Author Topic: Pitching in at holidays, or not - was I rude?  (Read 1636 times)

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Hazelthyme

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Pitching in at holidays, or not - was I rude?
« on: November 28, 2011, 02:22:44 PM »
Thanksgiving's over and done with now, but I'd like some feedback from eH3ll on this issue just in case it comes up again (as I have a sneaking suspicion it will).

Originally, Mr. Hazel and I planned to spend the holiday at home, cooking and hosting dinner for about 6 out-of-state family members. Invitations had been extended and accepted, and hotel reservations made, but about a week before the holiday, 2 unrelated family emergencies meant that none of our guests would be able to make it. As we didn't want Mr. Hazel's mom (Millie) and her sister (Tillie) to be alone with just each other for the day, we volunteered to change our plans and go to them for Thanksgiving. Millie gladly accepted.

Millie has a small house, with a tiny, cramped kitchen. She also doesn't really enjoy cooking. Knowing this, Mr. Hazel and I suggested as soon as we decided to spend TG in her hometown that we focus on everyone enjoying each other's company for the day, rather than making themselves crazy organizing a Big Holiday Meal. We found several local restaurants that offered a nice Thanksgiving dinner, as well as supermarkets that would prepare some or all of the meal for you (i.e., you pick up your turkey, stuffing, green beans, or all of the above, and just pop it in the oven to heat it up). However, Millie rejected both of these suggestions, insisting that she wanted to have dinner at home and that she and Tillie would prepare everything themselves. We asked in advance if there were a few specific dishes she'd like us to take responsibility for, and she asked Mr. Hazel to make a pie, but said she had everything else under control.

Fast forward to Thanksgiving eve. We're visiting with Millie before heading off to our hotel for the night, and she's running down her checklist of her plans for TG dinner. When she gets to the part about "Mr. Hazel will make his pie, and the 2 of you can help me with the X, Y, and Z," I interrupt, with something like, "Wait a minute. We talked about this last week, and you said you didn't want us to do anything but the pie and the wine. We're happy to run to the grocery store or chop up some veggies for you, but we're not really prepared to do much else -- too many cooks spoil the broth, and all that."

Millie changed the subject and didn't seem offended, but I still feel like perhaps I could have handled the situation better. On one hand, I know that if I hadn't spoken up, we'd have found ourselves tied to Millie's kitchen from daybreak till bedtime, bumping into each other and not being able to find the utensils/ ingredients we needed, with Millie hovering over us either asking for our help or offering her own. (I'm happy to cook up a storm at home, where I know what I have and where it is, or to know in advance that I'm responsible for contributing X to a meal at someone else's house and planning accordingly ... but not to have a wheelbarrow of holiday chores dumped on me at the last minute.) On the other, I felt a bit churlish at having refused to help as requested.

Thoughts?

-HB

Kaypeep

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Re: Pitching in at holidays, or not - was I rude?
« Reply #1 on: November 28, 2011, 02:41:01 PM »
I think you jumped the gun and came off a bit rude.  Did you ask what she meant when she said "help with..."?  Maybe she did mean chop vegetables, or roll dough or whatever.  I think you should have just asked for elaboration and then worked out the details to avoid the cramped kitchen part.  You could have listened and maybe declined one of the items.  Like "Okay, I can peel potatoes and roll and cut the biscuits, but I'm afraid I can't deal with squash.  That's foreign to me.  Can I trade that for setting the table and washing the dishes?"  Your response sounds very much like you are trying to get out of doing any helping at all, and it would offend me if it were my house and you were my family, especially when it sounds like you invited yourselves after your own plans fell through.

lowspark

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Re: Pitching in at holidays, or not - was I rude?
« Reply #2 on: November 28, 2011, 04:06:25 PM »
I think a lot depends on what X, Y and Z were and if she made it clear what she wanted you to do. Also wondering how Mr. Hazel felt about the whole thing. It's his mom so, could he have anticipated that even though she said all you needed to do was pie & wine she'd want help the day of? Did he feel that you were abrupt in your reply? Was he willing to do more work or was he relieved that you nipped it in the bud?

Based on what you wrote, I'm going to assume that X, Y and Z were more than just chopping some veggies or setting the table, in which case I'd say, not rude. Because really, you did some legwork as far as researching other options, and you did make it clear in advance what you & Mr. Hazel were responsible for.

Had this gone differently, and you'd accepted the extra chores, you'd be posting here lamenting that you'd gotten stuck and had a stressful day and how could you have declined, and there would be posters saying that you never should have given in and that we teach people how to treat us, etc. So, assuming you were gentle and polite in your response, I'd say you were OK.

Fleur-de-Lis

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Re: Pitching in at holidays, or not - was I rude?
« Reply #3 on: November 28, 2011, 07:11:11 PM »
I agree with Lowspark.  If somebody tries to misstate the terms of an agreement to your disadvantage, it's important to verify the terms you agreed to. 
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O'Dell

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Re: Pitching in at holidays, or not - was I rude?
« Reply #4 on: November 29, 2011, 12:35:21 AM »
"Wait a minute. We talked about this last week, and you said you didn't want us to do anything but the pie and the wine. We're happy to run to the grocery store or chop up some veggies for you, but we're not really prepared to do much else -- too many cooks spoil the broth, and all that."

I think you were fine not helping, but the first 2 sentences comes off as childish and could have been left off altogether. It sounds like "You said I didn't have to help, so now I'm not going to no matter how much you need it! So nyah :P" Is that maybe why you are doubting yourself? I understand why Millie doing that would irritate you...I'd be irritated by it too. But it really has nothing to do with your decision to not help cook, right?
Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.
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Fleur-de-Lis

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Re: Pitching in at holidays, or not - was I rude?
« Reply #5 on: November 29, 2011, 12:51:29 AM »
"Wait a minute. We talked about this last week, and you said you didn't want us to do anything but the pie and the wine. We're happy to run to the grocery store or chop up some veggies for you, but we're not really prepared to do much else -- too many cooks spoil the broth, and all that."

I think you were fine not helping, but the first 2 sentences comes off as childish and could have been left off altogether. It sounds like "You said I didn't have to help, so now I'm not going to no matter how much you need it! So nyah :P" Is that maybe why you are doubting yourself? I understand why Millie doing that would irritate you...I'd be irritated by it too. But it really has nothing to do with your decision to not help cook, right?

I disagree. The first two sentences say, "*This* was the deal. What you are stating now is not what you offered, nor what we agreed to." There's nothing "nyah" in "No, you don't get to re-write it to suit what you want now."
   Finally we shall place the Sun himself at the center of the Universe.


Hazelthyme

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Re: Pitching in at holidays, or not - was I rude?
« Reply #6 on: November 29, 2011, 03:43:10 PM »
"Wait a minute. We talked about this last week, and you said you didn't want us to do anything but the pie and the wine. We're happy to run to the grocery store or chop up some veggies for you, but we're not really prepared to do much else -- too many cooks spoil the broth, and all that."

I think you were fine not helping, but the first 2 sentences comes off as childish and could have been left off altogether. It sounds like "You said I didn't have to help, so now I'm not going to no matter how much you need it! So nyah :P" Is that maybe why you are doubting yourself? I understand why Millie doing that would irritate you...I'd be irritated by it too. But it really has nothing to do with your decision to not help cook, right?

This is correct. I'd have happily helped if asked to do something specific (mix up the stuffing, set the table, peel the squash, etc.), but this never happened -- it was more a general "I'll do everything on this list and you can help" or "We'll do everything on this list." (Millie may well have said "The kids and I will do ... " and then gone on to list X, Y, Z, P, D, and Q; it's been a few days and I didn't carry a recorder with me. ;) )

Based on my prior experience, agreeing to a generic "help me" or "we'll do it together" would have made for an incredibly frustrating experience -- 4 people crammed into a space where even 2 can't really work comfortably, getting in each other's way with the hovering and looking for ingredients and "helping" in ways that really aren't helpful. I do love Millie, and recognize that she's kind of lonely and wants to make the most of her brief visits with us ... but I've also learned the hard way that if I don't make some effort to set boundaries, she'll smother us with attention and affection 24/7, which makes both Twig and I utterly miserable (and likely, after several days of this, to snap and say something we'll regret, which does no one any good). Mr. Hazel does back us up as much as he can, but his own strategy after a lifetime of this is usually to just shut down and ignore it, and sometimes old habits die hard.

-HB