First some background information: I am a young woman in my early 20s, I lived alone since I was 18 relatively far away from home. I graduated top of my class and I am studying and working in IT. (side note: I am not financially dependent on my family) My cousin is 14 (almost 15) and he visits a higher school where he struggles to keep passing. No one in his close family graduated Germany’s most difficult school (in Germany there are 3 levels of difficulty to choose from), but they want him to study hard to make it. I am emotionally close to him and his grandmother, but no one else in his family.
Now the story starts!
My first cousin once removed and I used to play together when we were younger and I still lived with my parents. His family used to visit mine around 2-3 times a year. I was always like a bigger sister to him.
Naturally when I moved out he still wanted to meet me. His mother allowed it, and he also was allowed to go by train by himself. It is around a 5h trip. He visited around once a year. He is really mature for his age and I was able to take him around the city show him places, go to fancy restaurants and play videogames in the evening. He could also eat chocolate and chips and drink Coke as much as he wanted. (he is doing different kind of sports 4 times a week and is a naturally skinny child; he also eats healthy the rest of the time).
We also discuss his future plans, I help him with bigger school projects (also via Skype when he is at home) because his parents can't. I am always there for him if he needs academic, emotional or any other kind of advice.
Now that he got older and went through puberty his mother keeps saying that he wants to be like me when he grows up and that I am being a horrible influence. She blames ALL the negative side effects of puberty on me, even though he sees me 2 days a year and her 363 days a year. We do message each other every other month. Also she doesn't forbid him to visit me but she talks bad about those visits in front of my family. I was always the black sheep in my family because I chose a "male career path" but I never cared what they thought.
Sadly, now I care. Because I care for my cousin. I personally believe that having a weekend of fun once a year can't possibly harm him, and that his mother is just looking for someone to blame instead of blaming her way of raising him. At home he isn't allowed to drink or eat any sweets. He is only allowed to see friends if he passed all his classes with good grades. So that hasn't happenend in a long time. Video games are completly forbidden.
Now his father games a lot, he has been unemployed for a few years and played games almost the whole day. He even brags about doing so on social media. His father smokes a pack a day and recently my cousin told me he sometimes steals a few cigarettes and smokes them. I explained how harmful they are and that I wouldn't want him to smoke so he stopped. (At least that is what he told me)
I have the feeling his bad habits come from his dad or are just naturally because of his age.
Am I being a bad influence?
Should I restrict my contact to him?
Can I help him or his mother in any way? If yes, how?
Even if I am being a "bad influence", is it harmful for his
I do not have any children on my own but I am a godmother of one (2) and have 1 niece (7) and 3 nephews (1,4 and 9) which I spend lots of time with. I know it is not the same as raising the kids but being in a parenting like role is nothing new to me.
tl;dr: Is gaming and eating junk food with an almost 15 year old once a year harming his development?
Thanks Francine DeGrood Taylor and other great answers, I did find a way of dealing with this situation. I did feel confident that I am a good part of his life after your answers and I just asked him first if he feels that way. What he replied was really close to what the accepted answer also described. I was overwhelmed by the maturity of our talk and the deepness of his thoughts. However I also found a time to talk to his mother in person and she did promise me to stop spreading any kind of information about me. Here a big thanks to Shauna! It really helped me seeing the role of a mother who wants the best for her child even though his mother was bad at showing so.
Even though the whole thing wasn't "only" a big understanding and there are still some kind of hard feelings on both sides, we (his mother and I) now do communicate more and I try to do some more things she also approves of.
To answer my own questions:
- Am I being a bad influence?
No, I am not. Even his mother agreed after our talk.
- Should I restrict my contact to him?
No, I actually do have more contact with him and his family now.
- Can I help him or his mother in any way? If yes, how? Even if I am being a "bad influence", is it harmful for his development?
Yes, I am now a part of his weekly school routine as a compromise, I get to continue with "spoiling" him, but also help him catch up with his school (even though I still think he shouldn't be there, I understand now that it is not my decision to make, so I am making the best out of it).
No it is not harmful to his development, see the accepted answer.