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Is It A Mom Problem Or A Sister Problem Or A Me Problem?

My mum, as much as I love her has major issues with inviting extra people to events these are some stand out issues.

1) On New Years Eve I throw a small dinner party which consists of my parents, my grandmother, my husband and my young son. This year I planned an exquisite Asian meal with some great flavours, I’d purchased some beautiful decor to set the mood and I was extremely excited to be throwing what I considered to be a classy event. I’d told my guests that the event started at 5 and everything seemed fine.

The day of the event rolls around and I’ve spent all morning cooking, baking and tediously filling home made profiteroles when I hear a knock on my door at 3:30. It’s my mum and my grandmother. My mother has come down to tell me that my sister’s hot water is leaking so she’s had to turn off her water and my sister, her partner and 4 kids will be going to my mum’s house for a shower. She told me that “it wouldn’t be fair” not to include my sister in my event as she might get to my mum’s house when they were at dinner. She also tells me that my event will now be at her house and if my sister can’t attend then my mother will not be attending. (I also know that if my mum doesn’t attend that means no one will be attending.) I tell her that I’m not moving my event and I didn’t plan for my sister’s family to be involved so therefore I don’t have enough food. She tells me it’s no problem and she’ll put some sausage rolls, party pies, and chicken nuggets in the oven so there is enough food to go around. Feeling no other option, I agree reluctantly.

With the help of my wonderful husband we manage to get plastic tables set up outside with plastic table cloths, and fold up chairs. (luckily it’s summer in Australia.) The event went well even with the oven baked food in amongst my gourmet feast and my sister’s partner cram profiteroles in his mouth and complain that they weren’t the same as the ones you get from the local supermarket so therefore I must have done something wrong. Next year I think I’ll be going out for dinner with my partner and son.

2) For Australia Day this year my parents invited my husband and son over for a small barbeque my mum told me that it would start at midday. I was explicitly told that we were the only ones invited and my parents did not want to invite my sister’s family so DO NOT TELL THEM. My mum requested I bring some side dishes for the meal and as an added treat I made my dad a vanilla slice, which I know is one of his favourite desserts. Upon arriving at my parent’s house at 11:30 it appears my sister and her family are there, so as we enter their house everyone has already HAD lunch. I give my dad the small pan of vanilla slice I made him and my sister’s gluttonous partner demands the pan so he can consume it himself. My husband, son and I are told to sit down and have lunch.

We sit down and start to eat what is left over and the side dishes we made but at that moment my mum gets up and starts clearing the table and moving the food back to the kitchen! While presenting my sister’s family with dessert, with my sister’s partner demanding the vanilla slice. I told him that the custard centre would need more time in refrigerator before it set.

Here we are a week later and I STILL can’t believe that my mum invited my sister as an afterthought but then treated my family like an afterthought.

My next event is my easter breakfast and I’m not sure that I’m going to be doing it this year at the risk of my sister’s family being a tag along invite. 0201-18

There seems to be an issue with your sister and her family attending family events.  It’s obvious you didn’t want her at your New Year’s Day dinner and so you don’t invite her to a holiday party thus excluding her from the family. Months later your mom arranges a BBQ in such a way that the two sisters’ appearance “overlaps” which makes me wonder if this was a tactic to get two warring sisters together with a minimum of chaos and acrimony.     My “spidey sense” tells me there is more to this story.

Yes, your sister’s partner is a pig. However, once you give that gift of food to your dad, it’s his to decide how to share…or not.

{ 56 comments }
{ 56 comments… add one }
  • Ergala February 9, 2018, 7:26 am

    There is a difference between the dad sharing and the dad being bullied into sharing or another guest claiming dibs on something. I think common sense dictates that you don’t call dibs on a dish, especially while a guest in someone’s home…and not on a treat either. I was taught that you wait for it to be set out or offered and then have a small portion. You don’t demand someone serve you something. I remember being in 3rd grade and a little girl came to my grandmother’s house to play with me. That was where we were staying mid move. Grammy opened the fridge and the little girl saw a bottle of soda and immediately told Grammy she wanted some of that. Grammy turned and looked at her and said that was a treat for the family later and she was not opening it and told her she could have juice or water instead if she wanted a drink. That went over like a lead balloon but I remember it clearly and it has always stuck in my head.

    • Kate 2 February 9, 2018, 12:58 pm

      Yes, it tends to be forgotten that BOTH hosts and guests have rights, and that “the customer is not always right” so to speak. As well the host has responsibilities toward ALL their guests, if one guest or group of guests is behaving badly to the host or other guests, it is the host’s obligation to step in and make things right, even if that means displeasing the badly behaving guests or escorting them to the door.

    • Kat February 9, 2018, 3:28 pm

      Also, even if mum is trying to get the sisters to reconcile, the way to do that is to directly ask each of them to consider it, and then drop the matter and butt out. It is not mum’s place to passive aggressively meddle in someone else’s relationship.

  • Agania February 9, 2018, 8:13 am

    As an Australian can I point out that Australia Day is 26 January. So it’s only a few weeks between New Years and Australia Day, not months.

  • Victoria February 9, 2018, 9:03 am

    OP should come hang out over on reddit in the r/raisedbynarcissists/ forum, or the r/JUSTNOMIL/ forum. Sounds like she’d fit right in.

  • OP February 9, 2018, 9:20 am

    Hi, OP here!

    There is more to this story, mainly that my sister has a nasty habit of starting arguments at family events over literally anything.

    My sister comes to my house often we sit down and talk together, our children play together and we generally spend time together with little issue. I have other siblings that weren’t invited to the event simply to keep costs down and just to have a relaxing evening with husband, son, my parents and grandmother.

    The issue isn’t so much about my relationship with my sister, but my mother’s inability to just say no to my sister. The reality is that my parents are the ones who often complain about her presence and her partner after the event and request that events are kept secret so it doesn’t cause any drama, yet when she arrives unannounced they refuse to say they have other plans and just invite her along anyway as they are concerned about the repercussions of doing so.

    There are many events throughout the year that she is invited to, that we all attend with no issue.
    Inviting someone to someone else’s event is wrong. You don’t do it. You don’t expect someone to invite you to an event and when you get there on time, find that lunch has been served earlier because people that weren’t invited changed the terms of the event.

    • Margo February 12, 2018, 7:35 am

      It does sound as though the underlying issue is with your Mum. Have you ever tried talking to her about it at a time when it’s not specifically happening?
      e.g saying to her “I was very hurt when, after I’d carefully planned a special meal for New Year, you invited sister along and threatened not to come if I didn’t agree. I understand you were put on the spot with her heater breaking, but was there any reason why you couldn’t have explained to her that she was welcome to use your shower, but that you had a prior commitment so would be going out?. I felt coerced into allowing her to come, even through it totally changed the event I’d planned”
      OR
      “I was upset on Australia Day – you told me the BBQ wasn’t starting until 12 and asked me to bring part of the meal. It was pretty hurtful to arrive and discover that you had started without us and had already finished eating. I understand that your plans changed when Sis arrived, and I / we felt that we were being treated as after thoughts, even though we did as you asked and arrived at the time you’d invited us for”

      Focus on how you feel, so that it is the effect on you of her actions that you’re bringing up, not direct criticism of the actions themselves.

      I wonder whether your mum is simply taking the path of least resistance because your sister is hard to say no to, and you accommodate mum’s behaviour and *don’t* make a fuss. I don’t advocate being rude to her, but you could try whether being less accommodating might change the pattern.

      When she threatened not to come if you didn’t invite sister, to your meal, you would have been fine to have said “In that case, I’m sorry that we won’t see you. I’m disappointed, as I’ve spent a lot of time planning and preparing this meal, but it is your choice ” – and to have then enjoyed your meal with your immediate family, rather than giving in to her threat. That way, you are not being rude, but it does make clear that it is her choice not to be there.

      it may be that setting and enforcing a few boundaries might improve things, particularly if you are able to do it without losing your temper. Where is your dad in all this? You’ve focused on your mum’s actions but is it worth speaking to them both?

    • Abby February 12, 2018, 7:58 am

      Ohhh, that makes a lot more sense. So, what you’re saying is, likely Mom had no intention of inviting sister to your dinner, but sister shows up and announces her family is there to shower, and mom is too uncomfortable telling her, ‘sure go ahead and shower, we are going to your sister’s anyways’, so she invited her along and threw a bunch of appetizers in the oven. And the second time sister likely just showed up, and mom fed her, and then tried to hide that there was a planned event with the OP to which OP’s sister was not invited, which was why Mom was rushing them through lunch and putting stuff away.

      I don’t think OP’s sister is the favored one, necessarily. It sounds like Mom prefers to do things with the OP. It sounds more like OP’s sister is one of those people that’s super easily offended, will make a great big fuss, whereas OP is more even keeled and forgiving. Mom must be terrified of conflict and regularly gives in to Sister at the risk of offending OP because she knows OP won’t hold a grudge. It’s a squeaky wheel getting the grease, and unfortunately, OP, there’s not much you can do about it. You can’t make your mother start standing up to your sister, and telling your mother your sister is not invited doesn’t seem to matter.

    • Cat2 February 12, 2018, 1:58 pm

      OP, I will bet you 5 bucks that your mother similarly complains to your sister about you and “your antics” but won’t say a direct word to you about them, the same way she won’t say a direct word to her about them.

      In other words: Your mother is a people pleaser. And she will do whatever it takes to please the person who is most important to please at that moment – whether it because she is in front of them or because she knows that person will give her the most grief and be the most difficult.

      You can’t make her change. You can decide whether you want to keep doing this dance with her. Either accept than ANYTHING you plan to do with your mother will likely be hijacked by your sister and be prepared for her to show up, or plan evenings that you want to exclude your sister to exclude your mom too.

      Also – feel free to sharply ask your mother why on earth she is putting the food away when you have just gotten there and have not eaten yet? Are you expected to eat in the kitchen? If so, perhaps it would be better if you just went home. And go ahead and go home if necessary. (I am sure btw that in part she is trying to hide the fact that you were a scheduled invite from your sister… but you don’t have to go along with that and agree to be treated as a second class citizen along with your husband and kid.)

  • Barbara Foster February 9, 2018, 9:37 am

    I suspect this is an issue of the OP’s parents considering her sister the “Golden Child.” It’s clear the OP goes to great lengths to please her parents, only to have her parents ensure that the sister is involved. It’s significant that the sister does *not* appear to spend time making delicious Asian meals, etc. She just shows up.

    There are websites (as well, of course, as live counsellors) on how to deal with these family dynamics. I think the first step is for the OP to stop hoping that if she does everything right, her parents will see her as equal to her sister. As long as she chases her parents’ approval, and they chase the sister’s approval, that won’t happen.

  • Pame February 9, 2018, 10:26 am

    I agree with the admin there must be more to the story. The NYE family dinner but excluding your sibling and the family bbq but with plans to exclude your sibling implies there is some type of rift between the two of you. You obviously have a very strong dislike your brother in law.

    No, it was not polite of your mom to high jack your party. But I can understand her feeling not wanting to be the one to inform your sister that you were hosting a family gathering but not including her. If you have not informed your sister that you do not plan to socialize with her, then it’s time you do to get your mom and dad out of the middle of it all.

    No, it was not polite of your mom to serve lunch prior to your arrival. But again I find it odd your mom was planning to host a holiday party with one child and excluding the other. Maybe mom was trying to get your sister and her family out of the house before you showed up. Did you ask your mom if there was a miscommunication about time and participants? That seems like the normal behavior within a family.

    No, it was not polite of your brother in law to demand a dessert that was not offered to him. But if he didn’t know that you weren’t expecting him, he may have just assumed the dessert was brought to share with all. Again, it sounds like you need to be direct “Dad, I made this for you. I’ll put it in the fridge for you to have this evening or tomorrow. It still needs to set up.” “No, BIL, that is not a dish to share. I made it as a gift for Dad and it won’t be ready till much later. Mom has dessert for lunch.”

  • Miss Herring February 9, 2018, 10:31 am

    Oh Admin, you are wise! I did not catch the reconcile-the-sisters angle. It does seem odd that she would have one daughter’s family eat before the other arrived, though.

    Also, could posters mentioning making delicious food consider providing a recipe? Maybe appended to the end? We Americans don’t have “vanilla slice,” so I wouldn’t know how to evaluate recipes from the internet.

    I would recommend to OP and OP’s father a tasty treat we have called Graham Cracker Pudding Cake.

    2-3 packages graham crackers (or probably wheatmeal biscuits for you)*
    2 4-oz packages (total 227 g) instant vanilla pudding
    2 cups (473 mL) milk
    8 oz (227 g) Cool Whip (probably whipped cream would be fine)
    one tub (16 oz/454 g) chocolate frosting

    1) Prepare pudding, then stir in Cool Whip.
    2) Line bottom of a 9″x13″ (23 cm x 33 cm) pan with crackers
    3) Cover crackers with 1/2 of the pudding mix.
    4) Cover pudding with another layer of crackers.
    5) Cover crackers with remainder of the pudding mix.
    6) Top with a final layer of crackers.
    7) Frost “cake,” refrigerate 4 to 24 hours before serving.

    * cooking(dot)stackexchange(dot)com/questions/50371/is-there-a-super-close-substitute-for-graham-crackers

    • Kirsten February 12, 2018, 5:10 pm

      Vanilla slice is basically a mille-feuille, with the pastry filled with patissiere cream.

  • AMC February 9, 2018, 10:44 am

    My spidey sense is tingling too, but it’s making me think that the mom is contributing to the sisters’ acrimonious relationship. Inviting one daughter over and telling her to keep it a secret from the other raises a red flag for me. And then inviting both sisters anyway, but arranging it so that one arrives when the meal is nearly over, seems like it would inevitably create needless drama.

  • Michelle February 9, 2018, 10:49 am

    It appears my original comment got lost in cyberspace somewhere but instead of retyping it, I’ll condense. OP, I think your mother is a bullying busybody who needs to quit lying (BBQ incident) and threatening to not attend (NYE incident) in order to push you and your sister together. This site gets many submissions about families who do not get along and often the advice is to limit contact and occasionally to cut contact. Mothers want their children to get along and sometimes overstep in order to get the “faaamily” together. Your sister’s partner sounds super rude and a bit of a bully as well. He had no issue stuffing his face with your homemade goodies, yet wanted to complain that they didn’t taste the same as store bought, so obviously you made a mistake somewhere along the way!?! Yes, your treat for your Dad was his to do with as he pleased, but it didn’t seem like he had much choice once the partner started demanding it.

    OP, have your Easter celebration and invite who you wish. If your Mom doesn’t come if your sister is not invited, oh well . She’ll miss out on good food and your hospitality and she can suffer the sister’s partner throwing shade at her cooking. Enjoy the holiday your day with your husband and son.

  • Elizabeth Hansen February 9, 2018, 10:54 am

    I agree that it feels like there is something more going on and Mom is trying a somewhat bumbling way to get her two daughters in the same place at the same time.

  • JD February 9, 2018, 11:32 am

    I’m confused about the first example — OP said if Mom didn’t come, no one would. Does that mean that everyone else bows down to the mother? I’d rather have a fancy dinner with just my husband and child than be bullied by my own mother into having her take over and invite an entire additional family.
    I agree with admin, there seems to be some backstory between OP and sis, since that’s the “other invitees” mom keeps bringing into the picture, at least in this submission anyway. Maybe OP wants to keep dining with Mom, but after a few events like this, I’d have to straighten my spine and refuse to go along with it anymore. And yes, Sis’s partner sounds like a real pig.

  • Aleko February 9, 2018, 11:58 am

    I agree that the mother may be trying to get her daughters together. But surely nobody trying to promote togetherness between hostile family members would deliberately arrange things so that one party would arrive after the meal they had been invited for! Nor to whisk the meal away from the new arrivals. So I think we have to assume that her plans, whatever they were, had been derailed in some way, and that the mother was seriously discombobulated.

  • NostalgicGal February 9, 2018, 12:27 pm

    It is sounding like the sister is a recently added dynamic and there is probably a lot of other issues (such as the Partner and possibly a lot more) and some But We’re FAAAAAAMMMMIIILLLLY! in there as well.

    Maybe it will need a pass or two of not having a holiday anything outside of just the immediate family (the OP’s own) for a few to let things chill. It does sound like there may be a bit of needing a spine between Mom and the sister too… and resigning to it will be the package deal or nothing for get togethers unless OP just collects her Mom to go out to eat, and possibly doing short notice so the others don’t get included as the package (and probably expect someone to pay for them). And if the OP shows to collect Mom and Sis and crew are there, just say, it will have to be another time and depart without. Yes it will be some uglies but maybe someone will buy a clue and the attached-at-hip additions will be peeled off.

  • Yolanda February 9, 2018, 12:34 pm

    It does seem like there is a rift between the sisters. The mom is manipulating the OP to be around her sister.

    Presumably, the sisters are adults, and, as such, it is their choice if they want reconciliation. Most parents want their children to get along but at this point in the game the mom has no authority to compel her daughters to have a relationship.

    It is a major breach in etiquette to force someone to invite people whose presence is not wanted (in this case, by refusing to go unless sister and family are invited.) Also, “sneak” inviting sister to her home when she had said she would not be there is bad enough, but then to have lunch earlier than stated and then serving OP and her family leftovers from the lunch is insulting.

    The mom thinks she’s helping the sisters to reconcile by manipulating their proximity, but, what she is accomplishing is greater resentment and possibly a broken relationship with OP.

  • Harry's Mom February 9, 2018, 12:35 pm

    I agree with Admin; there are some family dynamics here that are not included in the post. I hope you can get them sorted, because as it stands, you will continue to be disappointed.

  • Kay_L February 9, 2018, 12:52 pm

    “However, once you give that gift of food to your dad, it’s his to decide how to share…or not.”

    It’s a decision whether to be a terrible dad or not. When your son or daughter goes to the trouble to make you a special dish, you don’t treat it like you don’t care. It’s rude.

    The brother in law is rude enough demanding things that are not his. But, if dad gives in, he is savaging his relationship with his daughter.

  • Dee February 9, 2018, 1:07 pm

    I don’t know … it sounds like you’re trying to be a good hostess, OP, but it’s your guests that are the problem. You can’t do anything about how your mom hosts her own parties, but you can change yours, as in, don’t invite your family anymore. Invite friends who respect you and enjoy their company. There’s just no point in wasting energy with people who clearly don’t respect you.

    I don’t understand, though, how you expected things to go after your sister’s family realizes they’ve been left out of your family event. If you’re trying to get along with her and her family, then that’s NOT the way to do it. If you can’t get along with her you don’t have to invite her but you really can’t expect to have a family event without her without incurring drama, which your mom clearly sees as her job to ensure.

    As far as events at your parent’s, have you discussed the problems with them? If they aren’t inclined to listen or change and if you still want to attend the events then be sure to eat first and don’t expect any particular hospitality to be offered to you or your family. Let them know that you’ve already eaten, since you can’t be assured that you will be fed at the party. Be honest, and polite, and see where the chips fall. Many people don’t gather with family because it’s just too difficult to work around manipulative people. It sounds as if you are better off inviting them to outings, one on one, or forgoing anything but the most superficial relationship with them.

  • Devin February 9, 2018, 1:28 pm

    Like the admin my spidey sense is tingling but not that it’s the sisters not getting along, but it’s the mother trying to create a wedge and stir up drama. I understand only hosting a small event for NYE, especially if adding sister would double to guest list. Plus kids who want nuggets might not appreciate a fancy international menu. The mom emphatically telling OP not to discuss the BBQ seems to be a manipulation from the mother. Will she tell and break loyalty to mom or not tell and then look like a bad sister for keeping secrets?
    OP do Easter with just your partner and child. If they want to host you, great. If not you’ll have a drama free holiday!

  • lakey February 9, 2018, 2:45 pm

    There probably are some sibling issues here. However, I think we’re also seeing a family where there are very different views of hosting. The OP seems to be like me in personality. She likes things a certain way, wants to plan, and doesn’t like having to change plans at the drop of a hat.

    The rest of the family seems to be a lot more informal, likes “the more the merrier”, and is comfortable with changing everything around at the last minute. They also seem to be pretty inconsiderate.
    My advice would be to save the “nice” hostessing for other people who appreciate the trouble. I would limit family hostessing to informal get togethers where you serve food like cold salads and sandwiches, that can be pulled out whenever.

  • MelEtiquette February 9, 2018, 2:52 pm

    I agree with admin, there is definitely more to the story or why wouldn’t sister and family have been invited to both events? It sounds like, in both cases, mum was working behind the scenes to make sure that the two sisters were together for both events, in the first case by moving the event to her house under the guise that sister would be there (was the hot water really leaking, or was that part of the guise?) and in the second case more obviously inviting both families but telling them different times and insisting that they don’t talk to each other about the event beforehand.

  • Anon February 9, 2018, 3:03 pm

    Some of the backstory between the two sisters might be “one can control their kids and the other can’t and refuses to go anywhere without them” which would absolutely be a case for excluding the sister. If they can’t be a parent to their kids and their kids go around and cause havoc, I wouldn’t want them around either. But since it’s not mentioned, I don’t know. Could be they have some hatred between each other from a young age because of something that happened between them, could be one’s a golden child, could be they just don’t like each other, etc. Won’t know unless the LW responds.

    And the conflict between them certainly isn’t helped by “mum” who’s decided that she’s just not going to tell one of her kids/lies to them about what’s going on and probably thinks that will somehow make one big happy family/there will always be peace. Also don’t agree with the partner getting the slice. Dad probably did it to just keep the peace, which means there is a lot more to this situation.

    I really don’t condone the lie of mum though, and if that had happened, I probably would have just walked straight back out of the house. You don’t lie to your kids like that. That’s not how you solve family conflicts, especially depending on what the history is, and you shouldn’t force people who don’t want to be near each other, near each other. It’s not going to fix anything and will probably just create more resentment.

  • Dawn February 9, 2018, 3:40 pm

    The problem here is mom. I’d quit inviting her to anything and start using your hostessing skills on friends who would appreciate it.

    If a repeat of your mom’s behavior ever happened again at HER house (eating before you arrive – at the designated time, no less – and then putting away food as you try to serve your plate, I’d gather up my family and leave.

    So she bullied you at your event until she got what she wanted, and then lied about the event at her house. Nice.

    So I don’t know the relationship between you and your sister, but if she was a good sister she would have suggested to mom that everyone wait to eat until y’all arrived, and then shut her partner down for being a boor. Sounds like she and mom are cut from the same cloth.

    -Dawn

  • Lara February 9, 2018, 4:39 pm

    While there is no real excuse for your mother inviting anyone else to your party, or telling you to come at a certain time and then starting before you get there, I can’t help but think that if you don’t want to be surprised by extra guests, just invite your sister and her family. If you don’t want to do that, then you should probably just invite friends for whatever the occasion is. Your mother has made it clear that she wants to celebrate special events with both her daughters, and as long as you spend those days with her she will try to find a way to include your sister. So, if you really don’t want her and her family around, then plan to spend the time with someone else.

  • staceyizme February 9, 2018, 5:03 pm

    Your mum is hard to read, but it’s clear that she’s unreliable. She simply doesn’t tell you the truth and she doesn’t (for whatever reason) keep her word. Don’t plan any significant social events that include her and don’t attend any. It sounds extreme, but you can’t always be in the position of preparing for one event and attending an entirely different one. Your narrative as you relate it indicates that you’ll be subjected to this dynamic whether you are hosting or attending as a guest. Surely there are others in your circle with whom you can socialize that don’t require so many adjustments or so much drama? Seriously, cut the apron strings and sail forward to a more peaceful, and-in-all-likelihood-a-happier existence. To continue to entertain low-level madness and deception is to invite more drama, difficulty and after-event depression.

  • Anonymous February 9, 2018, 6:14 pm

    I think it’s a Mom problem. On New Year’s Eve, Mom hijacked OP’s planned Asian meal, that was supposed to be OP, Husband, Son, Mom, and Dad, at OP’s house, and changed it to those people plus Sister’s family (so, almost twice as many people) at Mom and Dad’s house, and not just Asian food anymore, but also chicken nuggets and meat pies, which defeated the theme of the original party. Then, on Australia Day, Mom told OP (falsely), that it’d just be, again, Mom, Dad, OP, Husband, and Son, but she invited Sister and her family again, without telling OP. Not only that, but she told Sister an earlier time than OP, and by the time OP arrived, Sister’s family had eaten most of the food…….and Mom started clearing away the food pretty much the moment that OP, Husband, and Son sat down to eat. To add insult to injury, Sister’s partner is rude and greedy, gorging himself on OP’s homemade profiteroles, and complaining that they’re different from the ones from the grocery store, and demanding the vanilla slice that OP had made for Dad, before the middle was even set.

    Yes, Sister is family, and it’s not unreasonable for her and her family to attend family events, but Mom shouldn’t lie about including Sister, she shouldn’t attempt to change an event that OP already planned, she shouldn’t threaten not to come if OP doesn’t do it her way (especially if that’d mean that nobody else would come), and when hosting an event, she shouldn’t give Sister’s family the real start time, and OP’s family an incorrect, later start time so they arrive to a picked-over spread of food. If these weren’t family members; if the people in this story were just friends, or members of a book club or something, then there’d be no question that the OP was in the right, and the event-hijacker was rude, so I don’t think it should be any different just because the people in question happen to share DNA.

    • Ladybird February 11, 2018, 9:35 pm

      I think that hits the OP’s question very well.

  • Ivy February 9, 2018, 7:20 pm

    I read this more like a clash of entertainment styles, maybe because I have seen such clash among my friends. Some of us (me included) are relatively organized, on time, like to plan ahead and know roughly the number of people, although in our culture you have to be ready to accommodate more people, none of us would bat an eye at 4 extra people. Others (and I am not saying they are not right in their way) are more open house style, whoever wants can come, there is always some extra chicken nuggets or sausages to feed the extra crowd, who cares about arrival on time. We know each other and know what to expect when there is a party in one or another house.
    Your mom and you seem to have a similar clash of what is appropriate. Maybe the best is to reset your expectations and always plan for surprises from her side?

  • Cyberwulf February 9, 2018, 7:48 pm

    I suspect sister’s partner, the human trashcan, is a big part of the problem.

  • Honeybee February 9, 2018, 8:16 pm

    Honestly, as far as the Easter breakfast is concerned, I think it’s time to go with friends and forget the family drama. I do suspect more to the story, also, but it sounds like there will always be a way that Mom will find to include Sis-and-family.

  • gramma dishes February 9, 2018, 8:46 pm

    Seems like a lot of manipulation going on here. When someone demands that you do something you really don’t want to do or tries to change arrangements in a away that are going to affect you negatively, you just say “No, sorry that won’t work for us”. No is still a perfectly good and useful word, even after all these years.

    If Mom can’t come to your party because someone else is using her shower, so be it. “Oh, sorry you won’t be able to make it.” Invite a next door neighbor or something.

    If you arrive at someone’s home to which you’ve been invited for lunch and discover other guests have arrived ahead of you and have eaten all the food, you politely say “Oh, apparently we misunderstood.” And you turn yourselves around and leave.

  • Rebecca February 9, 2018, 11:55 pm

    With the vanilla slice, why not just say, “No. I made it for Dad. I didn’t even know you were coming. “

  • Rebecca February 10, 2018, 12:02 am

    It does sound as though Mom is trying to orchestrate getting the whole family together. I also suspect there is a bit of a feud between the two sisters and that it has something to do with the OP not wanting to be around this boorish brother-in-law.

  • koolchicken February 10, 2018, 7:15 am

    The OP invited her parents over for New Year’s Eve. Well, it’s a holiday. It’s not like Christmas or Thanksgiving sure, but it IS a holiday. Australia Day is a holiday too. Why on earth does the OP think that she can have her parents all to herself for every holiday? Yeah, the mum is being ridiculous and handling things poorly. But really, it seems like she’s in a though spot. She probably wants to spend her holiday’s with both daughters and at least one of them is making that difficult. I mean, I don’t exaggerate when I say my fights with my sister can be awful. But I would not put my mother in this situation. I may not invite her myself, I’d invite her though my mother or have my husband do it. I might ignore her while she’s at my house. But I wouldn’t exclude my sister from things and force my mother to chose between us. If the OP wants her mother to stop doing stuff like this, then it seems like she’s going to need to learn to tolerate her sisters presence.

    • Melissa February 12, 2018, 9:48 am

      But the mom is the one who planned the Australia Day party, and asked OP not to mention it to her sister, so I don’t think it’s fair to accuse OP of trying to plan holidays with only her parents and not her sister. Her mom is doing the same thing. For all we know, New Years was the only holiday that OP attempted to exclude her sister from (based on sister’s partner’s behavior, I can see why OP would want to exclude them from a nice, well planned, home cooked meal!).

    • Yolanda February 12, 2018, 10:09 am

      OP has a right to choose who she wants in her home. Being family does not give someone an open invitation to other family members’ homes or events. If Mom feels torn, then, she should decline – not demand that sister be there.

    • Anonymous February 13, 2018, 3:54 pm

      Even if the OP and her sister couldn’t stand each other’s company, there are ways around that–for example, New Year’s Eve dinner at the OP’s house, and New Year’s Day brunch at Sister’s house. If one particular time slot is “preferred,” they could alternate years, so 2017 would be New Year’s Eve at OP’s, and New Year’s Day at Sister’s, and then in 2018 it’d be the other way around, and so on. For Australia Day, the parents could have lunch at one house and dinner at the other, or whatever works best for the family. So, I don’t think that planning two specific events that don’t include Sister (and BIL, who seems like the real problem, along with Mom) translates to the OP “wanting her parents all to herself for every holiday.”

  • LizaJane February 10, 2018, 10:33 am

    I’m very curious as to why the mother tries to keep the sisters separated…and then does something to put them together.

    Do they not get along? Does the mother enjoy controlling the dynamic? Or has she just caved in to one or both of her adult children being petulant?

    It all sounds exhausting.

  • Blueberry February 10, 2018, 11:52 am

    I disagree with the advice to suck it up your mom is trying to mend fences and how dare you not include your sister in your holiday plans. The OP invited her parents and grandmother to dinner. It was very rude for them to insist the day of the party that her sister and her family be included. Just because it’s a holiday doesn’t mean you have to invite everyone in your family to every event or party or dinner you throw. If I were the OP I would have said to mom and grandma sorry you won’t make it to dinner tonight and had dinner with just my husband and son.

    For the invite to the OP’s moms house, her mom was extremely rude. You don’t invite people to lunch have them show up on time and have already eaten without them. That’s when I would have cut off that branch of the family. Apparently the OP’s sister is golden child that can do no wrong and I would have dropped the rope a long time ago. I’m guessing their is more toxicity in this family than we will know.

  • InTheEther February 10, 2018, 1:28 pm

    Honestly, my spider sense says the OP doesn’t like her brother-in-law. Which is perfectly reasonable. How many times on this site has the Dame and everyone else promoted just silently excluding poor guests from events? And as per etiquette the BIL and sister are a social unit so she gets excluded with him.

    While we’re making guesses as to why OP showed up to leftovers, considering how whiney the BIL seems it’s entirely likely sis’s family just got there early and he/they insisted they go ahead and start eating. There could be a golden child dynamic that extends to the BIL which the OP looses out on. It could just be the old issue of difficult people being catered to because otherwise they’re difficult.

    Considering how much OP’s mom went on about not letting sis’s family know about the event, I think 1 of 2 scenarios are likely. Either mom knew OP might bow out or plan on a short visit if she knew they were there (which considering how that went I can’t blame her), or mom doesn’t like dealing with them either but they either found out or mom convinced herself she couldn’t exclude them from thanksgiving.

  • Sylvie February 10, 2018, 7:25 pm

    You obviously don’t think much of your sister and her family, especially her boorish husband. I’m thinking that your mom would like to see you and your sister get along. Moms tend to think about this when they get older. Not sure if you’ve always had problems with sis, but it would probably mean a lot to your mom if you made an effort to include them in your get-togethers once or twice a year.

  • Anonymous February 11, 2018, 7:38 am

    It sounds like a whole family problem.

    For the New Years Eve incident, I would have just said, “you guys go ahead and do your thing at moms house, we’ll stay here”.
    But OP and hubby obliged and brought the party to moms house and everything went fine except for BIL complaining about desserts.
    BIL seems to have a problem with desserts and with socializing. It must be well known by the family by now.
    So that event seems to have gone off ok.

    The next event is just weird. What kind of a mother has a secret bbq, claiming she won’t invite the sister, so don’t tell her?
    The whole situation would have made more sense if she just invited everyone. Then everyone would have eaten lunch at the same time, OP would know that her Dessert Challenged BIL would be there and she could plan accordingly.

    What time did sister in law get there that they finished lunch by 11:30? They must have started eating at 10:30 or 11:00. It’s not lunch, it’s elevensies.

    Was the food all bbq’d up all ready when OP got there? Did mom just pretend she hadn’t invited anyone, so she couldn’t say let’s wait for OP and family?

    Dad is, of course, free to share his dessert, but was he even given a chance to make that decision? Who witnesses someone receive a gift and then demands a portion of it? Surely someone could teach the man some manners even at this late stage.

    I don’t think there would be anything wrong with saying to BIL, “generally when a gift is given to another, the polite thing to do is to wait to be offered a serving, rather than demanding it be given to you.”
    BIL would probably continue to behave like a child, but give it time, something’s sink in. You never know.

    I can’t make heads nor tales of the bbq, but it does sound like everyone is behaving oddly.

    None of it makes sense.

  • imc February 12, 2018, 4:06 am

    The things that most stands out for me is the fact that both events took place over national holidays.
    To both events, sister’s family was not invited and yet showed up basically unannounced (with an excuse the first time, we don’t know why the second time). This sounds both weird and rude to me. Weird because it seems the family had not made any plans for NYE or Australia Day up until the moment they showed up at her parents’ house. Rude because both times they showed up not imagining or not caring that her parents might have made other plans for those occasions.

    I’ve ruled out the “reconciling sisters” option, since OP clerified that she has a good relationship with her sister, and that there’s other siblings in the family (and multiple family events throughout the year), therefore it’s not like it’s just the sister that’s being excluded from family events.
    I can see only two reasons for the sort of behavior described:
    1) the sister and her husband are rude and entitled, feeling that if they just show up at her parents’ on a holiday they’ll get to join in on whatever entertainment her parents have already planned;
    2) the sister and her husband are clueless and they genuinely think that they’re welcome to join her parents for events without prior notice because they’ve never been told otherwise… which is still rude, since it’s ludicrous to think that a family of six can just show up to meal-related events without their participation ever being discussed.

    Also, how fast do these six people shower (or how many showers do the parents have), that they’d be getting at the parents place after 5pm for a hot shower and yet be ready to join a party starting at 5pm without any issue other than placement and amount of food?

  • NicoleK February 12, 2018, 7:19 am

    I can’t fault your mom in the first situation… sounds like a family emergency situation. If I were the mom, I personally would have gotten frozen spring rolls and dimsum or made sesame noodles to go with the asian theme, but whatever. Emergencies happen, and flexibility is important.

    The second scenario is weird, though… she invited you for lunch and then ate lunch without you? That is weird.

  • JeanLouiseFinch February 12, 2018, 2:52 pm

    In my family, because my mother has a tendency to completely disregard my need to plan things, she ends up inviting guests to my events. Although I happily host my friends to dinner, I have decided that in order to preserve a relationship with my family, I needed to stop hosting. We have started to have events at restaurants where the arrangement is to pay for yourself. This eliminates many of the moochers who will show up, gorge, but never help with clean up or bring anything to contribute. I would bet if that was the arrangement, sister’s partner would decide that they weren’t going to show up!

    • Anonymous February 13, 2018, 11:39 am

      Ooh, I like that…….but, before implementing that policy, I think it’d be a good idea to make sure that nobody who you want to attend has dietary restrictions, or financial problems, et cetera. For example, I don’t pig out or make messes and refuse to clean up at other people’s houses, and when I go to potlucks, I always bring something. So, if I was in a situation like the OP’s, and someone issued a “restaurant only” edict to circumvent others’ rudeness, I wouldn’t be the reason for that edict, but I’d definitely be affected by it, because a vegan, and I don’t have much money, which means that most restaurant gatherings wouldn’t work for me. But, as long as everyone in the family can afford to eat out, and as long as there aren’t too many conflicting food preferences/needs, I can see it working really well, especially if the family already has a favourite restaurant–they could build a tradition around that.

      • NostalgicGal February 13, 2018, 9:10 pm

        I’m celiac and vegan and manage to deal with restaurant outs these days. It means eating before, or bringing something for after, and maybe just sitting and drinking water and giving the server a tip because I took up a seat they were responsible for. Now also I am quite used to watching others eat, if this isn’t comfortable for you or them is when it gets difficult. I have taught family and friends that go right ahead, eat, I don’t mind even if I can’t.

        • Anonymous February 16, 2018, 8:15 am

          Oh, I do that too–I’ve gone to restaurants and just had, say, Diet Coke, or water, while everyone else has had full meals, and I’m fine with doing that. It just gets uncomfortable because someone almost always says, “well, you have to eat SOMETHING” (no, I don’t), or “can’t you eat cheese pizza?” (no, cheese is made from milk, which comes from a cow), or something to that effect, when I’ve already decided to be there for the company instead of the food……and then the haranguing from the Food Police ruins that for me too. So, now I just don’t eat out if I can help it.

          • NostalgicGal February 19, 2018, 10:58 am

            I politely tell them that I have arranged my mealtimes according to what I need to be happy and healthy and I am presently not hungry. Yes I’ve eaten. But, it all looks and smells delicious, so enjoy.

  • Anonymous February 13, 2018, 2:38 pm

    ^I meant to say, “because I’m a vegan.”

  • MzLiz February 14, 2018, 7:21 pm

    My family has a few ‘sensitive’ types that the rest of us are expected to walk on eggshells for & constantly accommodate, lest their poor wittle sensitive souls be wounded by the harsh fact that everything can’t always go their way. (The horror!!!) Funnily, their super-sensitivity usually only travels in one direction – Their own. It sucks, this common phenomenon where the more reasonable members of a family or friend group are perpetually ‘encouraged’ to ‘just let it go’ or give up/give in/give over because the Cry Babies invariably require coddling/attention/special treatment. It’s amazing how their feelings are always SO much more important, isn’t it? I stopped playing this game a long time ago because I can’t control or change these people but I’ve found that calling their bluff (and being wholly prepared to follow through) can work wonders. Sometimes it’s NOT easy but I’m better thanked & much happier for sticking to my boundaries or walking away from the situation when I don’t want to deal with the nonsense. And you know what? I actually like hanging out with my family a hell of a lot more now.

    Your Mum was pretty confidant she had you over a barrel by insisting Sis & Co attend last-minute, or she wouldn’t (with the insinuation that nobody else would attend either – an ugly pack mentality). Deliberately or not, what your Mum did is a perfect example of emotional blackmail (“Give me my way or I’m gonna intentionally ruin your carefully planned evening”) & that’s not a good look on anyone. If she was 5, it’d be called a tantrum & just like when a kid does it, that behaviour shouldn’t be indulged. She committed to this dinner & while Sis’s Family having no hot water was an unexpected inconvenience, it’s not a sudden tragedy that should override already-made plans. I mean, they simply want to use the shower – Does this require your Mum’s supervision? Does she need to wash their hair for them?? Scrub behind their ears??? But what perhaps you don’t realize is – She actually gave you a choice. Not a great choice, but a choice nonetheless. Next time, if she wants to play ‘Alpha Dog’, you play ‘Lone Wolf’. Call her bluff – “Sister & Family can’t POSSIBLY be left alone in your house tonight?!?!? Man, it’s a shame you’ve gotta cancel…we’ll miss you…Have fun & say “hi” to Sis from me! Pardon, gotta go – Dumplings are calling…Happy NYE! Speak to you later!” Then say bye-bye, you & Hubby shrug, laugh it off & have a lovely time ringing in the New Year. Though the players have changed, you still can have your party whether it’s now an intimate dinner for 2 (with yummy leftovers) or call some mates & see if they want to stop by for some grub. Just because she gives in to your sister doesn’t mean you have to, so the next time Mum tries to blackmail you like this, don’t take the bait. Be jokey about it or act dumb or just say “no” but you’re allowed stand your ground, even with family. It’s really tough the first few times but you’ll feel SO much better that’ll it’ll become more natural & eventually, Mum will probably give up this tactic because, why bother if it doesn’t work anymore?

    When you go over to her place, there’s not much you can do, except to comment, “I thought we were having lunch all together? You told us Noon, we’re on time – Why didn’t you guys wait for us? Why are you so weird?” & laugh about it. Still, it’s her home so it’s her rules – This does mean though that you can LEAVE. Not in a huffy way or anything but if it’s uncomfortable, you could just stay for a little while & then make your exit; “We’d made plans to go to the beach/friend’s party/the movies. Thanks for everything. Talk soon!” or “Oh look! Something suddenly came up” & take off. Have a Plan B for holidays at her home from now on so you & Hubs don’t feel your day is spoiled if Family is driving you up the wall.

    However, BIL wants to scam the dessert you made especially for your Dad?! Yeah, NO – Stay in your pen, Piggy, no-one called you to the trough. EH may not agree but I give you full permission to tell him OFF; no holes barred. “That’s a negatory, good buddy. I didn’t spend the time & effort to make that for YOU. Here; have a stick of gum & be quiet” or “Ha! I’d like to see you reach for Dad’s fave dessert, dude. You’ll pull back a stump!” or “I’ll give you the recipe so you can make your own but THIS is for my father & I didn’t make enough for him to share.” I bet your Dad will appreciate you sticking up for him so he can enjoy the special treat his daughter made FOR HIM, instead of Greedy McGreederson thinking it’s cool to stuff his gluttonous face with it. (BIL sounds gross, but every family has at least one of these rude-o relations. You’re not alone! And they WILL. NOT. STOP unless they’re called out. Sad but true)

    Standing up to family, (in particular, parents) is one of the hardest life skills to learn but it’s also one of the most valuable. This site is a really good source for tips & support & you’ll find your own style, limits, figure out when you wanna compromise & when you don’t. It takes practice (and family will give you lots of opportunities for that. Hahahaha). You won’t handle everything perfectly every time but – hey, neither does anyone else – just do your best. Basically, treat others the way you want them to treat you, which includes: if you would HATE to think you were ever reluctantly invited somewhere because someone pushed you on the host, then don’t put anyone else through that either, no matter who’s giving you the guilt trip. Good luck! (Wow, I always end up writing a HUGE post here. Pardon! I need to learn to be more succinct! 🙂 )

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