Carolyn Hax: Gifted teen sees sister’s dating as ‘threat to her music’

Adapted from an online discussion.

Dear Carolyn: I have two daughters. “A” is 16, a junior in high school. “B” is 15, a freshman. B showed a gift for music at a young age. We encouraged her gift, and she works incredibly hard. When B was in junior high, she outgrew the resources we had in our town. B was accepted into a performing arts high school on partial scholarship, but this required a move to a new city. My husband and I got approval to work remotely from the new city, A is attending the public high school, B is at the performing arts school. B is absolutely thriving at her new school.

At a concert, A met a boy in B’s section and they started dating. B has the kind of focus and intensity that a lot of gifted people have, which makes them really wonderful at their gift but not always able to see the big picture. B sees this relationship as a threat to her music and wants A to break up with him and date somebody at her own school. A refuses. A and B are now engaging in verbal barbs constantly, and it’s getting very difficult to live with. My husband just ignores them and says they’re “doing teenage stuff.” I think this is way beyond normal teenage arguments and there are some very hurt feelings. I want to talk to the girls separately and together about this. My husband refuses to, but also won’t stop me if I try. Do I talk to them, or just let it play out?

Tell us: What’s your favorite Carolyn Hax column about becoming an adult?

Parent: Firmly to B: “You do not get to tell other people who they can date. Not your sibling, not anybody. You don’t have to like it, but you don’t get to decide.”

Nip the bud of this egocentric thinking immediately. B already feels the power of moving an entire family to serve her interests. This happens sometimes, and can be for good reasons, but it still introduces an urgent need for balance when the opportunities for it arise organically, lest your household fall under the tyranny of her “gift.” This is one of those opportunities. Tell the tail it does not wag this dog.

To A, the only talking to is, “I have made it clear to B this is not her business, and my advice for you now — and my request — is not to engage when she oversteps into your business.” And: “Stay out of hers, too. No payback.” (Full accounting for adolescent tastes.)

· You reeeeaaaaallllly need to take a step back and evaluate how you treat and view your kids in general. You have allowed one daughter’s needs to determine a whole lot of choices about what your entire family does — which, given her gifts, isn’t inherently a bad thing, but which does mean you need to make sure you’re showing your other child you value her as well. Instead, you’re bending over backward to justify your younger daughter’s incredibly inappropriate response to this situation by framing it as just a part of her giftedness. It sounds as though your older daughter has gone along with all this without complaint. If you want her to spend time with you willingly 10 or so years down the road, you need to view her as someone equally as important as your musician.