Perspective | Carolyn Hax: In Charge Of Teen Sister After Mom ‘ran Away From Home'

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Dear Carolyn: It looks like my mom ran away from home. She asked me to stay with my 16-year-old sister for a few weeks so she could visit her friend in another state. I knew she hadn’t taken any vacation this year, and she’s a grown woman and deserved a break.

That was over four weeks ago and she isn’t ready to come back yet. The only response to my texts and voice mails is that she needs a long break and I can drop my sister off at our dad’s house if I’m sick of her. My dad sees my sister only if my mom nags him into it so there’s no way I’m doing that to her.

I don’t know what to tell my sister or how my mom is taking this long of a break from her job. I’m scared to call there and ask and embarrassed to try our other relatives. This is not like my mom at all. I tried calling the last number I have for her friend, but it’s not her number anymore.

When my sister asks when our mom is coming back, I’ve been lying, but she’s really upset that our mom isn’t talking directly to her. I love my sister but the money my mom left to help cover expenses has run out and I’d really like to go back to my own apartment. What should I do?

— The Sister

The Sister: Oh my. Call your dad — not to send your sister there, but to get him involved legally and financially, especially if you aren’t 21 yourself. There are laws about child abandonment. “This is not like your mom at all,” until it is. Call other relatives, too, who might be helpful — you have nothing to be embarrassed about. Quite the opposite: You’ve been responsible and brave.

And you need to be honest with your sister, since she already knows something is up.

If no adult relatives agree to help, then call Childhelp, 800-4-A-CHILD. This is not child services, though that might be your next call; it’s a nonprofit that can offer you responsible ongoing guidance in a less frightening way.

Carolyn: I’m 24, so okay there. I guess I have to talk to our dad. I’m dreading it since we don’t talk much. It’s a long story. I really didn’t want his wife involved because she’s not a nice person, but I guess I have no choice. Thanks for answering.

— The Sister again

The Sister again: You’re welcome. If the dad option is truly awful, and if you have a sympathetic other relative, then maybe start there just for the emotional reinforcements. Reach for the best person you know.

Readers’ thoughts:

· Please call your sister’s school and talk to her counselor (if they have one). They are mandatory reporters but, as a teacher, I actually think it would be best to get CPS involved because even if mom comes back soon, she’s proved she’s got some stuff going on that’s keeping her from parenting well and your family could use some support. Kudos to you for stepping up.

· Okay this is a rough thing, but are you sure it is your mom texting back? If not, please text something only she would understand, and if you get a problematic response, then call law enforcement.

· What your sister needs to know above all is that while you don’t know when mom is coming home, SHE, your sister, will be okay. You will help her figure it out.

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