fit.

            The thing about this is that a) my statement that my friends could hang up on / block / etc my parents was a courtesy, not permission — they already had the ability to do that regardless of what I thought about it and b) the fact that I would disapprove of my parents potentially harassing my friends did not necessarily have anything to do with whether or not it might happen.

            At the same time, I was making contingency plans for scenarios like “they show up on my front porch one day wanting to do an intervention” and “they take their long-running narrative of so crazy so irrational makes no sense very worried to my local police, with the downstream results of same arriving on my front porch in varying degrees of agitation depending on the specifics of the tale”. So if I was doing any forbidding to the folks who don’t tend to listen to me when they don’t like what they’re hearing and have a history of escalation when they’re told no, “also you’re not allowed to call other people and say annoying things to them before they hang up on you” would be a relatively minor item on that list.

        2. None Of This Nonsense, Please*

          It’s really not so easy to get out of that situation–parents can pull some very, very heavy emotional blackmail. ‘If you leave you *hate us*! You don’t appreciate all of the sacrifices we made for you! We just want what’s best for you.’ Or, more insidious, ‘Oh, you can’t possibly do that yourself. It’s too much for you. How do you think you can manage if I don’t help you? No one will without my help.’ Underlying message: you’re pathetic and useless.

        3. Tinker*

          Oh, and as far as reactions: Let’s say someone calls me at work and, presuming I answer the bizarre ring box that appeared on my desk one day, I hear on the other end of the line some non-employee making word noises about their opinions of how their child who is an fellow employee is being treated at work.

          Their words are irrelevant to me, and I want the word noises to stop happening. I tell them “Sorry, we don’t discuss matters like this with third parties. Thanks.” If they escalate, I deploy the standard procedures for what is now obnoxious behavior directed at me until blessed silence is restored. Nowhere in this is involved my having or wanting to hunt up my fellow employee (whether themselves harassed or foolish, I don’t care) and triangulate back with them. I’m an adult. I’m capable of hanging up my own phones.

          If skippy comes back whining to me that I hung up on mumsy, then at that point a problem exists between the two of us, but it doesn’t have anything to do with what they “allow” their parents to do — that part is none of my business or concern.

  11. LiveandLetDie*

    Great googly moogly, that poor cousin. I feel like this kind of thing doesn’t resolve without the target standing up for themselves. OP, just keep doing what you’re doing at work and hopefully your cousin learns to stand up to his parents and get them to back off.

    I agree with Alison, though. This kind of thing is a complete failure of parenting. It does no one any favors, most importantly the child themselves. It can be so hard to catch up when your parents have been handling everything for you all your life.

    1. Princess Carolyn*

      The difficulty, of course, is that someone in this situation likely was never taught how to stand up for himself. Maybe he’ll find some helpful advice online or something. I really hope he can get away from those parents.

      1. LiveandLetDie*

        Oh, of course. It’s a very difficult thing, even if you weren’t raised this way. I hope he can find a way to do it.

      2. Sas*

        “likely was never taught how to stand up for himself” I’d argue he was taught to stand up for himself, but not in a proper way. It’s likely that (this situation being as extreme as it is, not only does he know how to stand up for himself, (“Telling parents doesn’t want to ride the bus”) this person has learned that too well. What this person probably hasn’t learned is:1) You are a grown man. 2) People don’t always get their way. 3) You have to work at all of those things. He allowed his parents to call instructors and basically yell at them because he didn’t get good enough grades by doing work? Yeah, this ain’t a case of not realizing anything.

        1. BPT*

          I think there’s a difference in spoiled children and children whose parents force themselves on them. We don’t know that this is the former – that the cousin is telling his parents they must drive him places, etc. To me it seems that the parents are controlling the cousin’s life – maybe he’s fine with it, maybe he isn’t, but I think I’ve read letters here before where an adult’s parents controlled every part of their life – their bank accounts, transportation, everything. It’s definitely a form of abuse, and we’ve certainly had letter writers before who say that they can’t get their parents to stop contacting workplaces – like the one whose mother wanted to create a fake twitter account with her name and tweet at companies to hire her. So it’s not necessarily a case of the cousin wanting any of this – it’s very possible he doesn’t know how to get it to stop.

        2. msmorlowe*

          It depends: you can be quite capable of standing up for yourself in other situations, but with your parents… for instance, I dont call my mother out on everything because it’s just not worth the inevitable hassle and stress (especially when I was still living at home)– and cousin might be so used to this that he might not realise asking them to change their behaviour could result in anything other than Drama.

      3. Temperance*

        I’m not sure that it’s something you need to be taught? I was raised to be obedient to my authoritarian parents, and they did whatever they could to limit me socially, so they were in control. It … didn’t work? It made me want to be my own person.

        1. BPT*

          Everyone is different, and not all of it is upbringing. Some people absolutely do need to be taught to stand up for themselves. You can teach children that just because an adult does something (touches them inappropriately, for instance), doesn’t mean it’s right and they can certainly say no. Some people rebel against abusive tactics, others are beaten down by them.

          1. fposte*

            And even without abuse, the individuation stage is a tough one, and golden handcuffs are difficult to break.

          2. Sas*

            What makes you think though that a grown man hasn’t gained some capacity of knowing how to treat other people. Learned or not (I think Temperance makes sense on this one) He is a grown man. Why does it matter what a child would do? He is not one. “touches them inappropriately” This isn’t the same thing, though. It appears that Op’s cousin gains something from the situation, which makes it completely different. Blurred lines be damned though.

            1. fposte*

              The point is that just because some people can extricate themselves doesn’t mean that everybody could.

              1. Sas*

                And I didn’t say that wasn’t true. But all things being fair, what makes OP or anyone for that matter the ones that Cousin’s failure to act like a grown man falls on? NO ONE. The same resources that are out there as are for people that are in other difficult situations. Cousin does NOT need to be treated like a child who doesn’t know better. There are people out there with far less who are forced to face the world.

                1. fposte*

                  I guess I’m not sure where you’re going, then–nobody’s saying that Cousin should live with his parents until he dies or that it’s good that he’s still helicoptered.

                2. Oh no, not again*

                  I’m guessing cousin was never taught how to drive, probably doesn’t have a license or their own car. In the US, not having those things is an impediment to independence when you don’t live in a big city. Hell, I’m in my mid 30s, just recently been learning to drive and I’m currently living with my parents. Long story of my life–my parents aren’t horrible people (they’re actually pretty great), but they never taught me to drive like they did my brother (not for lack of me asking, by the way). By the time college rolled around, I was gone–I was ready to adult. Had to come back to live with them due to personal issues and now I cannot afford to live on my own (at least I did live on my own while in college and I worked nearly full time, so I have independent living skills). I really feel for cousin–my parents are not abusive by any stretch of the word, but they really screwed up in not teaching me how to drive when I was younger . They are teaching me now, so that’s good.. I can only imagine that cousin is probably trapped–he likely has no savings, transportation OR safety net…I doubt he has friends. It’s a bit much to expect someone who is likely in an abusive situation to pull themselves up by their bootstrap when they likely don’t know how or have anyone to help him. Being an adult doesn’t save someone from abuse. Very, very sad.

                3. Temperance*

                  I’m not sure I agree, oh no. He’s worked full-time and hasn’t had any bills to pay. He should have some money unless he’s been incredibly irresponsible with his funds, which is frankly not my business.

                  It’s entirely possible that he doesn’t know how to drive, and that his parents haven’t taught him, but there are driving schools around that will teach you for a fee. Several of my friends did this because their parents were unwilling to teach them. My school had a class so that’s how I learned. He’s an adult and you can learn most things from the internet.

                  I am probably viewing this differently because I had an abusive upbringing, and had to navigate adulting without parental help. I bootstrapped. I know that I have a lot of skills that others don’t, and a lot of drive that might just be in-born, but I think we’re selling cousin short by assuming that he can’t function.

                4. Candi*

                  You’re assuming he has access to his money.

                  I’ve been going through the archives (slow going, I love the comments!), and there are several letters, and even more comments, of people who were/are in controlling, abusive situations because of their parents.

                  Their parents -or just one parent- make them turn over their checks or deposit them in a shared account, portioning out tiny amounts for spending money and keeping the rest. These parents also hold onto ID documents -ID, birth certificate, SS card/equivalents, and so on- so the person can not set up a separate account, buy a car, rent an apartment, or do many other things they need to do to adult on their own.

                  The ‘justification’ is that they raised them, so the ‘kids’ owe them. Which doesn’t even work as a sane reason in Matilda, much less when the people involved are the birth parents.

                  Discussions about escaping from abusive domestic partners often mention the psychological aspects. How much are those double and tripled when it’s a parent -someone where a much deeper bond exists, however it’s been warped, and where the parent has been able to screw with the person’s head for literally their whole life?

                  Hell, I’ve disconnected from my mother as much as I can without cutting her off from the grandkids, and her existence still screws with my mind. And she was mild on the eff-with-you scale.

            2. BPT*

              It was in reply to the idea that standing up for yourself isn’t something that needs to be taught. It absolutely is in a lot of cases, and if you miss that instruction as a child, you can be shortchanged as an adult because of it. If parents don’t teach young children to stand up for themselves, they are doing them a disservice later in life. Yes, an adult will still need to learn how to do it, but there is still a learning curve, whenever it happens in life.

      4. Michele*

        I wonder if he even wants to. I have a friend whose father was raised to be completely dependent on his parents and later, his wife. He lived at home until his late 20s, never cooking, doing laundry, or paying rent. He let his parents give him a curfew (if you can imagine at that age) because he figured it was easier than making it on his own.
        The cousin could be the same way, trading off independence in order to live an easier life.

        1. Temperance*

          That was my thought. I mean, he has to clearly understand that it’s not normal that his mommy tags along to job interviews.

    2. Marche*

      That does require the cousin recognising this behaviour as Not Normal and deciding he doesn’t want it, though. I know people in their twenties whose parents pay for their gas, their insurance, their food, do their laundry and fold it, while the child does nothing around the house and lets his parents do the work for him. It isn’t clear from the letter if Cousin likes, tolerates, or loathes his parents’ behaviour, but even if he enjoys parts and hates others, may not know how to make it stop – or may choose to tolerate the super-bad, because of how he benefits from his parents doing his chores and errands for him.

      1. LiveandLetDie*

        The cousin’s parents handling everything for him might also make it really scary to consider getting out of it. If they’re covering everything — housing, bills, clothing, food, it sounds like they haven’t afforded him any independence at all — then the notion of losing all of that has to be petrifying on its own. It’s surely a very difficult position.

        1. fposte*

          Yeah, the older you are, the scarier the prospect of this kind of failure. That’s why it’s good to start earlier where the floundering stage has less impact.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            Am chuckling. I was in my early 20s when I threw everything into my car and left to start a life 200 miles away. Thirty something years later I cannot picture doing that again. It’s not just that I own more than a carload of things now. It’s also thinking about the tremendous amount of energy it took to rebuild my life. And the willpower to push through when the going got tough.

            1. Tau*

              After high school, I swanned off to go to university in another country. Where I didn’t know anyone, which I’d only been in for two one-week holidays previously, and where my main driving reason was, as I remember, “it’d be cool!” I had two suitcases and a rucksack, as I remember

              It worked out well, but I look back and boggle. Where did this adventurousness come from, tiny Tau? More to the point, where did it go in the intervening years?

              1. Elfie*

                Yep, at 18 I moved across continents to go to university, all on my lonesome. Everyone told me how brave I was, but I wasn’t brave. I just didn’t know what it would entail. Had I known that I would be the one stuck in the dorms when everyone else was going home for the holidays, I might have thought twice about it – but likely not. I love being on my own. I love my own company. I’ve had ex-boyfriends say I’m too independent (that’s why they’re exes!). Can you even be TOO independent? I now have a full and rich life countries away from my parents, and my husband cannot figure it out at all. He lives 5 miles from his dad, and has always done so. He doesn’t live in his pocket by any stretch of the imagination, but he can go and see him whenever he likes – I have to buy a plane ticket to do that. Different strokes and all…But yeah, because of what I’m like, I find dependence in an adult to be really off-putting. In fact, when I met my husband, one of the first things I wanted to know was if he still lived at home with his parents (because he was 28 when we met, and to me, that would have just been weird).

                1. Anonygoose*

                  Ahh I totally get that. I moved a few hours away for my undergrad, went travelling right after graduation, and then moved countries for my masters. I couldn’t get a visa to stay, so my fiance and I both moved back to our hometown… while I put my foot down that we would not live at home for any longer than a week, and we got an apartment, nobody understands why I find it mentally difficult when my Future Parents In Law try to 1) ask us to promise to stay nearby forever; 2) buy us a basket of food every week of food we never eat; 3) try to make us stay the night whenever we visit (they live about 30 minutes from us), etc. etc. etc. They just can’t seem to understand that we don’t NEED to be treated like children after many years of living on our own and it seriously upsets my sense of independence. It’s a good thing this move is temporary…

        2. Sas*

          Possibly, but doubtful. He is grown man. This statement takes away from it being scary for most people. Becoming an adult is not easy. It doesn’t need to be intensified more by someone that had everything handed to them or not. What about people who grew up in an abusive home who fell into adulthood that way? That’s scary if you ask most people. It’s not likely that this person in the age of the internet has lived in a complete bubble and not had human interaction. People aren’t handed becoming a grown man, it is something he has the obligation to learn about yesterday if not for himself for those around.

          1. fposte*

            I think you’re reading people saying “It’s hard” as a statement that he shouldn’t have to take on these tasks, but I think it’s just people empathizing with the fact that it *is* hard. The fact that other things are harder doesn’t change that.

          2. Not So NewReader*

            Some people don’t even understand what is wrong or the extent of how limited their adulting abilities are. This adds layers of complexity to the problems.

          3. LiveandLetDie*

            Reaching a legally adult age does not guarantee someone the toolkit they need to do the things an adult needs to be able to do. Someone who lived their entire life with this kind of extreme hoverparenting may be “a grown man” in sheer age numbers but he may not have the knowledge or maturity to just yank up by the bootstraps and deal with it. Extending some empathy to him for the struggle it will take to unyoke from his excessive parents is not, I think, a bad thing.

      2. Michele*

        As someone else pointed out, it is really smart of the OP to focus on themselves rather than trying to change the cousin’s situation.

        1. Oh no, not again*

          Sadly, there probably isn’t much the OP can do even if the OP wants to. Cousin needs to write into captain awkward. But cousin would have to want the situation to change, of course.

  12. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP, I’m so sorry, but I’m especially sorry for your cousin. I don’t know why parents behave this way and why no one has told your aunt/uncle that what they’re doing is actively hurting your cousin.

    I honestly think you’ll be fine in your worklife if you ignore this and don’t mention that you and your cousin are related. If weirdness comes up later, you can of course field it, but it seems like sharing that information at this point would be borrowing trouble.

  13. always in email jail*

    I’m now wondering how I would handle it if someone’s parents called in all the time. I guess it would depend on if the employee was appropriately mortified/apologetic or not? I wonder if you can really “write someone up” (I work in government- has to be done if you want to ever be able to let someone go) for something their parents did?

    1. LiveandLetDie*

      I think I would just tell the parents that the employees performance at work is for me to discuss directly with the employee, not with their parents, and just freeze them out. I don’t think I’d discipline the employee for it (they can’t control their mother or father’s decisions to call people), but I would tell them that it’s a thing that is happening and that I do not intend to give them any information about the employee’s performance and it might be worth it to have a conversation with them and tell them to stop.

      I mean, if they kept harrassing me, I think I’d try to block the number or something.

      1. Amber T*

        Yeah, employee’s reaction is the main thing here. If the reaction is “I’m so sorry, I’ve spoken to them about this and asked them to stop, I can’t believe they’re still doing this, I’ll talk to them again,” I don’t think there’s much a boss can do other than ignore the calls anyway they can. If the employee pulls a Malfoy and says “wait til my Father hears about this!” well, then the employee has some immaturity (and confidentiality?) issues.

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      You can—I’ve seen it, firsthand. But when there’s this creepy controlling element, it can also read as abusive, in which case the goal is to figure out how to best support the employee while minimizing the parents’ impact/reach.

      But usually a manager has to trust their employee to keep their parents/family in check; most of us are not qualified or able to engage in family counseling as part of our normal management responsibilities. I’ve only once had to speak directly to parents, and it was with a college-aged intern whose parents were behaving as if she were taking swimming lessons at the Y (and I was the instructor).

    3. RipRiley*

      This reminds me of another article I believe AAM did where it was a crazy sister calling I believe? But basically, the advice was the same as any abusive relationship – don’t punish the person working for you (as long as they aren’t on board with it obviously) and try to help them work through the situation. At a certain point I would have a sit down with the employee in a “you need to talk to them and make this inappropriate behavior stop, if you cannot then we can discuss the next steps” with next steps being we’re blocking their numbers, we’ll report them for harassment, probably making sure he has info for a therapist if needed etc.

    4. designbot*

      I would likely engage with them as minimally as possible, telling them that as they are not employed by (company) I could not discuss company business with them. Then talk to Fergus and tell him that it’s difficult enough to manage a team of people without managing their families too and that if he can’t handle his home life in a way that prevents it from interfering with his job that would jeopardize his ability to stay in his role there. Make it clear that calls or visits from his parents are a distraction from the work we all need to be doing and are inappropriate. If there are people he needs to get a restraining order against we’re happy to help but otherwise it’s up to him to manage the situation.

      1. nonymous*

        that’s a little harsh. I remember being excited about getting paid at my first job in HS only to discover that my parents intended for those paychecks to go to a bank account I had no access to. And Dad was fully willing to play the “my house, my rules or leave with just the clothes on your back” card. Economic abuse is a real thing.

        I think, if abuse is a possibility on the table, an EAP referral would be a reasonable approach (with an expectation that the employee would subsequently take needed action).

        1. designbot*

          And if he says he’s being abused that changes how the rest of the conversation goes, but either way he needs to know that this is the level of seriousness we’re talking about.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            Yep. This is true, there are times where you can work with an employee. Then there are times where you just have to lay down the rules. I would use a stepped approach, increasing in seriousness each time.

            However, on the good news side of things, there are people who fix the situation after the first incident and subsequent light warning. Escalation may not be necessary.

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          But you were also in high school—that’s an important distinction. We’re talking about a post-college adult.

    5. SarahKay*

      Might depend on policy and occasion. For instance, our site has a specific rule that if you can’t make it in because you’re sick you are required to phone your manager yourself. The only exception is if you’re physically unable to talk (eg in an ambulance, in hospital, serious laryngitis), in which case your SO/parent/neighbour/helpful hospital attendant can call in for you. So a parent calling in and saying that Wakeen has a headache and won’t be in today would get you a polite re-iteration of the requirements on the first occasion, heading towards disciplinary action if it was repeated.
      On the other hand, parent calling in to say you’re not being nice enough to their precious boy….not sure we could do much other than refuse to discuss an employee’s private business with anyone else.

    6. Temperance*

      I would decline to give information to mommy and daddy, and would have a frank talk with my employee about how inappropriate it is for mommy or daddy to complain or contact me on their behalf, unless there was an actual emergency.

  14. MoinMoin*

    Wow. Reminds me of a Portlandia sketch, yet somehow much more outlandish.
    FWIW, OP, I once worked with identical twins and didn’t put it together that they were related. In my defense, they had very different mannerisms, made very different facial hair and sartorial choices, and I worked with them in very different contexts, but yeah when it was pointed out to me it was obvious they had the same face.
    So I may be a special kind of idiot, but it’s possible that a lot of people also won’t put it together. Still, I think it makes sense to be preemptive to your manager since her opinion will matter and she can speak on your behalf if it ever comes up to her.

    1. Breda*

      Heh, I was going to say: a high school classmate of mine was dating a friend of my sister’s, and he had no idea we were related until they all came over to our house one night and he was shocked to see me walk into the room. To be fair, my sister and I have very different hair, and our last name is a very common one. But he’d known us both for YEARS. And when my mom was in high school, she wound up having to share a locker with her brother after his was broken into – and people started assuming he was her boyfriend. You’d be surprised at how long it can take people to make those connections! And by that point, they know you as an individual.

    2. The Strand*

      And I think this makes Lois Lane’s predicament a lot more believable. Sometimes you’re just not paying such deep attention to people that something becomes obvious – i.e. that two people with the same last name in related departments might be married.

    3. BookishMiss*

      I married an identical twin, and they are very easy to tell apart. Different clothing, facial hair, posture, grooming/hygiene habits (yep. Basic hygiene…), and lifestyles created two very different people. Even their voices are different – BIL smokes like a coal-fired locomotive, which of course alters how he sounds. I’m sure if they tried they might fool some people, but those who got to know them on their merits would differentiate them pretty quickly.

    4. Notorious MCG*

      I once went to high school with a set of identical twins who were on a team I was the captain of. Unfortunately the only way 90% of people could tell them apart (sounded alike, same hair, same style, everything) was the size of their boobs. One twin had far bigger boobs than the other, and that is how I told them apart. Now that we’re all adults they style themselves differently enough for me to tell the difference, but back then it was a lot of me discreetly looking down before referring to them by name.

      1. MoinMoin*

        From a purely biological standpoint, this is puzzling to me. I guess I know where my wikiwalk will take me today….

    5. Matt*

      My mother is an identical twin, and she and her sister / my aunt worked at the same company for a long time – at different departments, but they would often get mistaken for each other. They used to have different hair and clothing style, but still look very similar and people also say they have the same voice. (I don’t think so, but I grew up with both of them and it always was impossible for me NOT to know the difference between my mother and my aunt …)

  15. Sybil Fawlty*

    It seems like every family has a few members who are difficult. Most people will understand that and it won’t reflect on you, as long as you keep doing what you’re doing. I would agree, keep yourself away from your cousin, it sounds like you can’t save him.

    What a sad situation. I really feel for your cousin, and also for your aunt and uncle. My own son, in spite of everything we can say or do, is not off to a great start either. I understand their impulse to “help”, even though what they are doing isn’t helping.

  16. Sas*

    Cousin’s manager: “Well you and your parents act as one person, therefore I”ll treat you as one person.” mm K.

  17. Aurora Leigh*

    I feel so bad for your cousin!

    But ultimately they will have to be the one who pushes back with the parents.

    My parents (mom especially) have tendencies like this but I was always pretty strong minded and was going to do what I wanted to do. I turned out fine.

    My sister, on the other hand, will not push back. So she’s 23 and never held a job or gone to college or anything. It’s incredibly frustrating. But I can’t make her change.

    1. Anon for this*

      I have a friend like this… She’s 22, and she’s lived with her parents in our small town since dropping out of high school at age 16. She only just got what I think is her first job a few months ago, but she seems to be doing well so far. Still living with her parents, no sign of moving out—but she seems fine with it, and so do her parents, and as long as that’s the case, I figure—who am I to judge? She’s moving at her own pace and she’ll get wherever she needs to when she’s good and ready. Some people just move more slowly on this stuff than others.

      Granted, the OP’s cousin’s parents are extreme. But still. I think calling them abusive and suggesting he has Stockholm Syndrome is taking it a bit too far. (Not that this is what you did, Aurora—just stuff I’ve seen elsewhere in the comments.)

      1. I'll be anon too.*

        But here’s my question. It doesn’t sound like the parents of your friend are overbearing or controlling, but that she’s just a late bloomer.

        Two of my childhood friends have mothers who were so overbearing and controlling, it interfered with their sense of self, and crippled their ability to become more independent. One of them, at 30, quit a fantastic promotion after a couple of months in a new city because she didn’t think she could make it “far” from home (4 hours’ drive). She had been driving home every weekend to stay with her parents before she quit.

        They are over 40 now, struggling financially and with health problems – and not happy. Unmarried, without kids, and only able to work in the “gigging economy”, they feel like they’ve been “left behind”. Their experience never getting out of the gate is different from our other friends who decided to stay in the same town, but over time were trained in a skill or got a college degree, built careers and/or families.

        I do think that hampering your child’s ability to grow up, make decisions for themselves, and provide for themselves, is abusive.

        1. Anon for this*

          I would say it’s 90% her being a late bloomer, yes. (There’s a bit more to it than that—I think her mom is very happy having her at home and may be encouraging her to stay. Not, like, aggressively or even openly. But still.)

          The behavior you describe does sound abusive—I’m just not sure we can tell from the letter that this is what’s going on with LW’s cousin. Is he happy to have his parents do everything for him? Or does he feel stifled by them? Maybe he likes that they cook for him, do his laundry, and pay his bills, but he doesn’t like that they call in to his work… I was just surprised to see some commenters jumping straight to Stockholm Syndrome or abuse or even just feeling sorry for OP’s cousin when we have no idea how said cousin feels about all this.

        2. Erska*

          Being married with kids is not some magical key to happiness, FYI.

          I’d be miserable if I had either.

          1. Simonthegreywarden*

            I didn’t feel that was what I’ll Be Anon was saying; I thought it was more that they felt left behind because of a laundry list: being nearly 40, unmarried, childless, etc. Like those were milestones they thought they would reach and attribute the unhappiness to THAT instead of to an unhealthy family-of-origin dynamic.

        3. Whippers.*

          Ok, I obviously don’t know your friends’ specific situation, but I would query your perception of the friend who quit her job at 30 because she couldn’t cope in a new city as being as a result of overbearing parents.

          The fact that she got a great promotion and moved would suggest that she had a fair amount of autonomy and drive in the first place and not completely influenced by her parents. However, some people do find it difficult to live far from family and friends and for them 4 hours drive is a long way from home. I have struggled from anxiety and depression a lot of my life, not as a result of overbearing parents, and I would find it difficult to live so far from home because I need a support system.

      2. Observer*

        Whether or not this young man is happy or not is not the issue. The issue is that the parents are actively engaging in behavior with significant negative long and short term consequences. It is already hampering his ability to get a job, and his reputation at his current job. It is going to affect his ability to move up withing the organization, and move on from this organization. It’s also almost certainly going to hamper his ability to form and maintain relationships with other people. It’s certainly keeping him from functioning as an reasonably independent and functional person, and is keeping him from learning how to do so.

        Here’s the question: Would you take the same attitude towards parents who never allowed their child to learn to walk?

        1. Anon for this*

          You’re making a lot of assumptions here! We have no idea what this man’s future holds, but your predictions seem overly doom-laden to me. I’m sure he’ll be fine. He obviously isn’t incapable of getting or keeping a job. Maybe he’ll lose this job because of his parents’ interference. Maybe that will prompt him to become more independent. Or maybe he’ll stay under their wing for the rest of his life. Maybe he likes it there. And if that’s the case, again, who are we to judge? He’s not hurting anyone. And, without his perspective on the matter, we can’t say for sure that his parents are hurting him.

          If he were the one writing in here, asking for help escaping his overbearing parents, then of course I’d feel differently.

          1. designbot*

            He got this job in part due to a fluke–mom was parking the car so they didn’t realize she was babysitting him.
            We can say for sure that they’re hurting other people’s opinions of him, and that he’s unlikely to be offered the same opportunities he would if it weren’t for that. Maybe he’s okay with his life this way, but it is undoubtedly limiting him.

          2. Observer*

            We know that it has hampered his ability to get a job – this is the first place that offered him a job. And clearly had the place realized what his mother is like, they might not have offered him the job. It’s negatively affecting him here – gossip in the elevator is a very bad sign.

            If something doesn’t change significantly, these kinds of effects will continue, and it’s likely to get worse. And if a person really, really doesn’t mind having their ability to function and their choices severely hampered, that’s usually a sign of something not right.

            And, eventually his parents will not BE ABLE to take care of him. When that happens, it’s not going to be a pretty scene.

            The bottom line is that what the OP describes is clearly dysfunctional.

            1. Not So NewReader*

              Agreed. It’s a failure to thrive. He is surviving from one day to the next.
              It is a setback in life that he may never fully recuperate from.

              A parent’s job is to teach the child to survive on their own. There is very little teaching going on here. Parents who do everything for their kids have cut them off from learning how the world works.

              If this kid does figure out the extent of what his parents have done here, it will be amazing if he even speaks to them in years to come.

      3. Temperance*

        I’m sad for your friend. Without even a GED, she doesn’t have much of a future if she does decide that she wants to pursue opportunities.

      4. TL -*

        A late bloomer is one thing but being unable to adult is another!
        My mom does my siblings’ taxes; I do my own but I just called and asked her to go shopping with me because I apparently am incapable of buying clothing necessities by myself. My siblings manage their wardrobes just fine.

        We’re all struggling in some areas but in most areas of our life we’re getting along just fine. That’s the difference – if your adult kids are not good in some areas but are doing just fine in others, you’re off the hook. If your adult kid is struggling in all areas of life and you’re not doing anything to help them develop their skills but are actually hindering, your parenting is probably abusive.

  18. Observer*

    This is utterly bizarre. But, I agree with everyone else. I can’t imagine that you will get painted with his brush.

  19. Emi.*

    OP, if you talk to your cousin about this, Carolyn Hax always recommends the book Life Skills for Adult Children. I haven’t read it, but a lot of her readers say they’ve found it helpful.

  20. memoryisram*

    I am just confused how/why your cousin puts up with it – Stockholm Syndrome? It would seem he’s a willing participant – if not he would be doing his own damage control on this one. He has to see that other people’s parents don’t do this/it’s weird, right?

    OP, I think it’s important you talk to your cousin about this, otherwise he may have a hard time leading a normal life in general – I presume he has never dated, traveled, been to a party, etc without his parents?!

    1. Blue Anne*

      If he has never been away from them, how would he know that other people’s parents don’t do that? You learn what’s normal from your parents, and when they’re teaching you something that’s actually abnormal, they have a vested interest in insulating you from other examples.

      My mother has a personality disorder. I didn’t realize that her behaviour wasn’t normal until I had been living halfway across the world for five years.

      1. wealhtheow*


        Fish don’t know they’re in water, and all that.

        I’m in my early 40s and I’m still discovering ways in which my father’s parenting was dysfunctional and bizarre and abusive that I didn’t recognize at the time. What do you mean, not all non-custodial divorced parents refuse to let their kids sleep over when the custodial parent has to go out of town for work?

        1. Blue Anne*

          It’s also totally normal to send your child to social/charitable functions you have been invited to speak at, and have them speak as you, on your behalf.

          And to internet-stalk your child’s significant other so that you can find their employer and give their supervisor a call for a personal reference. Hello, daughter’s boyfriend’s boss, do you think your employee is a good boyfriend?

          I genuinely believed my mother when she said that the only reason I was uncomfortable with these things was that I was “socially awkward”.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            When we have no other reference points this is what happens, we go with whatever worldview our parents have.
            If we are lucky we keep their worldview only long enough to develop our own worldview.

            I am glad you broke away from that hot mess and built your own path. It’s a very hard thing in life, not many things are this hard.

      2. memoryisram*

        I suppose so, but it’s not like he doesn’t interact with others – he sees other people living their lives, being on their own, etc.

        Admittedly, I was/am very strong willed, so perhaps if you weren’t, I can see how at first you shrug and say “well it’s easier for Mom to deal with this” and before you know it you’re 22 and have never been away from home overnight.

        1. Blue Anne*

          Eeesh. Wow. Submitting to a controlling parent because 1) that’s all you know and 2) they’re your parent doesn’t mean that you’re “not strong willed”. You’re… kind of showing a really low level of empathy here. Please don’t blame the kid for not fighting against a controlling/manipulative parent.

          It’s actually really, really easy to not see those things in other people’s lives. My mom is lovely to everyone she meets. When other people’s moms were lovely to me, I just assumed that, like mine, they had a different face in private. And because I was brought up being told that I was lazy, socially awkward, etc when I tried to stand up for myself, I didn’t know families could actually be “healthy” until I actually became a part of another family. If he hasn’t been away overnight, how would he get that perspective?

          1. memoryisram*

            Certainly, I guess that what is what I was trying to say in a very poor way – that it’s easy to loose perspective.

            Also, sorry for being a victim-blaming jerk – upon a re-read I realize how that sounds. I feel really bad for this kid, and it’s for sure the parents fault – and for all we know, he does hate it but feels powerless.

            I’m so sorry for what you went through, and that things are better.

      3. Temperance*

        Arguably, though, he’s interacted with other students at college whose parents didn’t insist on driving them, and he now works with adults who probably mostly live independently and have and operate their own vehicles.

        I grew up in an abusive household, and it did take me spending time with normal families to see that my mother’s issues a.) weren’t normal, b.) weren’t because we were bad children, and c.) weren’t inherent in us. So I have empathy for him to a point, but I can’t relate because I resisted such control.

    2. Manders*

      I’ve known two different types of people who put up with this even though there’s no obvious reason why they should.

      The first type could be more independent if they wanted to be, but their parents have created such a comfortable status quo that it’s hard to leave. Why put up with the hassle of driving yourself around or doing your own laundry or paying your own rent when someone else is willing to handle it? I know some people who did eventually get out of this cycle, either because they wanted to and worked hard to get there or because their parents finally cut off or scaled back their support.

      The second type wants to be independent, but their parents are controlling them directly or indirectly with threats. It’s not so easy to take a step towards independence when you know it’s going to result in mom and dad draining your bank account, or disowning you, or calling you many times a day to scream at you. Sometimes this type looks like the first type to people outside the immediate family.

      1. Manders*

        I mean obvious to people outside the relationship–usually it’s pretty obvious to the person who’s putting up with it.

      2. Halpful*


        parents sometimes have the power to make some really awful threats. I talked to someone online who was afraid to escape because her parents might take out their anger on her little sisters. They were going to pull her out of college and take the family back to their home country where they could marry the girls off to guys who shared the parents’, uh, values. :/ I really hope she’s ok.

      3. Bigglesworth*

        I agree. When my spouse and I were dating, his parents drained his bank account dry (from the money he had earned), because they didn’t like his grades. You can imagine the first thing we did when we got married was take them off the account and eventually switched to another bank entirely. This (combined with other issues) finally came out this past Labor Day and they – 1. Forgot that spouse and I were together when this happened and 2. Still didn’t see any issue with doing that. Needless to say, this was not a pleasant conversation. They wondered why we’ve cut them out of almost every aspect of our lives. They don’t see how what they’re doing is wrong, so they’re doing it with the younger brother too. Grrrrrrrr…..

  21. Merida May*

    I’m surprised your Aunt and Uncle aren’t attempting to loop you into their micromanaging activities (or maybe they are, but hopefully not) given the level it’s gotten to. Ultimately, though, I think you will be fine! Plenty of people, myself included, have wacky family and are apt to sympathize. Everyone’s firsthand experience with you and your work ethic far outweighs what you might be tethered to via the family tree.

    1. Ama*

      Yeah, I have to confess when I started reading I thought it was going to turn out that the aunt and uncle were calling OP to intervene with her cousin’s bosses or keep them in the loop on how he’s doing or something. I’m glad it hasn’t gone that far.

  22. Parenthetically*

    Sweet tap-dancing Moses, this is just awful. I’ve seen my fair share of helicopter parents as a teacher, and it makes me see red every time.

    OP, definitely count yourself lucky that your aunt and uncle haven’t tried to make you the Rules Enforcer for Sonny Boy — and if I were you, I’d keep a sharp eye out for that. This poor kid, getting hamstrung and undermined at every turn. Fingers crossed for the best outcome, that Sonny Boy puts his foot down hard and cuts the apron strings once and for all.

  23. vanBOOM*

    I….just don’t know what to say! I feel sorry for literally everyone involved in this situation, least of all being the parents.

    I hope your cousin gets professional help with his issues, if he isn’t already–and I hope part of that help involves training on boundary setting with his parents! More than anything, I hope he is able to move out and get his own car ASAP, though he’d need to remain employed long enough to be able to do either. With parents like that, who knows? Ugh. Rough situation all around.

  24. Bend & Snap*

    That kid is never getting laid.

    But I agree with others, don’t bring it up, don’t let anyone know you’re related, and if you think your cousin would listen to you, maybe try to counsel him on grabbing some independence for himself.

    If he’s old enough to work, he’s old enough to apartment hunt, find roommates and find a job independent of his parents. And in his shoes I wouldn’t tell them exactly where I lived or worked.

    Your pour cousin.

    1. Anon...but just today!*

      And if he does manage to find someone to share his life with? That poor person. You just know they’ll never live up to the exacting standards his parents no doubt already have set in place.

      1. I'll be anon too.*

        Yeah, but you never know, maybe he and some nice kid can rescue each other. That’s what happened with me and my husband! He’s taught me how to trust and I’ve taught him how to build boundaries. I wish the OP’s cousin so much luck.

  25. Helen*

    Just want to point this out, since some people seem to be bringing it up; OP didn’t ask whether they should or how they should talk to their cousin. We don’t know what the family dynamics or relationship is like and frankly it’s not OP’s responsibility. OP’s concerned is coworkers or their boss associating them with their cousin and aunt and uncle’s behavior, given that they look alike and OP mentions they have an uncommon Welsh surname. There isn’t anything in the letter about wanting to help the cousin.

    1. animaniactoo*

      No, but when someone is drowning right in front of you, it’s appropriate to try and at least toss them a life preserver, even if you concerned that you’re about to drown with them. Yes, put on your own oxygen mask first. But it may help OPs concerns even more if cousin manages to drag themselves up, rather than OP down. So it’s a pretty reasonable avenue to discuss how/why/potential pitfalls, etc.

    2. Mephyle*

      This.this.this. Many people upthread have given OP advice on talking to cousin or other family members vs. staying out of it. A close reading of the question shows that this isn’t related to what OP asked. OP has no intention of trying to become involved in the cousin’s problem. The concern is that people might notice the identical unusual surname and then some of the reputation that aunt, uncle and cousin are no doubt building in the company might stick to OP.

      1. ginger ale for all*

        Also, just setting a good example might be the most that he can do at this point. We don’t know if the cousin has a problem with it.

      2. RipRiley*

        I think they’re connected though – if you’re worried about your cousin’s reputation impacting yours then do something about it… ideally by fixing the situation causing the problems. Otherwise, it is a large company and people won’t notice the names, won’t care, or if they bring it up you just say “Yes, that is a cousin…oh his parents? Crazy, I know.” Not that difficult and most likely will never come up.

  26. ZVA*

    I agree with AAM that this is unlikely to impact you the way you fear it might, LW. You’ve had a year to establish yourself at your company, and it sounds like you’ve built up a good reputation that should speak for itself.

    I’m really curious as to your cousin’s take on all this. How does he view his situation? Is he aware that his parents’ behavior might be harming his reputation and prospects at work?

  27. crypticone*

    Oh gooooooooooood. I know that sometimes you have no choice but to work with family (ex: someone else makes the hiring decisions), but I once made the terrible decision to recommend a cousin for a part-time student position in my work unit. I didn’t work with her (thankfully) and she didn’t last long (she hated the job), but it did lead to the end of my relationship with her mom.

    And I work for a university, so the helicopter parents are plenty and awful, but when the helicopter mama is related to you … urgh.

    Her paycheck (which was direct deposited) wasn’t received when they expected (they didn’t understand how pay dates fell in our system) and I received an irate call from my aunt. She started out a little bit angry, but quickly escalated into yelling at ME and referring to my coworker (the supervisor) as a terrible word for the female anatomy.

    I hung up on her, which I’m still proud of to this day.

  28. animaniactoo*

    Okay, 2 things here:

    One, I have been the person whose parent calls and does wildly outlandish things. Fortunately it was long ago and really it was just her giving way TMI to the person who answered the phone, who later came looking for me because the convo made them so uncomfortable and they wanted to check on me. But… the big key here is whether your cousin realizes how outlandish this is. I did. It was something I was deeply uncomfortable with – and your cousin may be also.

    Two, when my dad was oh, around 60 or so, he went to a family reunion and discovered that it was a topic of conversation that they had all thought his parents were way too hard on him – to the point that we would call it emotional abuse now. My dad did a lot of rebelling, but the thing that stuck with him out of that was “Why did nobody say anything to me until I was SIXTY?” Because it would have left him second guessing himself a lot less – and it would have given him allies and support in his efforts to deal with his parents.

    So towards that… I would say that it would be a kindness to at least check in with your cousin about how he feels about his parents’ interference. And validate for him that it’s not normal if he’s got any sort of sense that it’s not. You can support any moves he may try to make towards independence (like getting his own bank account, going away for a weekend without them, and um moving out). He may never be able to prevent his parents from calling his boss. But he can mitigate the hell out of it if he’s got some strategies for dealing with that with his boss, etc. Which you may be able to help with. IF he’s receptive. If he’s not – walk away, far far away, not your circus, not your monkeys.

    1. I'll be anon too.*

      If this might make you and your dad feel better, I think part of it is changing attitudes on the part of the family members.

      Maybe they realize something is abuse, but back then it just seemed to be “MYOB” territory in everyday life.

      My dad was visiting his childhood home many decades later, and met up with a neighbor. The neighbor apologized profusely – “I’m sorry, I knew your father was beating you, and your mother. We used to hear her crying sometimes at night. I feel very bad about not doing anything. Back then [1940s] it was “other people’s business”, we didn’t know about domestic violence. I’m so sorry I didn’t do more.”

      What impresses me and impressed my dad was that the man apologized. That man will probably help educate someone else, who will in turn make better choices.

      1. animaniactoo*

        I know, they know too – it still doesn’t take away some of the sting. It just helps lower it down to a dullish roar. For my dad it was 1950s mostly (born 1944, but it wasn’t til he got to school when he was scary-smart once they figured out that he could too read the book upside down, orientation made no difference for him and no he didn’t need to repeat the 1st grade for a 3rd time, and they “didn’t want him to get a big head about it”).

        Other things have become more understandable as misapplied beneficial intent. My grandfather grew up during the depression and they didn’t have money for pajamas for him. So by god his children would have pjs, because that was him providing for them. The fact that my dad didn’t *want* pjs was something he couldn’t reconcile and many years later, when he explained, dad finally understood that his father wasn’t just being an authoritarian jerk about it.

  29. Banana Sandwich*

    YUCK. OP’s cousins parents need to cut the cord already.

    I would lean towards addressing it up front with OP’s boss to avoid any behind-closed-doors talk or suspicion. But that’s just because I’m usually super paranoid about that kind of thing.

    1. Temperance*

      I would worry that this course of action flags the relationship between LW and her cousin. As of right now, it honestly sounds like they don’t overlap, so she’s not known as Norman Bates’ cousin.

      1. fposte*

        I’d be less worried about being known as a cousin than being mistaken for a sibling. If there are two redheaded ap Iorwerths a couple of years apart people’s thoughts aren’t likely to go first to cousins.

        OTOH, OP, if you’re in Canada or somewhere pretty distant from Wales, it’s possible they’ll think your last name is actually just a common Welsh one.

        1. Temperance*

          This is a very good point.

          I’m also thinking that most people (in the US, at least) wouldn’t necessarily recognize a Welsh accent or last name upon hearing one.

          1. fposte*

            I was thinking it was probably a Dominion country, where you’d get more recognition than in most of the U.S., but you’re right that it still might not be that much.

  30. Stephanie (HR Manager)*

    I agree with Alison. Coming from an HR standpoint, I’ve seen this before, many times, where two related employees have completely different habits. Chances are, your managers know you’re related, and they marvel at how one is so normal and the other has such bizarre parents. Beyond that, you’re really not going to get anything else by association. You should not feel like his behavior is reflecting on you in any way. The only time that would be the case is if he were employed first and then you applied.

  31. Lemon*

    My first inclination reading this letter was to roll my eyes right out of my head, but as I kept reading I just started to feel sad. Sad for your cousin that his parents are essentially sabotaging his chance at a normal, healthy adult life. Sad that they somehow feel this is the best way to show their love for their child. It makes me wonder what actually drives parents to raise their children in this way. Like, what makes them believe that this is in any way good and helpful for their son?

    1. Observer*

      Who knows what goes on in someone else’s head? But, one thing struck me – they drove him back and forth to school in college because public transport was “too scary”. Sounds like someone with very deep anxiety there.

      Obviously, even if that guess is correct (which it may not b, but such people DO exist), it still is a problem, and needs to be dealt with – just not by the OP.

      1. Cordelia Naismith*

        they drove him back and forth to school in college because public transport was “too scary”. Sounds like someone with very deep anxiety there.

        Not necessarily. It’s entirely possible that the kid would have been totally fine, but the parents didn’t want to give up control of his movements.

        1. Observer*

          It’s possible that the “too scary” bit was just an excuse. But, it’s possible that someone actually did think that way – and it wasn’t necessarily Cousin. It could have been one (or both) of the parents. A poster mentioned how scary it is to allow their 10 and 11 yo children walk home themselves. Now that poster understands that they need to bite their lips and let the kids go. But some parents “accommodate” the anxiety and it just grows.

          1. Temperance*

            My .02: my mother has anxiety, and because of it, she limited my activities and controlled my movements. It’s just as likely that his mother or father has unreasonable anxiety and is giving in rather than seeking appropriate treatment.

    2. MathOwl*

      I like this comment. People usually don’t act out of bad intentions. While there are some terrible people out there, most parents just try to do what’s best for their child, but for some reason their judgment is seriously warped. Some people’s perspective on things just isn’t accurate and what seems obvious to others isn’t to them. I think trying to understand what happens in people’s head is often more productive and kinder than just judging them.

    3. Bunnyhug*

      Leaving aside abusers, and parents who have reasons to worry after illness/death/trauma, normal parents get rewarded for this behaviour all the time, especially if they’re wealthy.

      I went to a school in a wealthy area and the Mums were strongly encouraged to stay home with their kids and then centre their entire life & identity around the kids and Being A Good Parent; the more they did for their kids, the more sacrifices they made, and the more stressed they were about being ‘rushed off their feet’ because of doing everything for their kids, the more they were admired and praised. It raised their social status and they would look down on and sneer at Mums who didn’t do as much. It was toxic enough that I found it off-putting even when I was just a kid watching this at the school gates.

      Meanwhile, the near-workaholic dads who worked 70+ hrs/wk to pay for stay at home Mums and all the kid’s activities and equipment, they felt guilty about being almost strangers to their kids. But they weren’t comfortable (or allowed) to do any of the Mum’s ‘job’/’women’s work’ – but they could be Sporty Dad, Disciplinarian Dad, and Yell-At-Teachers&Coaches Dad. Plus, if all they knew was work (and they were often higher-ups at work) they tended to teach all the people around their kids as if they were their employees, servants, or underlings: “What do you mean, Darling didn’t get an A? I pay your wages! Don’t you know who I am?!” etc. And they’d get rewarded for this (especially from other high-status men who also lack understanding of children, schooling, etc) with Machismo points: “Darling had some trouble at school and Wifey couldn’t cope, so I had to go in to sort it out.” “Oh good man, well done. You have to keep those types in line, you know.”

      On a purely selfish level, the competition among the wealthier high-status families was insane. The chilren’s achievements were always seen as a judgement on the parents. Getting a C instead of an A was seen as some kind of disaster, not just for the kid, but because the parents would get sneered at. I mean, workaholic Dad had the money & equipment; Mummy had the time to take the kid to tutors or teach the skills (or even do the kid’s homework for them!) – so if Darling got a C, it must be because Darling’s Mummy and Daddy were just the most terrible, lazy parents, complete failures as people, “it’s such a shame, my dear!”

      And the problem for a lot of these types when the kids grew older, especially those I knew with fewer children, a fear of aging, and centring their entire identity around their kids – no-one recognises the loss (and the necessity of a grieving process) when the child grows up and doesn’t need Mummy & Daddy anymore. Who are you when you’re not Darling’s Mummy anymore? If your entire social scene is centred around other kids parents and the PTA, how do you create a new identity? How do you paper over the cracks in your marriage when you don’t have to stay together for the kids? How do you go back to work if you have a ~20 year gap in your CV? What if your husband’s identity and status is tied up with being the sole breadwinner supporting a stay at home wife & family and he doesn’t want to let you work? (All of which are things I’ve seen happen.)

      Obviously parents with less money can also have the instincts of helicopter parents, but it’s harder to indulge them when both parents have to work and prioritise what money gets spent on. It tends to wear down the helicopter parenting, once you see that actually Darling is fine walking to school if you can’t take them yourself, and going without Latest Fad Item doesn’t cause lasting trauma. I’m not saying poverty builds character (ugh!) but too much wealth can seriously undermine resilience and independence.

  32. Stellaaaaa*

    OP, I would urge you to take a step back here. It sounds like your cousin doesn’t drive; maybe public transportation is an option but in a lot of places it isn’t. You really might not have been made aware if your cousin ever had a DUI or has some other physical/cognitive diagnosis that warrants this behavior from his parents. There are a lot of reasons why someone can’t drive or might choose not to. Same goes for any academic accommodations. You’re repeating lot of stories about stuff you didn’t see for yourself. Again, there are a lot of reasons for why a seemingly normative person would need their parents to intervene when a teacher wasn’t complying with accommodations.

    You know a lot of surface stuff about your cousin and his relationship with his parents but it sounds like you’re not actually all that close to that branch of the family. My mom and her brother (my uncle) are very close. Uncle Steve told my mom about Cousin Adam’s (his son’s) DUI a year ago but that information never made its way to me until Adam told me himself. Same goes for other post-childhood injuries and diagnoses among the cousins. Our parents just don’t dish this kind of dirt to us. It’s very very likely that there are layers in the situation that you don’t know about and unless you’re willing to buy your cousin his own car I’m not 100% cool with judging other people’s finances that way.

    I’m not trying to get into “not everyone can have sandwiches” territory here, but there are a few things in your email that ping for me as being things that my mom did for my learning-disabled sister (who seems totally “normal” to the extent that our cousins don’t know about her disabilities) and that my uncle did for my cousin after the DUI negated his drivers license and obliterated his finances. In general, I’m not about to come down on a mom who still buys shampoo and deodorant for her 22-year-old son who still lives at home and is only a few months into his first adult job, and this has no bearing on his work or how it might reflect on you in the office.. My mom drove me to work during a stretch when I didn’t have a car. It was a 5 minute drive. I would have hated to have people judge me for that.

    1. BPT*

      But the fact that they call his workplace and yell at his bosses about him would indicate that these are not normal behaviors. And coming into the lobby when he’s interviewing. Everything here points to parents acting inappropriately.

      1. Stellaaaaa*

        That could very well be the case. All I’m saying is that there are probably things that OP doesn’t know about the situation and that since she’s not all that close to the cousin, she can’t claim that knowledge. So much of her email is secondhand BEC stuff that clearly has been building up in her head for a while: why does it matter who cooks Cousin’s dinner for him? Why does it matter that his mom drove him to his college classes? Those aren’t workplace problems.

        1. BPT*

          It gives context that his parents are exerting control like this in all aspects of his life. I get that you have a different experience, but nothing in this letter suggests that this is anything but parents acting absolutely inappropriately. Even if the child did have some sort of diagnosis, most of these behaviors would still be inappropriate.

        2. Susie*

          I think OP included these examples in the letter to establish the aunt and uncle’s helicopter behavior as a pattern and not just a one off.

        3. Temperance*

          It’s useful background information to show that he has been coddled for his entire life, and that his parents have always been way too close. It’s not BEC stuff.

        4. Not So NewReader*

          Those details provide background for the scope of the problem. If the problem was just about cooking meals or getting rides, then there is no story. It’s the many, many ways that the parents try to direct what happens to their son that is problematic. Through examples OP is saying the work issues are part of a much larger problem. And OP did not ask for help with any of those at home issues, either. If OP had left those details out people would be saying, “well how do you know this is such a big problem?”

          While OP may not be in a close friendship with the cousin, she is close in the sense that she knows a lot of background information that people at work would not know. I know plenty of things about some of my cousins who I am not close with. Since I am close to the people around that cousin, I learn about how the cousin is doing.

          I thought OP sounded pretty calm, cool and collected. I don’t see where OP is trying to grind an ax nor is she even trying to fix the cousin. She just wants to know how to cover her own butt so that she does not get painted with the same brush.

    2. animaniactoo*

      I hear what you’re saying – but even if it is true that there are some development delays or something else involved here, they’re still WAY overreaching when they do things like insist on sitting in the lobby, or come in to speak to executives about being denied vacation time before having had time to accrue any. They’re not accepting standard work norms, even for someone who needs some accommodation.

      I would also say that if the cousin IS delayed or otherwise, they are doing nobody any favors by treating him like an early gradeschooler to this extent while not explaining to anyone that there is a reason for it.

    3. Temperance*

      But this isn’t really comparable to a parent giving someone a ride somewhere or a parent advocating for their kid with regard to accommodations. They sit in the lobby during interviews, sending the signal that their son is incapable of managing his own affairs. They apparently find it appropriate to intervene in his work life, contacting his boss when they don’t like a decision. That’s so far from appropriate, even if he has some sort of disability.

      I’ve worked with people who have intellectual disabilities. Their parents do not get involved in their jobs. Their job coach might, which is different. Then again, someone who was able to navigate and graduate from college and function in a career likely wouldn’t need or merit this sort of assistance, and if they did, it wouldn’t be in the form of mom babying and infantilizing.

      1. Stellaaaaa*

        I’m just kind of eh on this whole thing. Was OP in those interviews/lobbies with her cousin’s mom? Was she in those meetings with the cousin’s boss during the argument about vacation time? I’d be interested in assessing a situation that OP has observed for herself but literally none of the examples in this email are things that she has seen with her own eyes. It’s all just toxic family gossip. Her cousin’s mom called the office and she overhead the chatter about it – she didn’t ask for more information, nor did she listen in on that call. She either needs to witness an incident firsthand or back off. We all have weirdo family members, and almost everyone on this forum has some kind of diagnosis that we surely have not told our cousins about.

        1. TL -*

          That’s not the way my family works – the gossip is usually pretty darn accurate.

          And having your parents advocate for you in college is not allowed in a lot of colleges unless your parent still has legal guardianship; if a college is refusing accommodations your parents might hire you a lawyer but most colleges won’t interact with the parents about their children; the kids are adults and the colleges are interacting with the adults. At my college, the only times the parents were able to communicate about their adult children was when the kids weren’t able to and even then, the student was responsible for signing off on the paperwork when they could.

    4. Susie*

      Alison has asked that we take the letter writer’s at their word. OP says his/her cousin doesn’t have any conditions that require this type of assistance. And even if the cousin did, a parent coming in person to speak to executive management about his vacation time or calling and visiting his professors because they didn’t give him a better grade is not normal and way over the line.

      1. Stellaaaaa*

        It’s over the line, but also not OP’s problem. I get that she’s worried about how this will affect her at work but airing her cousin’s dirty laundry to strangers for validation that SHE is the normal one isn’t the professional way to enforce a boundary. And that’s my workplace-related advice for this. Let people make their own judgments or do your two years and find a new job elsewhere. Don’t volunteer information about how Aunt still makes Cousin’s pop tarts for him. That just makes you look bad.

        1. fposte*

          But it’s an advice column–that’s exactly where you air dirty laundry to strangers. Either everybody’s out of line in writing to Alison or this is an okay place to seek advice.

          1. Stellaaaaa*

            As I said above, I’d have a different read on this if OP had any firsthand examples of anything. She almost never interacts with her cousin at work and she’s repeating stories that other people have told her. My first comment was admittedly rambly and potentially threw too many caveats out there, but my conclusion is fundamentally the same: she’s asking for input about someone she never speaks to, by presenting stories about events at which she wasn’t present. The advice is….maybe actually talk to the cousin? Or decide that it doesn’t matter since they don’t actually work together.

            1. AD*

              She almost never interacts with her cousin at work and she’s repeating stories that other people have told her.

              You’re reading things into the letter that aren’t there. The only reference to OP getting hearsay is from the comments she overheard in the elevator. The rest of her letter is presumably firsthand knowledge, and it feels like you’re being overly picky here. And the concern about her reputation is most definitely her problem. What is your point here?

              1. Stellaaaaa*

                She literally cannot have firsthand knowledge of her aunt’s conversations with her cousin’s professors and direct managers unless she was also in the room with them. She hasn’t gone with her cousin and her aunt to past job interviews and subsequently waited with her aunt in the lobby.

                I don’t think I’m being picky here. She’s asking for an assessment of situations she only knows about because someone else told her, about relatives that she already thinks are weird and doesn’t interact with. She needs to wait until she actually sees one of these things happen for herself, and possibly figure out how to filter how she’s actually hearing these stories, because THAT isn’t normal either. There seems to be a chain of gossip and over-sharing going on in her family (How on earth does she know what’s going on in her cousin’s job interviews? Who actually told her about her aunt’s conversations with Cousin’s professors? This isn’t exactly typical stuff to know about a cousin that you never speak to) and it’s possibly making her paranoid that other people, especially her managers and coworkers, are that gossipy and prone to negatively judging people. They most likely aren’t. This is a common mode of thought to fall into when you have family members who are perceived as being embarrassing, but most people don’t think about others in this particular way. You live long enough and you figure out that everyone’s family is weird.

                Maybe that’s the answer here? She’s used to sifting for these little details in other people’s lives but she needs to realize that this isn’t typical and that other people aren’t going to be doing this to her.

                1. BPT*

                  Ok if you go down that road then we can literally never believe what letter writers tell us. I don’t get what’s so hard to understand about how people find out things about their family members. My parents tell me all the time what’s going on with my cousins. Plus, I read the letter several times and I see absolutely nowhere the LW indicates that she doesn’t speak to her cousin or she rarely sees them. ALL she says is that they don’t cross paths often at work. That’s it. So you’re inferring a ton that isn’t actually in the letter.

                2. AD*

                  I’m going to disengage because I don’t think this is contributing to the advice OP should be getting, but I am savoring a little bit the irony of you complaining that OP is taking hearsay as evidence (and accusing her family of gossiping with nothing to back up that assertion), while you are literally putting words in her mouth and making inferences that aren’t in the letter.

                  Moving on.

                3. AD*

                  Furthermore, I see OP has written a forceful correction of your assumptions further downthread so we can end this discussion right now.

                4. Mb13*

                  This seems like a very sensitive subject for you. However you are asking the op to not be assumptive of her cousin while making some wild assumptions about herself. In the country I grew up family gossip is a very cultural prominence. It’s considered normal there to talk about your family. So keep in mind op might not be from the same culture as you. And finally even if her cousin was on the most extremest form of disability and needed constant assistance then the parents are still handling it poorly. There’s a difference between accommodation and overbearing

            2. fposte*

              She’s asking for input about her own reputation, not about the cousin. If people are talking about the cousin in elevators, it doesn’t matter if they’re mistaken rumors or the gospel truth–they have potential for splashback on the OP, and she’s trying to figure out if she needs to put on an apron.

        2. AD*

          Umm…that’s not really addressing what the OP wrote in about, which was the concern they feel for the hit to their reputation if people assume they are related and may be alike. And as Susie said, the behavior of the parents is unequivocally weird.

    5. yo yo yo*

      There are too many examples in OP’s letters where the parents have crossed the line even if the OP’s cousin did have limitations.

      I can understand driving someone because they can’t (physically or legally), but there is absolutely no legitimate reason for the parents to sit in the lobby while their kid is interviewing. None. The parents have also argued with management on OP’s cousin’s vacation time?! Again, no legitimate reason.

      I think it is safe to take OP’s word that his aunt/uncle are purely helicopter parents.

    6. Brandy*

      I have a friend whose 30 yr old son had a several DUIs, license revoked and she drove him around (you can bet I heard all the details) and she never went in anywhere. Drop offs and pick ups, no hanging out. And I hear all the gossip in our family from the aunts/uncles. Anything family wise my mom or dad know, I know. I think a lot of familys are like that.

    7. Melody (OP)*

      I actually lived in the same apartment as my aunt, uncle and cousin when I was a kid because my parents and I immigrated at the same time they did. My aunt and uncle freely tell my parents about the trouble they have had with my cousins bosses (and professors before that). Their house is one street over from our house and as much as I stay out of my cousin’s life and don’t comment on what my aunt and uncle do (there is no point in trying to convince them or my cousin that my aunt and uncle’s behavior is problematic) but my father spends time with his brother and my aunt likes to call my mother on the phone or visit, so there is contact. I don’t know where you got that I never interact with them because that is quite the opposite. You also state that I wasn’t there when my aunt accompanied my cousin to the interview even though I saw her in the lobby and she told me why she was there. My cousin also has a drivers license and his parents have bought him both a car and a truck, and my aunt and uncle said a hundred times that they were driving him because the bus is too scary and when he was a friend and sophomore he wasn’t able to get parking since he didn’t live in on campus. You make many assumptions in your replies and none of them are correct.

      1. yo yo yo*

        Thanks for the additional context OP. Wow, that seems so out there! For my own curiosity’s sake, does your cousin really **not** recognize that his parent’s behavior is problematic? Or is he just having a hard time standing up to his family?

      2. Oh no, not again*

        Wow, I’m surprised your cousin has a license and vehicles! I assumed incorrectly up above.

        You’ll probably be fine not mentioning being related to him. Your cousin’s problems are not your problems and reasonable managers and colleagues will realize that you’re not the same person. The only thing you can do regarding work is to stay out of any and all cousin related drama.

      3. Not So NewReader*

        OP, you are very patient. Be assured that we see your question is about you and not your cousin.

  33. Rainforest Queen*

    I have a coworker who has two daughters, ages 24 and 22. Both are single parents, and are completely funded by my coworker. Neither daughter is steadily employed. She takes calls from them in the office frequently, and I can follow their conversations enough to hear that they are asking for more money, which she willingly tells them she will send to them.

    Recently, her older daughter got a ticket for an illegal lane switch while driving. My coworker called the police station (or, whomever the party of contact was to dispute the ticket), and begged him to “take back the ticket” because her daughter was a “hard-working, single parent” but simply “could not afford her ticket.” I could not believe that a parent of a grown adult would call to dispute a ticket for her! Not shockingly, the ticket was NOT taken back, so naturally my coworker ended up paying for her daughter’s ticket. She expressed how her daughter “didn’t even say thank you” for her paying the ticket. I do not personally know her daughters, but it is clear to me from what I’ve seen that they have been babied their entire lives, and do not take any responsibility for their actions.

    Both daughters become single mothers as teenagers, which I believe was a result of never having to see the consequences of their actions prior to then. (disclaimer: I am in no way judging young/single parents. I am just saying that in this particular case, I think both daughters ending up pregnant teens was at least to some degree a result of their upbringing.)

    1. SophieChotek*

      Sounds like some of my relatives – with their mother doing everything. Neither daughter is steadily employed; both are married and with kids but my relative (who is almost 70) is literally taking care of 4-6 kids under the age of 7 all-day every day, close to 7 days a week and she won’t say “no”…before her kids started having kids, she and husband had plans to travel the world. Not so much anymore.

    2. Merida May*

      I’ve encountered several coworkers who told me they had to postpone their retirements indefinitely so they could continue to bankroll their adult children.

    3. Manders*

      Apart from a few details, you could be describing several people I’ve had the displeasure of working with. I nicknamed it [Local Well-to-do Neighborhood] Syndrome because every single person I’ve ever met from that neighborhood follows the same pattern of having unlimited withdrawals at the Bank of Mom and Dad and absolutely no understanding of consequences.

      Honestly, they all seem unhappy most of the time and none of them have any stability in a career, a relationship, or an artistic pursuit.

  34. HistoryChick*

    I don’t know if this will reassure, but my brother and I used to work for the same mid-sized company (1500 employees). We were in different departments on opposite sides of the buildings but *did* have to interact because he supported my division in IT and I supported his division in communications. We share the same last name and look very similar (you know except for the anatomical differences). When we stand or sit next to each other it’s particularly obvious. Yet, most people did not know that we were related at all, even when we were in meetings together. They just didn’t put two and two together. (Of course, when people did find out we were related they usually were like – oh, how could I not see it? I can never un-see that now.) So…people really might not connect the two of you as relatives.

  35. Oh So Anon For This*

    You have my sympathies! I’ve been on the employer side of this kind of situation recently and it was a nightmare. The daughter of an influential employee tried to get a position in our company. She had absolutely no professional sense and though she was closer to 30 than 20 still used her father to intervene on anything she didn’t like or felt she deserved (which was everything). And boy did he intervene. She never even got a job but managed to create more drama and angst than you can imagine. I really had never seen anything like it before, and am still at a loss as to how her father thought he was possibly helping her to become a functional adult.

    However, even though we are quite a small company the management team managed to keep the interpersonal problems quiet across the rest of the staff.
    So for a big company with a lot of layers between you and your cousin AAM’s advice is spot on. Let your work and professionalism stand for you and it’s unlikely any gossip or murmurings will stick to you.

    1. SophieChotek*

      Would you say father used up a lot of his capital with company in this situation? Or can everyone of past it now?

      1. Oh So Anon For This*

        He has emptied his capital with corporate. I don’t think he would have done had she not been such an awful person though. If it was just putting a bit of pressure on to get her through the door I think it would have been recoverable, but both he and she displayed such terrible behaviour there was no coming back from it.

  36. Rocket Roy*

    This is so sad – my son is 7 with ADHD and I am not this involved in his world and never plan to be.
    For the OP I would just keep plugging along as you are – as some PPs said you being there first helps a great deal. I once worked in the neighboring department as my mother with a joint crew and over a year only 1 person ever noticed that we looked alike.

  37. VermiciousKnit*

    I grew up with a kid who had parents like this, before helicoptering had become a well-known phenomenon. They were constantly present in school up through high school; when he decided to go to college out of town they quit their jobs, sold their house, and moved to the college town so he wouldn’t have to be without them.

    I wish I knew what had happened to him. Several of my friends and I tried and tried to get him to come to social events and generally befriend him, but his parents would have none of it. It was really sad.

  38. Namast'ay In Bed*

    At first glance I thought the headline was “My Aunt and Uncle are Extreme Helicopter PILOTS” and I was like oh sweet that’s awesome, but then I read the actual post and got sad.

    1. Manders*

      Dear Alison,

      My aunt and uncle keep hovering over my office building and doing cool stunts in their helicopter. This is distracting my coworkers. How do I ask them to find a new place to practice flying?

  39. Homeschooled & Not Abused*

    Hope I’m not being a special snowflake here, but just a note that “never sending [a child] to school” isn’t necessarily abusive behavior. Sometimes it’s called homeschooling, and is a perfectly normal, responsible educational choice made by capable, loving parents.

    That’s something completely different from the problem addressed in this letter, but just an odd choice of language in AAM’s usually stellar answers.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I actually thought about exactly that when I wrote that, and figured that home schooling them is still sending them to school. Didn’t mean to imply otherwise!

      1. Not Karen*

        I was homeschooled and naturally assume it’s included in the colloquial use of “sending kids to school.”

      2. JennyFair*

        I homeschooled mine, and totally didn’t think she meant leaving them uneducated, or even unschooling, but just not bothering to have your child educated at all.

      3. Aurora Leigh*

        Yay Alison! :)

        Sometimes I have to remind myself it’s not the 90’s anymore and a lot of the stereotypes I dealt with growing up are dead now. It’s nice!

  40. Melody (OP)*

    Thank you for answering my letter Alison.

    I was unable to check here until after work because I was in a training course all day, but I do appreciate all the responses. I’m not looking to say anything to my cousin or aunt and uncle for a few reasons I don’t want to get into but the rest of the advice which isn’t about that has been great so far and I will definitely keep it in mind. As I said my surname is uncommon in Wales and here it is completely unique among the people where I live. Our email addresses have our last names and everyone has a nameplate at their desk and must have their ID badge visible at all times so the people I work with definitely know my last name (even though they can’t pronounce it). Our accent in a place where no one else has an accent is another thing that makes me worry people will make the connection. Thanks again Alison and AAM commentators.

    1. H.C.*

      Thanks for the quick update, and fingers crossed that either your cousin and/or his manager will set appropriate professional boundaries with your aunt and uncle.

  41. Not So NewReader*

    One last thought, OP, odd stuff like this has a way of working out in a very quiet manner. It doesn’t seem like it will land quietly, but it can.

    It could be that the boss coaches him and he gets fed up and quits. It could be that the boss coaches him and he gets it together some how. Or it could be that he gets fired.

    You are very wise for staying out of this situation on the home front, too. As one person alone you cannot fix this. It’s going to take many, many people to fix this, if it gets fixed at all. Let nature run its course here.

    Keep rocking your job. That is your number one defense and by the way a good offense, too. If you think talking to the boss would be a good idea, then go for it. Especially if you have a reasonable boss. But you can also know that you have worked for this boss for a year and a half and she has not had any of these types of problems from your parents. Actions go a long way, OP, what’s the expression? “Actions speak louder than words.”

    One last caution. Don’t let fear of gossip/rumor wear you down. Many times gossip is just two people talking, that’s it. No one else is privy to the subject or no one else cares.

    If anyone says anything to you just reply with, “Oh my cousin…” do an eye roll, let your voice trail off in a distracted kind of way and then say something work related, “Have you seen the new procedures for the teapot lids?” Just shrug and redirect the conversation.

    If pushed just say, “I guess my cousin’s family has their own thing going on. I don’t pay much attention to it. It has nothing to do with me.” If you act bored/uninterested that will be helpful in putting the questions to rest.

  42. Narise*

    This reminds me of a woman whose son was 600 lbs and she couldn’t leave him alone or stop feeding him. He was 19 and had the emotional maturity of a 13 or 14 year old. I swear they needed to cut the cord and keep her away from him for six months to save his life.

    1. Candi*

      Reminds me of a Maury episode many years ago now. It was about overweight young kids and helping them (and their parents).

      One mother said in the taken-pre-show video clips that ‘she can’t control what her son eats!’ The kid was freaking TWO AND A HALF. Arrrgh! Need I mention that the pre-clips also showed her handing her kid several takeout containers loaded with high-fat foods? I really hope Maury and the people working with him to help these kids got through to her.

      I felt bad for one mother. Over the course of three episodes, it turned out her daughter’s large size was the result of a medical condition -but the doctors just couldn’t pin down exactly what. Props to Maury for footing the bills.

  43. MommyMD*

    I’d keep quiet about this unless it causes a problem. I’d avoid your still on his mom’s teat cousin at work like the plague.

  44. imasnail*

    And this is why, as soon as my parents left my college campus, I went straight to the admin office and filled out all the FERPA forms that prevented anyone from finding out my grades, what classes I’m taking, etc. When my parents found out – because the school wouldn’t release my information when they tried to get it – they freaked. But I held firm and I’m glad I stuck to that boundary early. They now have zero connection to my career, my finances, my rent, etc. In high school I had teachers begging me to get my mom to stop contacting them. No one who’s met my parents ever asks why I went to college on the other side of the country.

    If you know a young person in this situation, HELP THEM OUT. Take them out for coffee. Show them how to set up a separate bank account. Model healthy mentorship. Stand up to their parents. Never underestimate the power of an “ugh, that’s weird” comment.

    1. MH*

      FERPA is the default. By law, they can’t find out any of this, unless you grant people the ability. You can fill out an additional confidential form, which prevents people from knowing you’re at the college, but if you’re enrolled in school and over 18, no one at the college is allowed to release your information to any third party. You shouldn’t have needed to fill out a form for this.

      This isn’t speculation. This is the FERPA training we get standard at the college.

      1. Observer*

        Yes. But having the paperwork helps. It’s the same with medical information. I know someone whose family was a bit too interfering. The doctor’s office answered some questions that they shouldn’t have. When my friend found out about it, she called the office and had them put a note in the file. The issue stopped.

        The reality is that some schools don’t to the training right, and even when they do “I thought”, “I didn’t realize” etc. are common reactions. But, when there is signed paperwork, or a note in someone’s file, that shifts things.

        1. Candi*

          Please tell me that was pre-HIPAA. Although privacy laws in various states go back to at least the 1970s…

          My default is without a piece of paper with details, an adult’s business is an adult’s own business. (Barring legal-type situations and stuff.)

          1. Observer*

            Nope, it was post HIPAA. And, it’s a lot more common than people realize.

            Your default is the correct one. But lots of people don’t quite get it. But, it’s MUCH harder to miss it – and it’s also much easier to enforce – when there is a signature / explicit notice.

            One fairly typical type of scenario has the parents INSISTING that OF COURSE “Poopsie allows us to discuss her records!” It’s not too astonishing that someone might believe it. But, when there is an explicit signature that says NO, then even someone who falls for the line is probably going to say “I’m sure you are correct. But we cannot talk to you till we get a signed permission from your child.”

      2. imasnail*

        There’s “shouldn’t,” which applies in a perfect world, and then there’s “things you do anyway to keep yourself safe because your parents are all-caps CRAZYPANTS.” Perhaps I misspoke and the forms weren’t FERPA, necessarily (this was 10 years ago), but I definitely filled out some paperwork that the school had so I could block my parents from getting access to any of my info.

    2. AW*

      Never underestimate the power of an “ugh, that’s weird” comment.

      I think a lot of people have had at least one moment where they suddenly find out that something they thought was normal actually isn’t. When it’s something you thought was awful it is incredibly validating to be told, “No, that shouldn’t be/have been happening.”

  45. Iain Cllllarke*

    Burtlebott is obvously made up – there’s too many vowels, and not enough duplicate consonents to be a Welsh name!

  46. emma2*

    I totally agree with Alison’s rant about this kind of parenting being a type of abuse. I come from an immigrant community – this type of parenting is very prevalent/normalized in our culture and I’ve seen a lot of peers/relatives deal with it in varying degrees. Not all of them are extreme (mine are pretty moderate), but unfortunately these helicopter parents genuinely believe that being overly involved in their kids’ lives shows that they really “care” about their kids and how much they are willing to “sacrifice”. One of my aunts actually pissed off her neighbor by saying this, insinuating that “American” parents care less because they are so hands off. Within our circles, these parents actually brag about how good their parenting styles are compared to the overly lax “American parenting style”, because their kids don’t get into trouble/do drugs/get pregnant/whatever, completely ignoring the amount of well-adjusted, successful “American” kids that do exist, and who actually know how to get themselves to work in the morning.
    I didn’t mean to go down the road of assuming the OP comes from an “immigrant community”, but I just have been around these types of parents way too much so I sympathize.

    1. Candi*

      Snort. I’ve read stories of kids who wind up in trouble because their parents were overly-involved/controlling. It’s a form of rebellion.

      My parenting techniques involved me considering what result I wanted: Independent kids able to hold a job and take care of themselves and their home, with good manners, and able to stick up for themselves. Worked backwards from there. (Addressing what goal I want and then figuring out what the map should look like actually works pretty well for me.)

      1. emma2*

        I have definitely seen the rebellion effect, and it’s not pretty. Other outcomes include: 1) Lazy, over-complacent adults who don’t know how to adult in the real world, and 2) A kid that DOES learn to adult, at the expense of completely alienating the parents because that was the only way they could do it.

  47. ilikeaskamanager*

    The best advice I ever got from my mom was when she told me that if I did my job as a parent right, my kids would not need me, but they would want me. She spoke from experience. She raised me to be independent but she was someone I could rely on for good advice and support if I asked for it.

  48. Katherine butler*

    By the way….you’d be surprised at the children who come to school not potty-trained. Didn’t see this ten or fifteen years ago. Over-involved parents or completely disengaged parents. Yay for the reasonable ones!!!

  49. Professor Ronny*

    In my college advising, I have had students come in for degree planning and to register for their courses where the parents did all the talking and the student never said a single word the entire time, even when I tried to speak directly to them. These types of students rarely do well in classes.

  50. Database Developer Dude*

    Oh, trust me. I’m 8 months late on this, and have already read the two updates, but I would tell OP to run far and fast as soon as they can from that job. Hell, my brother and I aren’t even in the same industry or the same state, and people judge me based on their interactions with him…. the specifics aren’t relevant to THIS story, but yeah….the similarities are enough that the OP needs to get out.

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