Should I Let My Ex-Convict Brother Come Over for Christmas?
Dear Amy: My youngest brother spent about six years in prison for kidnapping and sexually assaulting a young woman he met at a bar. While he was in prison, we exchanged a few letters, but I did not go to visit him. He expressed remorse for what happened, and was receiving counseling in prison.
He was released from prison earlier this year, and now lives about a 30-minute drive from where I live, so I’ve met him a few times for coffee or lunch. He now attends group therapy, and is in good standing with his probation officer.
The last time I saw him, he asked if he could spend the holidays with me and my family. I was unprepared to answer, and told him I would talk to my husband about it, knowing that my husband would probably have a problem with it. I am incredibly uncomfortable with my brother being in my house with my three teenage kids present – two of which are girls.
I don’t fully trust him yet, and while I believe in forgiveness, I am scared at the consequences of having him in my house. And I also don’t want to be nervous the entire time he’s in our house, if we do invite him over, which would add more stress to the holidays. My husband said he will support whatever decision I make, but I’m not sure what to do.
What do you think? – Worried Sister
Dear Worried Sister: Your brother might believe that he is ready to enter your family circle in this way, but you are not ready, and your instincts are telling you that this is not a good idea – and that’s the only thing that matters.
You have been willing to have your brother in your life in a protected, tangential way, and I believe that both your motivations and your instincts are solid. Pay attention to your instincts! Given the serious and violent nature of his crime, and the fact that he is a sex offender, you should not expose your children to him unless and until you feel completely ready (and you might never feel ready).
I assume that contact with family members could help him reintegrate into life in a way that would be positive for him, but all decisions concerning contact should be yours – not his – to make. Don’t let the awkwardness of saying “no” override your parental instincts. Tell him, “I’m not ready to have you with us. We’ll just have to see how things go for you over time, and my husband and I will continue to think about it.”
It would be good if both you and your husband could bring him a gift and spend a little time with him during the holiday season.
In the tradition of the great personal advice columnists, Chicago Tribune’s Amy Dickinson is a plainspoken straight shooter who relates to readers of all ages. She answers personal questions by addressing issues from both her head and her heart. A solid reporter, Dickinson researches her topics to provide readers with informed opinions and answers.