As a child, I was raised in a pretty straitlaced, “white picket fence” type of family. My aunt “Carolyn” married into the family and became a mentor of sorts to me. She lived a far more liberal lifestyle, and I admired her carefree willingness to build her own life. We were fairly close when I was a teenager. As I’ve grown up, though, I’ve come to feel hurt when she speaks negatively about my family and upbringing. Yes, there were drawbacks, but we also had a lot of love and stability. She has started criticizing my choices—comments like, “You got into business school? I thought I’d been able to talk you out of that!” I think she means it as a joke, but there’s an undercurrent of tension. I know she disagrees with the way my parents raised me, and she believes they stunted my free-spirited personality.
At this point, I’m over it. I know she would have made different choices, but she’s not my mom, and I don’t enjoy spending time with someone who doesn’t respect my parents. I’ve tried to bring this up, but she claims I’ve been “brainwashed” into not questioning my upbringing. I haven’t! I just respect and love my parents for who they are, and I don’t feel the need to criticize 20-year-old choices. Who’s right? Is it possible to grow out of a mentor? How can I get my aunt to stop doing this if she actually wants a relationship with me?
—Aunt With an Agenda