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Auntie SparkNotes: My Brother Had Sex and My Parents Blame Me

Auntie SparkNotes: My Brother Had Sex and My Parents Blame Me

Kat Rosenfield

Dear Auntie,

I am twenty years old and just finished my sophomore year of college, and am currently working at an internship. Two days ago, my mom called me with the news that my 17-year-old brother and his 17-year-old ex-girlfriend are expecting a child together, and I've had so many mixed feelings. My parents are blaming me for the fact my brother will soon be a father, because I don't talk about sex with him, or answer his questions about the topic (not that he has asked), and my parents refuse to speak about sex around him too, claiming it's not important information. Months ago, my mom made me read his private journal that details his sex life, and yelled at me when I said that I really didn't want to read it.

Unfortunately, when I did read it, I found out that he'd been having sex in my bed while I was away at school. I'm just constantly being told that a decision I didn't make is all my fault, and I'm having trouble being able to talk to my brother with this new information, and feeling comfortable sleeping in my bed at home. What should I do?

For starters, you should rise to your feet and give your parents a standing ovation for being the biggest, most utterly un-self-aware hypocrites in the known universe.

Because not to put too fine a point on it, it would appear that your folks have no shame, no boundaries, and no understanding of their basic responsibilities as parents. Enlisting you to read your brother's journal? Not okay. Yelling at you when you balked at invading his privacy? Not okay. And blaming you for the fact that they didn't gut up and talk about sex with their own kid, resulting in said kid impregnating a fellow kid at the age of 17? Darling, that's so far from okay that you can't even see okay from where they're standing.

I mean, it should go without saying that the actual responsibility for this pregnancy lies exclusively with the folks who had unprotected sex that resulted in sperm meeting egg. But if anyone is guilty of failing to provide your brother with the education and guidance that could have led to a different outcome, it's your parents. That was entirely their job—one of many that they signed up for when they decided to have kids—and the idea that you were supposed to do it for them (and to disseminate to your brother the same information they themselves had already declared too unimportant to be worth mentioning) is patently ridiculous.

But that's why I strongly suspect that your folks don't really believe this is your fault. In fact, if I had to guess, I'd say that they feel like it's their fault, and their failure, and that they are projecting responsibility onto you in a ham-handed attempt to get out from under the weight of all that burdensome shame. Not that this makes it any less terrible to be on the receiving end of it, but you should realize that what your parents are doing really isn't about you at all; this kind of blame-shifting is a go-to defensive move for people who lack the emotional maturity to cope with feeling bad about themselves.

Unfortunately, for that reason, I don't think you're likely to get anywhere by reasoning with them. They're just too deeply invested in pointing fingers at anyone but the person in the mirror, and your best bet for making peace with the situation is to recognize this as their problem, not yours, and proceed accordingly. (You might want to institute a policy moving forward of saying some version of what you've said here—"Sorry, but I'm done hearing that a decision I didn't make is somehow my fault"—and excusing yourself from the room.)

At twenty, you are old enough and close enough to independent adulthood that you don't have to participate in every argument your parents invite you to; now is a good time to recognize that and put it into practice. There is enormous peace of mind and freedom in exercising your right to remain uninvolved with messy situations that have absolutely nothing to do with you. (And the more you decline to participate in the blame game surrounding this pregnancy, the more bandwidth you leave free to engage with your brother in more useful and supportive ways, if that's something you want to do.)

And, uh, speaking of messy: as much as I sympathize with your discomfort at knowing that your brother defiled your bed while you were away at school, I also have to point out that learning this kind of unsettling information is pretty much the most predictable (and some might even say deserved) result of snooping in other people's sex diaries. You get all the squick of knowing that something super-gross happened on your mattress, with none of the satisfaction of being able to do anything about it, because it's already in the past. And unless you're craving a confrontation with your bro so badly that you're willing to fess up to violating his privacy for the sake thereof, the best advice I can give you is to try to forget about it. Stuff that knowledge down the memory hole, flip your mattress, and change out your sheets first thing every time you come home for a visit… at least until he, too, is no longer living at home. (If it makes you feel any better, as the soon-to-be teen dad of a newborn, your brother's days of playing musical beds at your parents' house are probably pretty much over anyway.)

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Topics: Life
Tags: parents, auntie sparknotes, sex ed, advice, family issues, guilt trips, tough questions

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About the Author

Kat Rosenfield is a writer, illustrator, advice columnist, YA author, and enthusiastic licker of that plastic liner that comes inside a box of Cheez-Its. She loves zombies and cats. She hates zombie cats. Follow her on Twitter or Tumblr @katrosenfield.

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