This is a question for Ehellions. I’ll give the set up.
My siblings and I all had moved several hundred miles from home by the time our parents were in their early sixties. I lived the closest to my parents, at about 750 miles away. At the times of the visits I’m referencing, my parents were in their 60’s, then their 70’s (they died at 78 and 80). Our parents each had several younger siblings of theirs living in their area, ranging in distance from 10 minutes away to a couple of hours away. Four of my parents’ siblings lived 30 minutes or less from my parents, in three different directions. Every summer, our parents, who were retired, traveled to visit my siblings and me, spending two weeks with each of us at our respective houses.
My siblings and I would travel with our families to visit our parents on occasion, normally once a year or so. Due to school, work, sports, vacation day limits, etc., we usually were only there for about 3-4 days at a time. Since there is no airport near where my folks lived, we all always drove, and it was a very long day of driving each way for all of us. My siblings and I usually did not all come at the same time, as it taxed our folks to have us all there at once, plus our vacation times often just didn’t sync.
My siblings reported to me that they had the same remarks made regarding them that my husband and I had when we visited with my parents: namely, all of our parents’ area siblings, with the exception of the one who lived 10 minutes away, would always tell our parents, “Now when your kids get there, tell them we’d love to see them, and we’ll be home anytime they want to come by.” My mother would dutifully relay this message and ask if we wanted to go visit. Now, on a few occasions, my parents would organize a big potluck picnic at the park when a sibling or I was visiting, and invite the relatives over to join us, but sometimes that just didn’t happen in the time we had there, and we never had the entire family show up, anyway. Please note that all of these relatives were younger than our parents, and fully capable of going anywhere they wanted to, which they did, often.
Here’s the etiquette issue: my siblings and I, who had driven anywhere from 12 to 16 hours each way, usually with children (toddlers to teens) and spouses in tow, would refuse to drive around the countryside and visit these relatives. We always told our parents we’d love to see the others, too, but could they come see us at our parents’ house instead? (My parents had an open door policy with their family members at all times, so this was not imposing on our parents). The one family member who lived 10 minutes away always showed up at my parents’ when she heard we were coming, and we had a good time visiting with her, but she was the exception. My mother, bless her heart, after we’d refused to drive out for visiting, would then call the area family members to say that we would love to see them, and would invite them over for coffee and cake (she always baked a cake or two) so they could visit with us. Almost every time, those family members said they would try, then not show up. Then they would complain to our parents after we left, “Oh, we would have loved to see (name) and his/her family. Why didn’t they come see us? You know how much we wanted to see them! Goodness, they drove all that way to get here, what’s a drive of half an hour or so to come see us?” And my parents (usually my mom) always had to say something like, “They had such limited time here; it just wasn’t possible.” Which was true, actually.
So, were my siblings and I rude to steadfastly refuse to go all over that end of the state visiting, or were the relatives rude to expect us to come see them, and not take our mother’s suggestion to drop by for some cake and a visit? Were we all rude? My mom was the people-pleasing kind that if we had driven all over to visit, she’d have gone with us happily, but if they had come to us instead, she’d have been just as happy with that plan, in fact, probably happier, as she was a homebody. My dad would have done either thing, as well. Still, I always felt bad that this seemed to land in my mother’s lap, but they always contacted her and my dad, not us, before we got there and after we left. One time I answered when one of the relatives surprisingly called while we were there, and I issued an invitation to come see us (I had already discussed this with my parents) and got the reply that, “if we have time, we’ll try to make it, blah, blah, maybe you could come here….” And of course, they never showed. This ended when my parents died, and my sibs and I always felt the others were rude, but are we wrong? Could we have handled this better? What should we have done? 0215-18
When people say things like, “Oh, we would have loved to see (name) and his/her family. You know how much we wanted to see them!”, it’s best translated as, “I’ll say this to make it sound like I’m invested in family but I really don’t have the time to actually make that investment.” I ignore these comments as nothing more than words in the wind because the value is in what they actually DO as opposed to what they say. If they really wanted to see you, they would make the effort to do so and not guilt manipulate you into driving even more and be away from your parents.