DEAR KELLY: My stepsister and I go to the same school but are in different grades. I live with my mom full time and she lives week on, week off between her parents’ houses. I never really liked her but always tolerated her. “SR” wants to be cool so bad, and it’s annoying to everyone.
She says things like, “I saw you sitting with so and so at lunch, they are so popular. You should let me hang with you guys sometime.” Or she will tell my mom that she really wants to go see the movie my friends and I are going to see so my mom will make me invite her, which is so annoying. It happens every time she’s over. Somehow she manages to push herself onto me and my friends.
Lately, she will show up at school on the weeks she’s with her mom and be wearing my clothes. And when I walk up and ask her where she got it, she will say something lame like, “Your mom must have thought it was mine and put it with my clothes last week.” My mom knows my clothes and wouldn’t mix up our clothes.
Last week SR was wearing my favorite jacket that I used my money to buy. I told her to take it off at school because it wasn’t hers and she stole it from me. She got all upset, texted her dad and my mom and told them how mean I was being and how I wanted the coat off her back.
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My mom texted me and was obviously mad and told me not to make a scene at school, that we would figure this out later. Again, SR said the clothes ended up in the clean clothes pile and she wasn’t too blame for this. I know she had to come into my room to take the jacket out of my closet because I hadn’t even put it in the laundry room to be washed. It wasn’t even dirty. So I know she’s a liar and I know my mom won’t take my side on this. I asked for a lock on my door, and my parents said no. I’ve caught her wearing everything from my clothes to my swimsuits to my jewelry to using my makeup without asking.
Please help. SR used to just be annoying, but now she’s a two-faced liar and a thief, and I can’t stand the weeks she comes to our house.
– Stuck Stepsister
DEAR STEPSISTER: Annoying and stealing are two very different things. Be careful of calling her a thief unless you know for absolute certain she has taken something from you. You may have a strong hunch or gut feeling that says she is taking your things but unless you know for sure she took your clothes, I would caution you against calling her a thief.
The bigger issue isn’t whether or not she took your clothes, it is how she isn’t respecting your space, including time with your friends. Your mom probably feels sorry for SR, so she asks you and your friends to entertain her. Doing this every so often is understandable and would show kindness to your stepsister.
Making you do it every time and assuming she gets to come with you because she hints to your mom is not fair to you or your friends. You should be allowed to have time with your friends without SR having to come. By forcing herself on you, she’s doing the opposite of what she really wants to do. She wants you to like her and include her, yet she’s making you feel resentful and angry toward her. Her plan to be included is working but not for the right reasons.
Talk with your mom. Share the dilemma you are in. Perhaps you offer to do your own laundry, aside from the family, so there is no chance of things getting misplaced. This would end SR’s ability to blame it on your mom. Ask your mom to help you set boundaries with SR so she knows that if something ends up in her clean clothes pile and she knows it is not hers, she gives it back to you instead of wearing it. See if you and your mom can brainstorm on ways to make sure she asks to borrow your clothes instead of feeling the need to take them.
Your mom has to be on board with setting consequences on SR if she does take your things or doesn’t respect your space or personal possessions. If this fails and SR continues to take your things, ask mom to reconsider a door lock for you or having a parent look at SR’s bags when she leaves to be sure she hasn’t taken anything that doesn’t belong to her.
While you are talking with your mom, bring up how hard it is to bring SR every time you want to go with your friends. Would the right thing be to include her every so often? Sure. Should you feel obligated and forced every time? No.
Imitation is the best form of flattery. SR wears your clothes and your makeup because she thinks you are cool and she wants to be like you. Try being nice to her instead of only seeing her as annoying. My guess is you overuse the word “annoying” around her. She might not be perfect, but she is family.
The only way to make things better to have good communication, between you and your parents, between your parents and SR and between you and SR. She needs to know the boundaries, know the rules and honor your space. You need to make sure you aren’t falsely accusing her, give her a fair chance and recognize that your home is her home as well.
Kelly Richardson, a Folsom therapist, works with adolescents.