Reddit user, idk_a_name (OP) describes an AITA predicament involving his son and daughter and how he’s treated them after they graduated high school.
OP gives his son a food stipend for college of $16,000, distributed over the course of the four years. Now, OP’s 19-year-old daughter, Jen, has decided to put college on the back-burner and wants the cash delivered as $500 a month instead. Jen also wants to live with her new fiancee who is 23 and will support them. They’ve been together for one year, but OP says they don’t even see each other often, besides a few times on the weekends.
OP wonders if he would be the asshole for not giving the daughter the $16K to support her living with fiancee. His rationale: the money is to be used for college (at any time in her life) or as a security blanket, should she move back home if the planned marriage fails. Is he the asshole for not giving her the $16K?
Let’s divvy this problem out into a handful of questions:
1. Should parents give equally to their children?
Yes. Parents are obligated to treat their kids equally. It is important for parents to be aware of any disparities between the gifts they give their kids and to rectify them before feelings get hurt. If your kids are 24 and 20, obviously, you can get away with a temporary disparity, but you want to resolve it in a reasonable amount of time.
This is a common pitfall. Parents are frequently closer to one child over another, most frequently women are closer to their daughters, and fathers closer to their sons. A 2017 study conducted by the Social Science Research Network concluded:
[our evidence shows] parents exhibit systematic biases when forced to choose between spending on sons and daughters. Mothers consistently favored daughters, whereas fathers consistently favored sons. For example, parents were more likely to choose a real prize and give a real U.S. Treasury bond to the child of the same sex as themselves. [These biases] appear to be driven by parents identifying more strongly with children of the same sex as the parent.
2. Does a parent have the right to assign a condition to a gift?
Yes. A parent's duty is not to enable their kids to do whatever they want, but to sculpt them into happy people. The Child Development institute says:
The proper role of the parent is to provide encouragement, support, and access to activities that enable the child to master key developmental tasks.
Encouraging your kids to go to college by gifting part of the expense fits the bill. That said, especially given today's educational climate, father shouldn't be too rigid on just what he means by college. For instance, daughter may opt for a certification of some kind, or for a coding boot camp. Bottom line: the money is meant to be used toward helping his daughter's future. OP is well within his rights and even fulfilling his duty by imposing this condition.
3. Should a parent give their kids gifts that could be toxic?
As a boy, I remember the amount of sheer joy I felt getting a Nintendo 64. I remember my heart almost coming out of my chest when the guy pulled it off the shelf at the store.
Video games are a great example of a gift that’s great in moderation, but can become toxic. It’s part of the parental duty to make sure that doesn’t happen. For instance, many parents encourage their kids to make video games a social activity, or set some time limits to make sure kids have a diverse set of experiences.
Since his daughter is outside of his home and exerting her own independence, OP would only be enabling her to be jobless. In this case, it seems like a stretch to call the money “toxic,” but it certainly will keep daughter stuck in neutral.
Hence, the move that’s in the best interest of his daughter is to withhold the cash, incentivizing her to head down the better path.
4. Does he love his son more than his daughter?
In the post, OP says:
[My daughter] got really mad that I rejected her and accused me of favoring her brother. To her credit, her brother and I have a closer relationship (he’s always been the studious rule-follower while Vanessa was more the troublemaker), but I do love my children equally.
While some commenters pointed to unconscious bias and this study, it seems unfair to attack OP for this, especially because his standard is transparently equal. Son used the money for college and now so too must the daughter.
If the money given to son was used for something atypical, we may be able to pin this as a rationalization of an unconscious bias, but since parents wanting their kids to go to college is a very common value, that doesn’t hold much water.
Chalking this particular action up to bias seems unfair. OP is offering his children equal deals incentivizing common parentally-desired values.
5. Is the quality of his daughter’s relationship relevant?
The final factor here is that his daughter’s relationship is very new, and both OP’s daughter and her partner are very young to be engaged. Even if their relationship was considerably longer, they would still both be very young to be married.
Because they are so young and the relationship so new (and largely online), it only strengthens OP’s need to hold onto the cash. This could easily erupt in flames.
Conclusion: NAH (No assholes here)
It’s hard to find any fault with OP. He painted a full picture and even gave several details that could be used against him, such as mentioning he is closer to his son. Despite this, his intentions and actions speak only to a sincere desire to help his daughter take a step in the right direction.
Likewise, daughter isn’t an asshole just for asking dad and even for accusing him of favoring her brother. It’s an easy accusation to make, but it’s not a fair one. If she block him from her life or took his rejection to the next level, then perhaps, but I see no reason to deem her TA.
Wife in the situation chose to be hands-off and so there’s really no reason to call anyone here an asshole. This is a normal conflict. Daughter is due a thorough explanation so she can understand the situation and not resent her father. NAH.