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Ask Amy column

Q. My sister is 17 years older. Growing up, she and her family lived with us due to financial reasons.

Because of this I am very close to my niece and nephew. Even after I got married the kids spent weekends at my house, and if there was a special occasion like a birthday or anniversary, I would offer to take the kids.

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Now her kids are older (17 and 21). I have two sons of my own who are both 6. They love their aunt and talk about her all the time. They want to know if they can go to her house and sleep over or hang out. When they see her (which is not often) they ask her for sleepovers and hang-out time.

The problem is, she avoids them like the plague. She has even made plans with them several times only to break them later and never make it up to them.

I have told her how it is not fair to promise something to them and then not deliver. It bothers me that she doesn’t offer me the same support that I gave her for the past decade. I was fine with bottling up my feelings but now she is hurting my kids.

How can I resolve this difficult situation? All I want is for my sons to feel loved and not rejected.

A. If you don’t want your sons to feel rejected, then don’t set them up for rejection. Your kids should not ask their aunt directly for “sleepovers and hang-out time” without running this idea past you first.

It is distinctly possible that your sister is selfish and uninterested. She is definitely unreliable. It is also possible that like many parents of older offspring, she cannot fathom hosting young kids (and two 6-year-olds, no less). Some parents simply run out of steam. One child at a time might be easier for her to manage.

You sound like a wonderful aunt (and sister). The benefit of this is in the relationship you share with your sister’s kids. Life, however, does not offer balanced quid pro quo, and understanding and accepting this is a life-lesson to pass along to your sons, without focusing on the sting of rejection.

Q. I have donated some money to local charitable organizations. My son knows that I earned this money myself (my husband died years ago), and I believe it is my right to spend it as I please.

My son has an above average income. He and all members of my family will be well taken care of after my death. He has told me that I am giving away his money.

I have told family members that I am considering a gift to a local organization, thinking that if my son knew of my intention before I acted, it would give him a chance to discuss it or ask me to reconsider in advance.

He seems angry about this. It comes out in indirect ways. He becomes a bully, and I am afraid of him. Otherwise he refuses to discuss it. What should I do?

A. I’m assuming you are in your right mind and know what you are doing. So why are you discussing this with someone you know will bully you? And, knowing your son’s attitude, why are you trying to prompt him to discuss it again? This feels manipulative on your part. Stop it.

What you choose to do with your money is your business. You should get a professional, unbiased snapshot of your assets to make informed choices. You should further protect your estate by drawing up a will and keeping its details close to the vest.

Send questions by e-mail to askamy@tribune.com or by mail to Ask Amy, Chicago Tribune, TT500, 435 North Michigan Ave., Chicago, IL 60611.

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