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It Hurts to Tell My Child Her Uncle Is Homeless

My Little Brother

We adopted my younger brother, Jay, when he was 9 months old. That was about 5 1/2 years after I was adopted (at 9 weeks old).

He was always a sensitive boy. He cried if you just looked at him wrong. Some of my cousins called him "Crybaby". I'd immediately defend him, reminding them (for the 100th time) that his birth mom had done drugs while pregnant and his foster parents had been physically abusive to him.

Jay and I got along really well. We never had any epic fights, and the occasional arguments we did have were inconsequential and short-lived.

I always thought of him as my "soul sibling". Kind of like a soul mate, but instead a person with whom you were meant to be a sibling.

He was always one of the sweetest guys you'd ever know.

Until he started doing drugs.

The Event

Jay started smoking pot at age 17. He never liked school, so he dropped out his senior year.

Until 4 years ago, he cycled in and out of my parents' house, as girls he moved in with (and even moved to other cities and states for) would come and go.

Somewhere along the line, he became addicted to meth.

In August of 2018, he was living with my parents. One night he came home high on meth, and threatened to kill us all and burn their house down. A friend who heard all of this called the police.

He was arrested, and my parents got a protective order that kept him 500 feet from their house for two years. They didn't want a restraining order because they still wanted to maintain a relationship with him.

Keeping the Secret

Our daughter was five years old at the time, and way too young to know about any of this. I've made sure nobody in the family talks about his drug use, habit of stealing, or homelessness in front of B.

A few months ago, she randomly asked if Uncle Jay does drugs, and I was honest with her.

The Secret Comes Out

Yesterday we went to my mom's for lunch, and just as we were pulling up, Jay rang the doorbell. We never know if he's going to be drunk or high (and therefore angry) or sober and sweet, so sometimes my mom doesn't answer the door for him.

I decided that he wouldn't make trouble in front of B (and if he started to we would leave immediately), so she let him in and we all had lunch together.

During lunch—either not thinking about what he was saying or not knowing that B didn't know he was homeless—he started proudly telling us that he's building himself a cottage in the woods. Too young to have much of a filter, B remarked, "In the woods?"

Then he explained how he was using the surrounding trees, such as tying them together to make a walkway. B asked a couple of questions about the supplies he was using. After not eating more than a bite or two, she said she was full and went to the living room.

I walked up to her and whispered, "I'll answer any question you have on the way home." She asked, "Is Uncle Jay really going to live in the woods?" I replied, "Yes, and I'll tell you anything you want to know later."

Within a few minutes we ended up in the bathroom together, and she started asking questions, such as why he is living in the woods.

I told her that he's a real homeless person. I kept it pretty simple and just said that he doesn't like living with people because he doesn't like following rules or cleaning up after himself, and that although there are places that can help him get off drugs, he doesn't want to follow their rules.

Ready or Not

There are several subjects that T and I have debated when is an appropriate time to tell B about them, including my brother's homelessness.

But like some other topics, someone said something in front of her that caused the conversation to happen earlier than we had anticipated.

What about You?

Has someone caused you to have a conversation with your child sooner than you had planned?


Today I will remember...

everything happens for a reason, so I believe ultimately this conversation was all in God's perfect timing.


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