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Not Enough Food For You!

A couple of years ago, when I was seven-months pregnant with my son, my husband and I had made plans to visit my parents for the weekend, a 2-hour drive from the city where we and one of my sisters lived.  We made the arrangements the weekend before, and planned to arrive on Friday to have dinner together.  On Thursday, Dad called and told us that my sister wanted to prepare dinner for our parents with her boyfriend.  Because “there would not be enough food”, he asked us to show up a few hours later.  I automatically agreed, although I thought that it was quite strange and indeed rude to make such a request. (By the way, my father is a dentist and makes a very decent income.) Meanwhile, earlier in the day I had sent an email to my sister inviting her to the dinner that we were planning to prepare on Sunday for Dad’s birthday.

On Friday afternoon, we received an email from my sister saying that her boyfriend had found some more venison steaks in a friend’s freezer, so we were welcome to come after all.  We might have to divide up the mushrooms they had gathered into small portions, but oh well!  See, the trick of the dinner was that her boyfriend is a hunter and had some frozen elk from the previous season, but not enough for six people.  And, apparently, he did not have enough mushrooms, either.  If I were in that position, I would head to a nearby supermarket and get some more food rather than uninvite someone.  Maybe it wouldn’t be elk, but there are groceries stores in our area that sell venison and buffalo.  Just some extra beef would be fine.  Or, they could give smaller portions of elk to everyone. We actually had a rabbit and some frozen meat in our freezer from our hunter cousins downstate that we could have brought to make up the difference. We didn’t offer, only joked about it, as remedying the lack of food situation did not seem to be the priority.

Anyway, we had already changed our plans to arrive later, and to be honest, were hurt by the whole situation, so we declined her offer.  We showed up at 8, as requested.  The kitchen was immaculate, which is unusual as it usually takes three days to get dishes cleaned up in my parents’ house.  All traces of the dinner were gone, which was a little suspicious to me.  My father immediately asked what our other plans were, which I also found suspicious for some reason.  When I went to get a glass of water at the sink, I saw a half-eaten pistachio cake, my dad’s favorite, with “Happy Birthday” on it.  So, it wasn’t just dinner, it was a birthday dinner, and we were excluded.  I gently confronted my mother about the rationale of uninviting family to a family meal, especially one of significance.  She protested in a plaintive voice, “But they wanted to cook elk for us!”, or something like that.

The next morning, my husband casually asked my father whose idea it was to ask us not to come. He suspected it was my sister and my father just did the dirty work. (My sister has a bit of a history of these, what would you call them, possessive and jealous behaviors.)  My father, not used to being challenged or questioned on his behavior by his children, or son-in-law as it were, apparently blushed three shades of red (at least he had the grace to do so) and stammered that it was him.  My sister got off the hook because, after all, she did end up inviting us and we were the ones who turned her down, right?  This same sister took our father away to golf on Father’s Day, while the rest of us, his three children, our mother, and his son-in-law waited at home for hours for them to return.  Why that day?  Why not give a golf outing as a gift, and go on another day?  But that’s a different story.  By the way, this same sister is a psychiatrist.  It was all so matter-of-fact that to this day I wonder if I am overreacting to think the whole thing was inappropriate and insensitive.  Maybe it is appropriate, when you don’t have enough of an “exotic” food, to ask people to delay their arrival so you won’t need to serve them.   0909-10

{ 46 comments }

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  • QueenofAllThings September 14, 2010, 6:13 am

    Ah, family.
    Two parts to this story – the golf game is, in my mind, not an etiquette breach. Father’s Day is ALL day and 1/2 the night, and there is nothing wrong with treating Dad to golf if that’s what he likes to do. Of course, if the rest of you are golfers as well, it would have been nice to include you, but if not – use the time to prepare him a nice meal and make that your gift to him.
    As to the dinner, though – that’s just plain odd (and rude). Your sister knew you and DH were coming over, and plans a birthday dinner specifically to exclude you?? She couldn’t have planned her forage dinner for another night, when you weren’t around? And frankly, not to throw your folks under the bus, but what were they thinking? Once a parent, always a parent (even if your children are grown).

  • josie September 14, 2010, 6:29 am

    She knew exactly what she was doing. “Not enough food” is not even a good excuse….I cannot imagine only preparing exactly enough food for 4 people and not being able to add to it to accomodate 6 people. She wanted a private party with your dad and she got it.

  • Kriss September 14, 2010, 7:11 am

    “It was all so matter-of-fact that to this day I wonder if I am overreacting to think the whole thing was inappropriate and insensitive. ”

    My family makes me feel like this sometimes. I feel like I’m going crazy!

  • Daisy September 14, 2010, 8:24 am

    Thumbs down to your sister, but the root of the problem was your parents. Your supper arrangements were with them. For them to “uninvite” you because they got a better offer from your sister was just plain rude, and the last minute evite from your sister doesn’t clear the slate.

  • DGS September 14, 2010, 9:12 am

    A) There’s a lot more to this story than meets the eye in my opinion – otherwise, the behavior seems very bizarre. I am willing to bet that there is a long history of bad blood between the sisters, and the parents (who perhaps, should have intervened much earlier) are very ineffectively attempting to placate both children and their families. If there is no backstory, then the sister’s behavior and the parents’ behavior was in fact, rude, but I suspect that there is significantly more to this than meets the eye.

    B) There’s nothing wrong with treating a parent to a favorite outing on Father’s Day, birthday, etc. – so the golf situation wasn’t rude.

    C) What is it with bringing up the father’s profession, the sister’s profession? Perhaps, I’m being overly sensitive here, being a psychologist and coming from/being married into a family of physicians, but what does someone’s profession and/or income have to do with anything? Is the OP jealous that she doesn’t have as much education/as much income? If not, then, here’s a thought – rudeness, poor family relationships and etiquette breaches transcend education, social status and professional occupation. I have known just as many rude college professors and attorneys and doctors and teachers as I have known nice, humble and appropriate ones. Bad manners are bad manners, regardless of what a person happens to do for a living.

  • lkb September 14, 2010, 9:33 am

    I agree that the situation was very odd, but perhaps the OP’s sister was thinking, “My sister is having dinner for Dad on Sunday.” (The original post said sis was invited but did not say whether or not she accepted.) I wonder if sis was not able to attend the Sunday dinner at OP’s and did this to at least have a celebration with Dad.
    The “no-food” excuse was bizarre, true, but I wonder if this was the extenuating circumstance.

  • livvy September 14, 2010, 9:35 am

    So, this sister also lives 2 hours away, and you had both coordinated to come on the same weekend?

    If that’s the case, I’d suggest you plan separate trips, as your sister obviously likes to be the star of the show, and have Daddy all to herself.

    I think the dinner uninvitation is exceptionally rude…as mentioned, additional meat/game could have been served…with everyone getting a smaller portion of Elk, and some additional meat or side dish to make up for it. (Theoretically, a “serving” of meat should only be 3-4 ounces anyway…not some gigantic 16 oz piece). Very rude too to jump the gun on birthday celebration portion of it, since you’d obviously planned to have a family celebration the next day. However, at least she did try to amend the situation, but inviting you later.

    I also think the golf game was rude….as she again monopolized your father to the exclusion of others, especially on a day where logically, you would all want to spend time with him. She certainly could have planned a more private Daddy-Daughter day for another weekend.

    Still, both could be attributed to cluelessness, rather than outright selfishness. Funny to me, this is another example I’ve heard of where the psychiatrist is totally clueless to his/her own issues. Seems to happen far too often to be coincidence!

  • summer September 14, 2010, 9:47 am

    Ok, I’m probably going to be the odd man out here. Sister invites dad over and has a birthday cake. Why is that a problem? My brothers and I all celebrate my dad’s birthday/father’s day independently of each other, for lots of reasons, none of them rude or sinister. I also get the “hunter” dinner because that’s coming into vogue recently—you can only eat what you have hunted or gathered, it’s a “Food Inc” and “Ominores Dilemma” thing that people are doing.

    So, as I read it, sister asks dad over for a “hunter’s dinner”, and quite possibly before she realizes sis is coming for Fri night–and who knows, maybe she asked dad over days or weeks ago (here dad should have said “no, because your sister will be here.”, but it’s not sis’s fault) Then, because it’s almost dad’s birthday (I read it that dad’s birthday is on Sundayand the whole family is invited) she goes ahead and gets him a cake (I always do that with dessert if someone is coming over and we realize it’s close to their birthday). Then when she realizes sis is coming over, they scrounge and find more food and invite sis, but now she doesn’t want to come.

    I think everyone has a touch of an etiquette problem here, but thinking OP’s way too sensitive.

  • Calliope September 14, 2010, 9:51 am

    It sounds like the parents were embarrassed. It was definitely rude to uninvite the OP and her husband, so embarrassment was appropriate. This just sounds like a strange situation. The golf outing doesn’t sound like a big deal to me, so I’d probably ignore that, and if this lapse in etiquette surrounding the birthday dinner is a one-time occurrence, I’d be inclined to let it go, too. The parents’ behavior makes it pretty clear that they knew they were in the wrong. But if things like this keep happening, I would definitely speak up.

  • Giles September 14, 2010, 9:54 am

    Wow. As someone who frequently has game in the house (my husband, father, daughter, and two of my brother-in-laws are hunters), I know spreading around meat at the end of the year can be difficult, but you don’t un-invite family (especially to a birthday dinner!), you serve smaller portions of the meat and compensate with things you can buy! What’s venison without new potatoes and some dandelion salad?

    The golf I disagree with a little more. If your father wanted to go golfing for Father’s Day (which is what I do when I can help it), that’s his choice. Unless, of course, the rest of you golf too and weren’t invited…

  • Cady September 14, 2010, 9:59 am

    Your sister is passive aggressive. I’m surprised you and your family haven’t figured that out by now.

  • AS September 14, 2010, 10:04 am

    I am sorry to say, but I think you parents should have stood up to your sister and made sure you and your husband don’t get uninvited. If your sis’ wanted to treat her parents with their hunted meat and mushrooms, that is good. But let her choose another day if they don’t have enough for all of you! I don’t think you were over reacting. I’d feel the same way too had I been in your boots. She might want to do stuffs for her father’s Birthday; bit given that she shares him with her siblings, she should realize that her siblings would want to treat him too. Unfortunately, you cannot just tell family members that you won’t meet them anymore if they offend you.

  • Danielle September 14, 2010, 10:34 am

    Here here, Daisy! The parents are really selfish and rude here. Regardless of who was cooking the meal, the fact that the event was at their home, made them responsible for hosting duties, so it was really rude to disinvite you. What they should have done when your sister offered to cook for JUST them, was tell her that it wouldn’t be appropriate to change plans after they had already been agreed on, but would love to have a private dinner with them at another time.

    I think Josie was right about your sister’s motivations, but your dad was the one who allowed her to get away with it. Next time, I wouldn’t show up at all.

  • ferretrick September 14, 2010, 11:16 am

    It does sound like your sister is a manipulator, but your parents are the one who actually committed the faux pas. Its a bit unclear whether the original plans included sister or not, but regardless, your parents had committed to plans with you, and then when they liked the plans your sister proposed better, they renigged. It sounds like your sister engineered the whole thing, because she’s a selfish person, but she didn’t put a gun to their heads and make them agree to disinvite you. They let themselves be manipulated into doing that, either because they actually are just that in love with fresh elk that they’ll slight their other children, or because they are clueless and easily manipulated.

    In any case, next time call your sister and your parents on their behavior (it sounds like you did try with your mother, but didn’t go far enough). You’ve made plans and they change last minute and do something with Sister? Tell them flatly, this is not acceptable. Don’t agree to come later on. Don’t agree to sit around and wait as you did with the golfing. Just say, I’m sorry you aren’t able to do what we agreed to, but we have other things to do. Thank you for having us. And leave.

  • The Big Gripe September 14, 2010, 11:28 am

    I agree with the others who said it’s definitely rude to “un-invite” someone, and not having enough food is just a good reason to go buy more. Clearly, money was not an issue as the father is a dentist and the sister a psychiatrist, both of which are professions that make decent incomes. Perhaps next year they will have a rendition of Alice in Wonderland, complete with an “un-birthday party.”

    On another note, however, I do pity the patients of this (sister) psychiatrist. If she can’t even care about the feelings of her own family, I doubt she has the maturity and compassion needed for her chosen vocation.

  • Michelle Pr September 14, 2010, 11:36 am

    I’ve been to my sister’s house (invited beforehand) and sat and watched her cook for herself and her husband then been told there wasn’t enough. People walk all over us because we let them. I never did it again, and the OP shouldn’t put up with that either.

  • Tina September 14, 2010, 11:45 am

    You aren’t overreacting. You had immediate family members exclude you to do things with other immediate family members, that’s rude. If they are having a birthday dinner for your father ALL of his children and their SO’s should be invited. If you don’t have enough of an “exotic food” for everyone you simply stick it in the freezer and prepare it a different night. Also, why would she decide that it’s okay to monopolize your father on Father’s day when he has other children? That’s not only insensitive it’s inconsiderate to have not checked with the rest of her siblings as to whether or not they had suggestions for including EVERYONE. I’m very sorry that she did that to you and it seems as a psychiatrist she should understand the value of communication.

  • jayne September 14, 2010, 11:53 am

    I agree with Big Gripe – it seems like sister is in the wrong profession, that’s for sure. But the parents are just as much to blame here – if it were me, unless they started treating me with more respect, I would be spending a lot less time around them. Nobody needs that stress – especially a young mother. Why people think it is okay to be rude to their “loved ones” is beyond me.

  • Allie September 14, 2010, 12:42 pm

    DGS, the point of saying the father’s and sister’s occupation was to point out that A) money was not an issue in terms of not being able to accomodate them and B) the sister being a psychiatrist, one might say “physician heal thyself”. Perhaps it’s wrong since, as you pointed out, rudeness and poor etiquette transcend socio-economic boundaries, but right or wrong, people still do expect better behaviour from supposedly well-educated and well-to-do people. Personally, I’ve been treated very kindly and cordially in quite humble surroundings and like crap in quite opulent surroundings. It makes no difference to me who someone is or how much they have – it’s how they treat you that counts.

  • kudeenee September 14, 2010, 1:38 pm

    Summer–it is a problem. OP made plans a week ahead of time and on Thursday–one day before they arrive, Dad calls and tells her that her sister is making food for parents, bf and herself and there isn’t enough for OP and her dh, so come later. This after OP had emailed her sister to invite her to a birthday dinner on Sunday.
    Sounds to me like sister did not want to be outdone, so hijacked the friday night dinner with a meal for just the four of them and then a cake to boot–to beat out her sister. I don’t think sister planned this ahead of time at all. Then all of a sudden enough food is found and OP and her dh can come–i would be sister knew that they wouldn’t.

    I also think the golf outing on fathers day while making others wait for them to return was rude. If they wanted to golf, go another weekend or arrange it around the time on FD that the rest of the family will be together. Again, a grab by sister to be in control and have the others wait. Personally, I wouldn’t have waited. I would have left my card/gift with my mother and gone home rather than sit around.

    I think both situations were very, very rude.

  • gramma dishes September 14, 2010, 2:13 pm

    I very respectfully disagree with those who do not think the Father’s Day golf outing was inappropriate. This father has (apparently) four children. All of them except one were waiting for him at home where they had gathered to celebrate this particular special day together.

    One of his daughters whisked him off, away from his other children and wife and kept him away for virtually the entire day so that she could have him all to herself. I think that’s rude and clearly an indication that she wants Dad to “love her best”.

    Shame on Dad for playing her game, but it sounds like this kind of situation comes up frequently and I predict it isn’t going to change as long as Dad and Mom permit it to happen. And they will do exactly that unless and until there are some consequences, such as that the other children don’t come.

    I’d recommend that the OP and other siblings plan things that do not include that particular sister. It would be a win-win situation. They would get to spend some quality time with Dad and Mom and the sister would be able to make her own arrangements with them to spend her time with them without inconveniencing everyone else.

    I personally think I would be very offended to be uninvited to an event just to appease someone else’s plans. Maybe I shouldn’t, but I’d have been very disappointed in my Dad if he had ever done anything like that.

  • Sharon September 14, 2010, 3:46 pm

    Cady is right, the sister is passive agressive. Dealing with a passive agressive person will make you so frustrated. (Remember “Marie” on “Everybody Loves Raymond”?)
    The sister in this story sounds like she is one of “those” lovely individuals the rest of us refer to as “JERKS”. They make every circumstance about them… you have plans with you mom and dad and you include her, SHE makes plans with mom and dad and excludes you. But, she does not just exclude you, she also makes sure you will have to change your original plans to accomodate her exclusion of you.
    The parents are enabling her, so this means that the OP will have to keep dealing with the “jerk”. For some strange reason, no one wants to upset a passive agressive, so everyone else’s feelings just get hurt… Being the “collateral damage” of these mental terrorists hurts.

  • Simone September 14, 2010, 4:30 pm

    I also want to second Ferretrick’s suggestion. Don’t come later, just express regret they weren’t able to complete your plans and leave, or don’t go. I have my suspicions that deep down the Dad (at least) enjoys this. Two women he cares about competing for his love and attention? Awesome. And since their his daughters it could go on forever. The OP needs to find a way to disengage herself from this situation or it has the potential to turn really toxic.

    I’m siding with the naysayers on the Father’s day issue. Father’s Day is a day for all the family to share. If you want to give your dad a game of golf for Father’s day, that’s lovely, and it is also lovely to share it with him to get some special time together. But unless you are an only child the most appropriate thing to do is give him a voucher (or something) for the golf in a card on the day itself and go the next weekend.

  • Sarah Jane September 14, 2010, 6:43 pm

    I agree that it all comes back to Dear Old Dad. He should have pointed out to Sis that there were already plans with the OP and Hubby; BF would have to cook his game some other time.

    Same thing with the golf situation; it’s his day… he should have seen to it that he have the time to spend with each of his children.

  • Toni September 14, 2010, 7:45 pm

    Sister definitely is a manipulator, and the parents let her get away with it. Mom and Dad were the rude ones–they disinvited OP to dinner. No matter how old siblings get, Mom & Dad are the ones who set the ground rules for family get-togethers at their home (hopefully they do so gently, and with everyone’s best interests at heart.) Anyone–family, friends, or acquaintences who come to my home from a distance get a meal. And there is always enough for everyone.

  • Cooler Becky September 14, 2010, 7:48 pm

    I guess I’m lucky because my sister and I always conspire with each other to provide one really good shared present between the two of us for Fathers and Mother’s day.

    It helps because I live in a completely different country from my family.

  • Cooler Becky September 14, 2010, 7:50 pm

    I guess I’m lucky because my sister and I always conspire with each other to provide one really good shared present between the two of us for Fathers and Mother’s day.

    It helps because I live in a completely different country from my family.

    SHAME on that sister though for being such a sneaky little girl. I would say that this family might have something wrong with it if the Mother and Father both encourage competition amongst siblings – the mother’s plaintive excuse is good evidence of that. They knew what they were doing, and so did the sister.

  • MeganAmy September 14, 2010, 9:41 pm

    That’s very sad. I agree that the sister is passive-aggressive. Add to that insecure and mean. And the parents enable her. They probably prefer to upset the people who will complain the least so they pander to her. I agree with those who said that OP shouldn’t have complied. I would have considered saying “Well our schedule is set so we’re still going to arrive at the original time. We’ll just bring some fast food for ourselves and join you at the table” but I wouldn’t have felt very comfortable with that. I agree with those who said that OP and family should have canceled the trip. Or if I really wanted to still have the birthday dinner Sunday evening, I would have said “We’ll arrive Sunday morning and leave right after the dinner.” But it sounds like this has happened before. So I probably would have said to my father “We had plans first. We have made plans all week to come out for them. You’re canceling on us at the last minute for what you must obviously think is something better. Clearly, we’re not a priority. We’re not going to come out then. If you still want to celebrate birthday dinner Sunday night, let me know by tomorrow, and we’ll find a nice restaurant in *our* town that you can come meet us at on Sunday night.”

  • Maryann September 15, 2010, 1:35 am

    I apologize for being crass, but I’d rather speak plainly than linguistically dance around the situation. Your dad needs to grow a pair. I admit that the host of a party should not generally be dictated the guest list, but when one agrees to be an accomplice to having one’s own immediate family excluded from a family birthday party (assuming there’s no history of severely bad behavior on the part of the person(s) excluded), one is oblivious at best, cruel or cowardly at worst. That your parents didn’t put their feet down and say that they’ll only attend a party to which you, too, would be fully and equally invited appalls me as deeply as your sister’s behavior. It makes me wonder if, perhaps, her getting away with it all of her life is why she continues to pull this stuff as an adult. Only you can know the right thing to do, but if someone did this to me, I would calmly but firmly confront them about it. It’s not rude to stand up for yourself.

  • Princesssimmi September 15, 2010, 2:26 am

    I agree with the other posters that say the sister sounds extremely passive-aggressive. My best friend’s sister is a psychologist and is also passive-aggressive. As my friend says, it takes one to know one. That is, it takes someone who is slightly off to know how to counsel someone else who is slightly off. If that makes sense.

  • Jessiebird September 15, 2010, 7:01 am

    I’m the OP and just want to clarify that I mentioned the professions to make the point that 1) money was not a problem insofar as hosting an additional two people and 2) as a mental health professional, I think my sister should at least try not to be a textbook case of passive-aggressiveness or whatever. Mental health professionals don’t have to be perfect–they’re human–but as those charged with the care and keeping, indeed the health, of our minds and psyches, maybe they should at least try to set an example of healthy functioning.

    I do not believe there is any correlation between education/income and manners/courtesy in modern society. None at all. I was not trying to imply that.

    Thanks for your comments, everyone. They were validating and I appreciated it.

  • Dear! September 15, 2010, 9:55 am

    For some reason, I don’t think this is the entire story. This just sounds so odd. I think, when it comes to siblings, especially ones who seem to have some existing rivalry, stories can get a bit shifted to make their side look good. Sounds like there might be some Marsha, Marsha, Marsha in there, especially when she made it sound like her parents were taking sides.

    I might be wrong, and if I am, that sister sounds very rude and calculating.

  • SHOEGAL September 15, 2010, 2:39 pm

    I find this story just so uncomfortable to read and so very sad. It wouldn’t occur to me to exclude my family members – I’d rather have them there and eat hot dogs. It wouldn’t have occurred to me to plan a seperate birthday dinner without them. My mother & father would have never have called up my sister and told her there wasn’t enough food. If this had happened to me – I would have been hurt beyond words.

  • Enna September 15, 2010, 3:23 pm

    I disagree with the 1st comment about Father’s Day. Leaving the others out like that is just as bad as leaving them out of the meal. It is werid behaviour and very rude. Especailly when Dad asked where they were and he’d told them not to come. It is strange they weren’t told what the meal was a birthday meal. How rude! This goes for sister as well as parents!

  • Sharon September 15, 2010, 3:51 pm

    Dear!
    The first paragraph of your post made me think YOU might be the “psychologist sister”!! (just kidding!) I would be willing to bet you my next month’s salary that this is not a case of “Marsha, Marsha, Marsha”… You may have never had to deal with this type of personality. If you haven’t, I am so happy for you and you need to thank your lucky stars.

    I also agree with those who say the Father’s Day outing was rude. You can play golf anytime 365 days a year. You cannot always have your family together.

  • Simone September 15, 2010, 4:38 pm

    @Jessiebird I hate to say this but the money is, I think, irrelevant here. My mother is very poor (by the standards of our society) and this would never happen. In fact, should I arrange to meet her for a birthday dinner she is far more likely to ring and say “Shall we invite your brother too?” and find a way to stretch that mince just a bit further (and will produce a delicious and healthy meal to boot).

    Your family sound a bit like my husband’s. They all genuinely love each other but will still play these silly games to gain some kind of ‘most loved’ status (that’s how it looks to an outsider, anyway). My DH and I usually choose to opt out of the game. There have been many good suggestions here as to how you could do that and I suggest you choose you favourite idea and go with it. Good luck!

  • MeganAmy September 15, 2010, 6:09 pm

    Simone, in Jessiebird’s defense, I think the only reason she mentioned the money was as a pre-emtive strike so that she didn’t get 100 responses like “Maybe your parents and sister can’t afford to buy more food and would have had you if they could have afforded more food.” Your (Simone) mother sounds generous and courteous. I just believe that the point of Jessiebird’s comment about professions was so that she didn’t sound like she wanted people to bend over backwards just so that she could eat, because the point of her post was to show that the excuse of “we don’t have enough food” was very flimsy.

  • RoaringGirl September 15, 2010, 11:02 pm

    Wow. Sounds like your family spends a lot of time reenacting key scenes from King Lear!

    As others have noted, it’s not the rudeness (which is STAGGERING) that causes concern so much as the rather sick family dynamic on display. You and Sis are apparently locked in an endless struggle to Show Daddy Who Loves Him More, and ole’ Daddy just loves watching you fight for his approval.

    This is bad, bad news for you, and it’s even worse for your children: is this the family dynamic that you want to model for them? Do you want your girls to spend the rest of their lives fighting for Daddy’s exclusive love and the boys fighting for Mommy’s? (Calling Dr. Freud! Calling Dr. Freud!).

    Get a copy of _The Dance of Anger_ and read up on how these destructive patterns develop and how to change them–and change yourself. The technique isn’t even very confrontational, more a question of setting and defending boundaries: I will do A, but never B;, I will permit Y, but never Z. And mean it. Once you stop dancing that particular dance, things change for everyone involved–although they often get worse before they get better. Be prepared for Sis to up the ante with ever more extravagant presents, for example, or Daddy to start dropping hints that you’re the one he’s always favored, and good ole’ Enabling Mommy to question your love for Daddy. In other words, they are going to do what they can to draw you back into the Dance of Dysfunction. You hold firm, however, and family relations will become so much better.

    And your kids won’t ever be in danger of growing up to be Niles and Frasier Crane!

  • Simone September 16, 2010, 1:49 am

    @MeganAmy Sorry, when I said money was irrelevant here, I wasn’t meaning it shouldn’t have been mentioned. I meant that according to my reading of the situation even if the dad & sister earnt $5 billion a week each and were having Spam for dinner and there was a Spam-R-Us shop next door having a 2 for 1 sale (hyperbole alert!) the situation would still have been the same. Hence the money, the food on offer, the distance, all of them were irrelevant to the true situation, not irrelevant to the post.

    The reason I hated to say it is because from my husband’s experiences with his family I know that it can be very hurtful to the family member who is slighted. All I can do is reiterate that often there is genuine love underneath all the insane games and you *can* opt out with time and perseverance.

    I hope this clarifies what I was trying to say (I’m very tired, so maybe not), and thank you for your kind remarks about my mum 🙂

  • The Cat Whisperer September 17, 2010, 3:16 pm

    Interesting to read about this situation and the responses to it.

    All I can say, from the vantage point of having both parents and one of my brothers passed away, is that nobody is responsible for anyone’s actions but their own. If your parents and/or siblings are behaving in less than loving ways, you can’t change that, but you still have to do the right thing yourself. And you don’t want to fall into the trap of behaving badly as retaliation for someone else’s bad behavior, because “two wrongs don’t make a right.”

    As this situation indicates, finding the right thing to do at the time can be tough. This OP’s parents are lucky to have kids who are competing with each other to entertain mom and dad. Just rhetorical, but I wonder how much struggle there will be to care for mom and dad if/when they are unable to care for themselves and the family has to pitch in resources and time to care for them.

    I think one of the things this story illustrates is that when you don’t understand what’s going on with a situation, or feel uncomfortable with plans that involve you in some way, you might want to speak up immediately and ask what’s going on. If I was the OP in this situation, when her dad called her to “disinvite” her to the planned dinner, if that bothered me I’d have spoken up. It isn’t fair to make people try to guess how you feel about something, so I’d have told him that it bothered me to not be included in the dinner.

    At that point, there were a whole range of options that could have been suggested: sister and her husband could have gotten additional food, with the understanding that the “special” dishes of elk and mushrooms were reserved for dad and mom; OP could have suggested that if sister wanted to prepare a special dinner just for her dad and mom, another night could be chosen, or some other option could have been suggested. The point is, the air could have been cleared about what was going on.

    If dad and mom wanted to spend some special time exclusively with the OP’s sister and her husband, and that was the purpose of the dinner, dad should have owned that, not made silly excuses about not enough food to go around etc. It sounds to me like that’s the whole issue: dad wanted to spend some exclusive time with the OP’s sister and her husband, and he didn’t own that. (It also sounds like there’s a certain amount of discord between the sisters, and some history of problems, but that’s speculative.)

    From an etiquette standpoint, if OP made her arrangements with dad and mom before her sister did, her dad and mom had an obligation to honor those arrangements since they were made first. Because this is family, dad could have asked the OP if she would be willing to alter the arrangements as a special favor, but that’s exactly the way he would have had to phrase his request: “[OP’s name], your sister and her husband called after we made our arrangements for Friday, and they want to fix your mother and I a special dinner just for us on Friday. Can we re-arrange the plans so we can do this because [some reasonable justification for changing the plans, such as sister can’t do it any other time]? I know it’s asking a lot, but can you see your way clear to change our plans?”

    OP then has the option of releasing her dad and mom from their obligation, which would be a gracious thing to do if it isn’t a problem, or telling her dad that because of the distance they’ve travelled, etc., it just wouldn’t work out. And then all parties could try to work things out somehow.

    Families get complicated, though. Which can make it hard for everyone to enjoy the time they have together while they can.

  • Babs September 18, 2010, 9:44 am

    I think the “uninvitation” was the problem and would have been very hurtful, especially since the parents were involved in the decision. We have 4 girls in my family, all love my dad to pieces and I can relate to how this story would play out if it happened in my family. Thankfully, we love each other and compromise to work out scenarios that make everyone happy.

    As far as the golf game, almost everything can be worked out if communication is there. How about “I’d like to treat dad to a round on golf for Father’s Day. We could set an 8am tee time and be back in plenty of time for us all celebrate with a dinner together.” If there were any issues with that, then move the golf game to Saturday and have a Father’s Day celebration together on Sunday. Why is this stuff always so hard to figure out? I can tell you, because of the family dynamics here. There is probably a long history of hurtful things in this family.

    And as far as pointing out the fact that the sister is a psychiatrist, I see no problem with that. They naturally are held to higher standard when it comes to understanding how hurtful decisions affect people, especially in family situations, which they listen to all day long.

    Advice for sis and boyfriend: it’s called “Throw another shrimp on the barbie!” if you have more guests than you expect! It doesn’t have to be exotic game if you need to stretch it. We’ve planned a steak dinner, and our kids show up with friends, and I’ve thawed out chicken breast, or made some hamburger patties. You can stretch your meal, and cut up the exotic game into smaller pieces so that everyone gets a taste of it, but still has plenty to eat. We are not in a 3rd world country, there are grocery stores on every corner! Adapt for heavens sake, and put the priority on where it belongs – enjoying the company of family and friends!

    There’s way more going on in this family than just the situation that the OP described. It’s really sad.

  • The Great September 20, 2010, 12:25 am

    Next time, don’t go to their “Hunter’s Dinner.” Don’t even consider going. They obviously don’t want you there. Get your dad a gift though. It was extremely rude of them to uninvite you but your sister definitely did not want you or your husband there and she tried to hide it by “inviting” you. Perhaps your sister is trying to seek vengeance. Just a guess. Now your parents uninviting your family because your sister and her boyfriend came along with a “fancy” hunter’s dinner was also really rude. The golf event… if your family like to golf and your sister knows it, then it was also quite rude of her to exclude you guys. Your parents stood up for her which is pretty irritating.

    What I don’t get is the extra details of your sister and dad’s job. It just gives me the slightest tiniest feeling that your sister would have a different story to tell wih some pretty good points as well. I’m just saying. I really don’t know why I feel this way though.

    Anyways, best of luck with your family and I hope that your sister gets a taste of her own medicine. She’s outrageous.

  • v September 24, 2010, 4:39 am

    OMG !!!!- not feeding your pregnant sister/daughter after travelling to visit- outrageous, tacky, rude and pathetic!!!!! You cannot choose your family.

  • Shannon September 25, 2010, 4:35 am

    I *do think it was rude of the sister in regards to the ‘golf date’ with Dad.
    As the letter writer said, they already lived 2 hours away and it sounded like a couple of other siblings (as well as her mother) were also waiting to celebrate Father’s Day (no mention of whether they also travelled, but it could have been the case) I would have thought that the sister would have thought to think of EVERYONE in the family and what EVERYONE would want to do. It’s Father’s Day and he has more than one child, logic says that probably all of those children would want to spend some of the day with their Father.

  • Shannon September 25, 2010, 4:39 am

    @The Great

    I think the extra details on the jobs were to help explain why it was strange behaviour.

    For example:
    Her father is a Dentist and makes a good living – so it probably wouldn’t have been a problem for him to go and get a few more pieces of meat and mushrooms from the store to feed 2 extra people

    Her sister is a psychiatrist, which you’d assume would mean she would be the last one to have these kind of backhanded type of insults/plans (Though I confess that I do not know any, I just assume they’d have the capability to be rational)

  • karma September 26, 2010, 12:11 pm

    Don’t be fooled. Your psychiatrist sister knew exactly how to play each part of that scenario so that the fault would lie with you were you to be offended or upset. She’s manipulative and jealous, but knowing that is half your battle. As my FIL once said about his own daughter (my husband’s sister), “There are some people in life that are so manipulative that you have to make up your mind to be the one to manage the relationship, otherwise that person will use and abuse you.” My FIL went on to say that the only way to survive family relationships like that are to either decline to see the person, or see them on YOUR terms, where you set the parameters and make the choices.