A teenager’s dilemma

There once was a family, U, a relatively respected and wealthy family, who lived in a nice house at the end of the street in a friendly and sociable neighbourhood. This family had all the usual tensions between individual members, and sometimes one person would decide what happened, and sometimes it would be someone else, but usually they would agree and go along with whatever was best for everyone.

The neighbourhood was prosperous and well-regarded – indeed, many new families wanted to be able to join it and there was a bit of a queue to get in. It was easy to see why – it was cheap and easy to get around, children would work and study together happily, people were always popping in and out of each other’s houses, admiring their individual styles, doing things for each other, and often there would be opportunities in someone’s house to do something if there wasn’t in one’s own. They all wanted the best for each other, and they all put some money into a kitty to make sure that everyone in the neighbourhood had the same opportunities, and that together they could be safer, healthier and happier. Someone from each household was part of the committee to agree on how the kitty would be spent so it was fair for everyone.

One of the members of the U family, S, really liked being part of this community, and had been thinking for a long time about moving out of the family home and getting a place of her own just next door, still being very much part of the community, but in her own capacity. She didn’t see eye to eye with the rest of her family on a lot of things, and had to do a lot of compromising whenever household decisions were made. S thought that now was as good a time as any to ask about moving out, and the family agreed to have a good lengthy discussion about it. S had a part-time job of her own, and thought she’d be able to survive by herself on her wages and whatever she could take with her from the family home. The rest of the U family tried to persuade S to stay, and suggested how some changes might be made to keep everyone happy, including giving S a little more independence and a bigger voice so she could have a better understanding of how things were run and some more autonomy. Although a part of S still really wanted to leave, she decided that on balance it was probably best to stay in the big family home with a decent income and protection. It was a tough choice, but at the time, it was the right thing for her to do.

However, less than two years later, on a whim the family decided to leave the neighbourhood. Some members of the family felt that they didn’t like their neighbours any more, and didn’t understand how the community benefitted them. These family members persuaded some of the others that they could save their kitty money and spend it on themselves. Other family members, who were unhappy about how the household was being run, thought leaving might be a good idea just to be able to have a change, not really knowing how it might actually affect them. While a lot of the family, especially S, really liked their friends and neighbours and wanted to stay as part of the community, a decision was made, and the U family set about moving, although it still hadn’t actually decided where it was going, how it was getting there, or what to do once it arrived.

After the decision to move, M took over as head of the household, and her friends suddenly had a big say on what was happening. They had a party and at the party decided that they should start asking everyone that wasn’t a strict member of the family to leave the house. They declared that even the visitors who had given their whole lives to the household would also be asked to leave eventually, taking their families and livelihoods with them. They also said the kitty money that they were going to save in leaving the community now wouldn’t be spent on everyone in the household, and they turned their backs on their earlier promises.

S was appalled at this behaviour. She loved her friends and their families, she knew how much they contributed to her family (now and throughout history), and how much worse her life would be if they left. She was angry at the lies and selfishness shown by M and her friends. S did what she could to explore options to get her family to stay, and when that failed, started researching how to stay in the community on her own, even if her family left. However, even that was proving tricky, as now the community believed she was just as bad as the rest of her family in asking all of their neighbours to leave.

S thought to herself: when she agreed to stay with the family two years ago, she didn’t sign up to being dragged out of the neighbourhood against her will, so naturally she once again started to wonder whether she could ask about formally leaving her family. She clearly disagreed with them on a lot of things, and although she still only had a part-time job and basic skills in running her own household, she believed she’d be much happier tightening her purse strings and living alone as close to the community as possible, rather than staying with the family she didn’t like without her friends around to support her. She wanted to start and care for her own family, and perhaps, one day, be allowed back into the community of friends that she didn’t want to leave. But S didn’t know what to do. She couldn’t reach out to her friends as M had turned them all against her, she couldn’t reach out to M as she wouldn’t listen, and no one seemed to want to take her seriously. Maybe she’d have to force another discussion.

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