I started implementing my hills two years ago, after DH and I got married. I am not close with my family and don’t have any desire to spend Holiday’s with them so it’s not a matter of “sharing” in our case. It’s the fact that because the in-laws know that, it’s “expected” that we spend it with them. Frankly, sometimes I don’t want to be social on Holidays. I've decided that just because we aren't going to my family's doesn't mean we are automatically obligated to spend every Holiday with his. And, I’d like the chance for DH and I to start our own traditions.
Now, let me say that I am lucky to have married into a warm and generous family but FIL is also kind of high maintenance. He is a good man but he’s also got money and uses it. Not in that smarmy arrogant way but in that “I can’t be bothered to do this so I’ll just pay someone else to do it for me way”. Hey, it’s his money so I suppose he can do what he wants with it but this often relates back to how his children (SIL, BIL, and DH) react to him*.
DH and I are the only kids in town (his brother and sister live out of state). We’ve only been married three years but since becoming engaged, FIL has made “requests” of our time on whatever random whim he happens to be having at the moment that I do not feel inclined to go along with most of the time. So I don’t. So far, there haven’t been any bumps about it but this Christmas ALL the kids are in town and that’s when FIL starts in on his “traditions”.
One of FIL’s quirks is his Christmas tree. He’s very very VERY specific about how he wants it done. And he insists that DH and I come over whenever HE is ready to decorate it and do so with big joyous smiles on our face while he micro manages every single piece of tinsel (that he orders from Germany). He’s not nasty about it, just “specific”. Decorating a tree is supposed to be a fun thing. It’s stressful with FIL. So, last year, I just didn’t go over. The tree got decorated just the way FIL liked and no one (meaning DH and I) felt like burying him under the ornaments by the end of the day. FIL still likes to bring this up, (jokingly but still) and I bean dip him every time.
And, that generally leads to the conversation about Christmas Eve midnight mass at FIL’s church…
FIL is the groundskeeper at his church. He does this voluntarily as he’s very much into nature and does an outstanding job of it. The grounds are gorgeous and I say that as someone who doesn’t “do” nature. And, his loyalty to that church is quite deep though he doesn’t actually attend that church as a member. (I honestly don’t understand it but it makes him happy.) He also runs the parking on the very well attended midnight mass on Christmas Eve. Now, it use to be that every other year, or whenever they were in town, the “kids” were enlisted to help act as parking attendants at midnight mass. That means the spouses as well. Apparently, this is just sort of the understanding. Our first year as a married couple, I was told that this was happening with no more than a day’s notice. I went along with it because I was still new to the family and didn’t want to make waves. We didn’t get out of there until after 2 am and then had to be back at the in-laws house for coffee cake and presents the next morning at 8 am as that’s also tradition. I was not happy. DH and his siblings and their spouses have just sorta of accepted that this was how it was going to be from now on. I do not. This year, all the kids and spouses are back in town again for Christmas and FIL has already started talking about it. I told DH all that I would not be “helping” with parking this year. DH said, “But it’s tradition.” I said, “No. It’s FIL’s tradition. I would like for us to start our own Christmas Eve traditions this year. They won’t miss us. We’ll see them all on Christmas morning and throughout the week while they are in town.” So far, no one has tried to argue with me about it.
My next hill is having every Thanksgiving Holiday hijacked by his MIL. FIL often goes away on long nature trips and MIL is often left to fend for herself when those trips overlap holidays. She isn’t exactly amubulatory on a good day and she’s lonely because she doesn’t have a lot of friends so DH feels guilt about leaving her alone for Thanksgiving. Now, I don’t mind spending them with her sometimes. She’s lovely, but I just want a Thanksgiving where I don’t have to spend my time worrying about MIL. I want to stay home and do nothing. Or, maybe just have some friends over and have a casual party and drink lots of wine. The last three years, DH and I had plans to do something on our own for Thanksgiving and every year, we end up at his parent’s house eating bad food (she’s a terrible cook) because “Well it’s Thanksgiving and mom’s lonely. ” (he also plays the "she's old and might not be around much longer" card). FIL is also a notoriously picky eater so that on top of the bad food make for a very bland boring meal. This year I said, “Your mom is a big girl. She’s not your responsibility. Besides, she got Easter this year, every Thanksgiving and Christmas for three years, and she’s getting Christmas again this year. We are NOT giving her Thanksgiving again. I’ll compromise and say that she can come over here if your adamant she not be alone but I am cooking my menu the way I want, I’ll invite who I want, and it will be at the time I want to eat. It’s that or we do nothing at all. If FIL happens to be in town, then the same will apply to him.”
*The reason I suspect that kids all go along with FIL’s “whims” is because they are genuanly terrified he will leave them out of his will if they don’t. What makes them think that is beyond me because I’ve never even heard a peep from FIL about it. I guess they’ve just conditioned themselves to this thinking. I am reconditioning them.