I’ve always loved Christmastime even though certain members of my family sometimes ruin the day for me.
I also come from a split up family that lives near me, but not too near me and Christmases are usually spent with one or the other.
My fiance and I are getting married in the new year, not long after Christmas. And we decided as a couple that this year is going to be our Christmas with just us and our cats and we can be with family other years.
So a few weeks ago, I heard from my sister that my Mum was planning Christmas dinner in the city near where we live and I needed to keep it free. I made no promises but said I’d keep it in mind. Bear in mind that she and youngest sister both live interstate. Not long after that my Mum called and we talked of the plans, my fiance was invited to the dinner as well but I explained to her what we had decided and the reasons. She, my stepfather, and aunt were welcome to drop by on the way home (it wasn’t out of their way) and that we’d make a visit around boxing day or so. A few weeks later she called again to confirm, sounding a little disappointed but I informed her again of our plans. There would be other years where we could visit, I said.
Fast forward to sometime later and my younger sister calls me demanding to know why I wasn’t coming to Christmas and Mum was cancelling the plans now. She also claimed I lied to her about keeping it free. I tried to tell her that a) I’d never lied to her and said we’d come, b) we’d decided to have our first Christmas together as it was the first one before we got married, c) this was between me and my Mum, as she’d organized it and I told her our plans.
I didn’t get through to her and she starts to throw on guilt trips, saying she gets very few holidays (true, she’s a doctor) as does youngest sister and we owed it to her to show up. She also brought up quite a few unpleasant things about my wedding where she’s a bridesmaid (a whole ‘nother story) that I had been prepared to forgive and forget. I admit I did say a few unpleasant things to her, which I apologized for soon after, as I was at breaking point with the trouble she was stirring up about everything. When I suggested that we see each other Boxing Day or another day around then, she said no, as she was arriving Christmas Eve and going to see another relative Boxing Day.
It might be what she wants, but I still feel slightly guilty over our plans for Christmas. Was I wrong in wanting to spend Christmas just with my future husband? Was I right to stand by him against my family? I admit I had no inking of how problematic the holidays could be. 0905-12
When the nuclear family dynamics begins to change due to children marrying, getting careers or moving away, it does becomes a challenge for family members and parents to readjust their expectations. Navigating through the maze of work schedules and new demands on a new couple’s time to arrange family time together is a normal part of moving through the seasons of life. When my eldest daughter married, our family could no longer expect that she would be in attendance at annual family events because she now had her husband’s family to factor into her life as well as obligations to her own newly formed family. One family had grown into three families who all had claims on one daughter’s time.
As parents, our solution was to continue to host our annual parties and get-togethers regardless of which relative could come or not. If someone could not make it that year, oh well! We’ll miss you! Maybe next year! For major holidays, the request was made that everyone make a concerted effort to be together every third year for one holiday (such as all agreeing to meet for Thanksgiving but not Christmas). This allowed all the adult kids to have their own celebration on year, got to the in-laws another year and be with their nuclear family the third year. To expect one’s kids to show up every single year to every single holiday is selfish and ignores their need to start their own family traditions.
The OP’s sister makes the mistake of thinking bullying will produce compliance. That isn’t the kind of behavior that will encourage the OP to come or create a longing to be with family. At best it produces ambivalence about visiting family during the holidays.