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Dealing With Flakey Family

I invited my sister to my son’s birthday party at a restaurant. She said she could not make the date and proceeded to ask me to change the time and location of the party so that she could attend. I said no, that I would not change the time and place but that she could come by on a later date and give my son his gift. I ended up canceling the party at the restaurant related to all crap that was started when she wanted the party her way. So, the day the party was supposed to be help, right around the time it was supposed to be held, my sister calls me (and my son) and asks us if we would like to go to dinner for my son’s birthday. That’s exactly what I had planned, and she effectively ruined my son’s party. Is this tacky or what? Or is it just me? 0318-12


Your sister is flakey and unfortunately, you are her facilitator by empowering the flakiness.  The way to deal with flakey people is to make your plans after suitable input and hold firm to them.  It’s as if you have to be the firm framework upon which she lean on and cannot push against.   If she cannot come, she cannot come.  Oh, well.  Too bad…maybe another time.  When you host family events, there comes a time when you have to realize that you cannot accommodate everyone and must therefore learn to be content with the guests that do show up.  Otherwise you will go crackerdog (anyone care to guess what literary reference that word comes from?) trying to please everyone.

{ 61 comments… add one }
  • gramma dishes March 30, 2012, 8:44 pm

    Jess ~~ I agree with Cat (post #47) above. Please get a new lock plus a deadbolt lock for your door and make sure neither your parents in law nor your sister in law have a keys. There is absolutely NO reason anyone should be able to walk into your house unexpected and uninvited at any time ever. That’s horribly disrespectful of your privacy.

    As far as phone conversations where your MIL is criticizing you, your husband should just say “Mom, get this straight. I’m absolutely not going to allow you to insult my wife. Not today, not tomorrow, not ever. Bye.” *click* And then he should stop telling her anything, and I do mean anything, about your lives. She has no need to know you’re picking him up from work or when your kids get dressed (or you for that matter!)

    She’ll pout and whine and may even stop speaking to you. Now let’s see, is that a bad thing? 😉

    But in any case, she’ll know she has lost her audience and that if she wants to see her son and her grandchildren, she’s going to have to learn to play by your and your husband’s new rules.

  • Cat Whisperer March 30, 2012, 9:10 pm

    Jess, I agree with what Cat said about your advice, but I have to add something: since it is his family that is giving you the grief, your husband needs to “grow a pair” and tell his mom and sister and anyone else who is sniping at you to KNOCK IT OFF. He needs to be assertive about this and since his family has gotten away with the sniping for a long time, it isn’t going to be easy.

    His mom clearly sees herself as the “head cow” in the family herd and his sister is using mom’s support to boost her position in the peck order. These two aren’t going to back down now without a fight, so things may get messy. Your husband needs to do what Cat suggested: let the snipers know, in no uncertain terms, that they are not allowed to snipe at you and that failure on their part to comply with this will result in reduced contact.

    The important thing is for your husband to be absolutely unbendable on this point: sniping at you is forbidden, and failure to comply means they see less of him, his kids, and you. And he has to mean it: which means that if they come over and start sniping, they are asked to leave. If you go to their place and they start sniping, he and you leave.

    There will be hurt feelings and recriminations. And you will probably be cast as the Wicked Witch in this turf tiff. And your husband has to stand firm: no sniping, no exceptions.

    There is a light at the end of that tunnel, but it won’t be easy. And your husband has to be 100% on your side to make it work. Good luck.

  • Enna March 31, 2012, 5:11 am

    For those who blame the OP I do think they have misread the post as she/he says :

    “I ended up canceling the party at the restaurant related to all crap that was started when she wanted the party her way.”

    Okay we don’t know what happened, but if OP’s sister kicked up such a stink then I can see why the OP did cancel it. Yes the OP could grow a polite spine but as I’ve mentioned before on posts a lot of this can be chalked down to expirence as sometimes when a person is put on the spot they don’t always have time to think of a good idea (and they can be many good ideas for the same solution). If the OP had tired as she has indicated on the post that the sister could meet at a different time.

    I agree with Admin, if the OP has this situation again set firm boundaries. If someone can’t come then they can’t come. Just make sure that people are given enough notice.

  • Enna March 31, 2012, 5:16 am

    @ Jess, it sounds to me that even when your husband sticks up for you he gets a lecture. The children whilst they are young are old enough to play by themsleves in a different room from their parents. 10:30 isn’t too late to still be in their night clothes. I’m an adult and sometimes if I’m having a lazy day I won’t get dressed until 11am or 12am.

    I think as advised you should get a deadlock or maybe change the locks all together so they can’t get in. If they complain you and your husband should point out that they are so critical you don’t want them to have keys (personally I don’t see the need for your in-laws to have keys, it’s not like they are carers or something).

  • Shoebox March 31, 2012, 11:56 am

    Bint — ironically enough the Herriot books were well obscure *inside* the UK when first published. It wasn’t until the American rights were sold, and the books subsequently zoomed to the top of every major bestseller list, that the James Herriot phenomenon really kicked off.

  • Bint April 2, 2012, 4:59 am

    Shoebox – I never knew that! My dad loves obscure books so we always had them. Thanks for the interesting facts!

  • Ann April 2, 2012, 3:37 pm

    Some families do pull interesting stunts. My sister is good at the triple salchow version of the OP’s scenario. She’ll plan an event. I won’t be able to attend, I say so, I wish them a lovely time, and say I’ll see them soon. She’ll contort the entire event so I “won’t be left out”, and then broadcast to other attendees that 1) I demanded this, and 2) isn’t she fab for complying. After this Xmas, after already having whittled my yearly participation in family events down to Xmas, Easter and Thanksgiving, I’ll be booking Last Minute Vacations from here on in. Enough is enough.

  • pinkyblue April 21, 2012, 9:24 pm

    I’ll give it a go – I think “crackerdog” comes from one of James Herriot’s books (Mrs. Pumphrey, as I recall?).

  • Jenny August 31, 2012, 7:02 pm

    *Crackerdog* comes from James Herriot’s hilarious and touching works!

  • erica September 10, 2012, 7:27 am

    While I understand that the OP probably felt more family pressure than mentioned in the post to make the changes that would suite the child’s aunt..she had no obligation to cancel.

    In effect she was playing the “if I can’t have everything my way, then I’ll just take my toys and go home”. She deprived her child of a party for no reason…she could have either kept to the original plan or reschedule. Why cancel it all together?

    I too find it rude that the Aunt was told she could drop off her child’s gift at a later time.

    I think it would have been better to set the party date, have the party…whomever can attend, will attend. Let child have their day without holding grudges about who attended and who didn’t.

  • Cat January 25, 2014, 9:53 pm

    *Crackerdog lol my partner and I use that regularly James Herriot is a personal fav of ours. (All Creatures Great and Small is on my nightstand as I type this.)

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