It goes without saying that it’s every parent’s goal to make sure their children will, when the time comes, be able to handle life without them — and, in families with multiple siblings, it often comes with the hope that they also care for one another (along with any other responsibilities they have). But, as a mother in reddit’s famed-AITA subreddit found out, there are limits to what you can ask of your children and their futures — and that word “ask” is pretty essential in really allowing them to consent to step up into more defined caregiver roles later in their lives.
Introducing her three children, two who are newly adults at 18 and 20 (Jen and Jay, who are neurotypical) and Jack, a 11-year-old who has both ADHD and is on the autism spectrum, the original poster said that she got into an argument with her older children after they sat her down to express issues with the assumption they would eventually inherit full-time care of their brother who, according to the OP, will never be able to live entirely independently.
“We’ve made sure that both of our neurotypical kids know that one day they are going to need to start taking care of Jack when the time comes when I and their dad cannot,” the poster wrote. “Jen has always been neutral, but Jay has always been incredibly obstinate and rude about it. I’ve put it down to being young and having his life ahead of him but the year he went to college he made it very clear to me that he will not be taking care of Jake in any way and since then I’ve been arguing about it with him.”
When her older children tried to address the caregiving issue — with her oldest son even “stepping in” to help her older daughter express her discomfort — she said they got into a screaming match over the matter.
“He said, very rudely, that neither of them will ever be taking care of Jake. He told me that they were not raised to be ‘caretakers’ and that ‘it’s absurd to expect their children to figure out this future issue for them,'” the poster wrote. “…I truly believe this kind of mindset is selfish and evil. Jake is their brother, their flesh and blood, and he did not ask to need to be taken care of. For them to just abandon him like this is absurd. I’m not telling them to put their lives on hold and be his caretaker, only that when the time comes that we can’t take care of him they will need to.”
She says she hasn’t spoken with her older son since.
While this OP’s feelings of worry for the future and stability of her youngest is understandable, the folks in the subreddit were to quick to agree with her children and call her out on refusing to consider that they might lead lives that wouldn’t make them immediate caregiving candidates or emphasize any kind of choices they may want to make independently.
The consensus: The older siblings aren’t — by nature of existing in the same family — their brother’s keepers.
“Jack isn’t their kid, and it’s horrible of you to take their futures away from them like this,” one commenter wrote.
Another noted that defaulting to her other children as the long-term care solution, rather than trying to fully consider what will be best for all parties, feels deeply unfair to everyone: “… your adult children are not your long term care solution. They will get married, have kids, move for jobs, etc. they will have their own lives. And the fact that you think it’s evil of them to not want to sacrifice their lives and ability to have their own experiences because of your failings is irreconcilably awful on your part.”
Others noted that there are so many ways to more openly and less aggressively involve her adult children in family care decisions without forcing roles on them that might be detrimental to everyone’s well-being and further relationships.
“My husband (and I) will likely be the caretaker of his brother when his parents are no longer able,” one poster shared. “Why? Because they asked and he said yes. There was no demand, no obligation, and if we chose not to, then that was our right. OP, ya done messed up, and might not have relationships with your older kids anymore.”
And another commenter reminded the OP that she should be more proactively working with Jack and qualified experts to find the best longterm care situation that will allow him to thrive.
“OP really needs to start looking into supported accommodation. The waiting lists can be extremely long, but I’ve known a lot of people who’ve lived in supported living and they’ve really valued the independence that it offers. When I was severely disabled, I was looking to move into it myself,” said commenter r/octohussy. “Expecting Jack’s siblings to take over his care is extremely unreasonable, and I doubt Jack himself would want to constrain them. Research the options available outside of sibling care and discuss with Jack what he feels comfortable with, his opinion is the one that matters most!”