Dear Prudence

Help! My Parents Claim My Niece’s Accidental Pregnancy Is Our Family’s “Greatest Achievement.”

A slap in the face would hurt less.

Woman in a graduation cap next to someone writing a check for $200.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by hidesy/iStock/Getty Images Plus and AVAVA/iStock/Getty Images Plus.

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Q. Money Trouble: My parents have never financially contributed to my family and we have never asked them to. My husband and I make a very good living. Our daughter is gay and when she graduated at 21 with a master’s degree, my parents gave her a check for $200. Well, last week, her 19-year-old cousin had her baby shower.

My niece barely graduated high school and currently “works” at my brother’s business while trying to figure out what she wants in life. My brother is very successful and spoils both his kids. My niece can’t figure out the father since she traveled and partied a lot before she figured out she was pregnant. My daughter and I went to the baby shower. My parents were there and obviously very excited about being great-grandparents.

They gifted my niece a check for over $40,000 and told her this was the “greatest achievement” in our family yet. A slap in the face would have hurt less. My daughter got very quiet and we left early after she complained of having a headache. In the car, she burst into tears. She told me she was done trying to please her grandparents. They obviously don’t love her like her cousins or take any pride in her. I told her that wasn’t true and my parents just misspoke.

My daughter yelled that she was the first in the family to get a master’s and my parents thought that was worth $200 while her cousin fucking around was a great achievement worth $40,000. She told me to stop trying and justify their favoritism.

She wasn’t going to make a scene but she wasn’t going to attend any more family functions if her grandparents were there. I could make up the excuse I wanted—but she was done.
My husband agrees with our daughter and tells me I need to talk to my parents. I don’t have any clue how to have this conversation or if I should.

A: You mention that your daughter is gay, and if you are suggesting that you have reason to believe this is making your parents treat her as second-best, that’s really messed up and you should definitely call them out on it. Most of all, let your daughter know how deeply screwed up it is and how proud you are of her accomplishments. And don’t make her hang out with her grandparents anymore!

But if this is just about the money, I have a very different take, which is that your parents get to do what they want. And it sounds like what they want to do is offer a measure of comfort and security to the baby that will be born to a teenager by giving the mom a lot of cash. That’s not unreasonable! Your daughter got a decent gift for her graduation. If it makes her feel any better, that $40,000 her cousin received will be gone in no time—kids are expensive and childcare prices are off the charts. While the “greatest achievement” language was a lot, I suggest choosing to hear it as an expression of deep excitement about a human life and a new generation of the family, not a statement that “fucking around” is more worthy of praise than earning a degree.

On that note, in addition to coming off as entitled, you and your daughter both sound incredibly judgmental. Your poor niece is pregnant and dealing with relatives who are simply oozing contempt for her and her life choices. You’re acting like she’s the first person on Earth to have casual sex, or like she’s done something to harm someone. She’s simply having a baby. She got lucky enough to have supportive grandparents, and you two are talking about her like she’s a disgrace to your family. It’s really cruel. Thankfully, she also has the cash to afford therapy now.

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