First, let me say this about them: they are very generous, friendly people, and I do care for them...
There are many things they do that irritate me. I should explain that they are very different from me--they are devout Baptists, they live in the suburbs of Knoxville, Tennessee, and they are pretty simple people. "Benighted" is an accurate way to describe them--they don't know much about the way the world works. They don't read (except for the Bible and devotional books). Most of them have never traveled out of the South. So that's what we're dealing with here. (FYI, my husband managed to turn out entirely different from the rest of the family.)
First: my sister-in-law and her husband are 37 years old and have no money saved for their childrens' college. It's not as if they don't make money. They just spend, spend, spend--especially on Christmas and birthday presents for the children (one is 7, the other is 11). They indulge their children too much, and in doing so, are putting their future in great jeopardy. My sister-in-law can't use credit cards anymore because she got into enormous debt a few years ago. They can't even afford to pay the property taxes on their house--my mother-in-law and father-in-law give them the money to pay the taxes. What really gets me is that these people claim to be Christians, but they are totally irresponsible with money. They rely on material things for spiritual fulfillment, but they would tell you that they rely on God. I don't think they really understand that they live in hypocrisy because they're not perceptive enough to see it. They mean well. But they are still irresponsible.
Second: My little niece (the 7-year-old child) is not encouraged to read and do well in school. But her older brother is!!! It's as if she's being groomed to just get married at 19 and have children. You're a girl, no need for education! My niece really loves animals and says she wants to be a veterinarian. But if her parents don't instill any discipline in her, she'll end up like her mother--uneducated and totally dependent upon her husband to explain things to her. My husband and I don't go up to Knoxville very often because we just don't have time. I wish I could be there for my niece more often--to influence her a little, encourage her to read and learn about the world. The last time I was there, I told her, "If you want to be a veterinarian, you need to do well in your science classes, especially when you get into high school. You need to do well in biology and chemistry." I wonder if she'll remember what I told her. She certainly gets no help from her parents. And the women in their church tend to get married about 19 or 20, soon they're pregnant, and there's no time for education. So this is what she has to influence her.
Third: My mother-in-law collects Precious Moments figurines. She has like 6 display cabinets full of the stuff. She has probably spent close to $2,000 building her collection of this ugly, useless crap. This probably sounds kind of petty, and I think she should collect whatever she wants, but for people who don't have much money in the first place, it seems like a waste.
All right, that's enough for now.