She wants chance to ditch the in-laws

Dear Amy: I am a happily married mother of two children, 12 and 16. My parents are no longer living.

My problem is that we spend every summer and Christmas holiday with my husband's parents, sister, brother and their children.

I love them, but I would like to spend some vacation time with just my husband and kids.

My son will be going to college soon, and I would like to take a trip or two with my immediate family before he leaves the nest.

My in-laws are wonderful and offer to fly us out if we can't manage to afford it, but I would still like to have a small family holiday sometime.

Am I being selfish or unreasonable?

Amy says: Somehow along the way, your desires must have been put on a shelf (along with last year's wrapping paper, perhaps?).

You aren't being selfish or unreasonable.

The real question is why you think you might be.

Someone other than you seems to be in charge of your vacations. You should figure out why this is the case and come up with a strategy for what you should do to change the dynamic.

The first step is to stop wondering if you deserve to have the immediate-family holiday you want to have. Then you can state your case with conviction to your husband and children and make a plan.

Sisterly love

Dear Amy: I am 21, and my sister is 16.

Our parents were alcohol and drug abusers and were violent with each other.

I moved into my grandmother's house at 11 and have lived with her since.

When my sister was 9, my mom also dumped her at my grandma's house so my mom could live on the street.

My dad is too irresponsible to take care of us.

The people we live with constantly throw in our faces the fact that they have helped us.

My sister rarely attends school and cares only about boys because she says it's the only thing she's good at.

It breaks my heart to hear my sister say she doesn't care about anything because she doesn't have any mom or dad to say, "I'm proud of you."

She doesn't care about the consequences of her actions. She doesn't care about her future.

She went through a lot more than I did -- my mother watched and laughed as my sister was being beaten by a man they lived with.

I'm all she's got, but I feel I'm not enough.

I never finished high school and am in debt. I screwed up and regret it.

She's my life, and I'm scared she'll end up in my shoes, if not worse.

I read your column every day and would like your advice.

Amy says: Your sister is lucky to have you in her life. I appreciate your compassion and concern for her.

You both need and deserve to have some professional mentoring, and the school your sister rarely attends could be a good place to look for it.

The school counselor should have a list of local resources. The local YWCA or Department of Family and Children's Services may offer low- or no-cost family counseling. Urge your sister to go with you.

You have both been served a raw deal.

The better your choices and the more successful your life is, the stronger you will be -- and then you will be able to help your sister. You have the makings of a hero.

Send questions via e-mail to Amy Dickinson at askamy@tribune.com.

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