Author Topic: Is the hint too subtle when the person who made it missed it?  (Read 2934 times)

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Kendo_Bunny

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Is the hint too subtle when the person who made it missed it?
« on: December 27, 2012, 02:26:33 AM »
Background: I am the Family Spy. My family is sort of spread out and not that good at communicating. There's my Dad, my Stepmom, my stepbrother Jack, my stepsister Mia, my sister Grace, and me. Jack and Mia have spouses and kids, Grace and I do not. Grace lives about 600 miles away from our parents, Jack lives about 300 miles away, I live about 80 miles away, and Mia lives about 20 miles away. For the last 10 years (since I was 16), I have been in charge of finding out what everybody wanted for Christmas and birthdays, cooking the holiday meals for all holidays, and wrapping all the presents for gift-giving occasions. Since I got my driver's license at 18, I've also been responsible for shopping for presents. My Dad does not have the best memory for likes and dislikes, and that's why he passed the job to me, because none of my siblings can be persuaded to give a list, and they often end up getting things they already have, do not like at all, or have absolutely no use for when Dad does the shopping. I am the child that visits the most often, Grace and Mia are the ones that visit the least. /End this part of Background.

Today I met Mia, her husband, and her kids to give them their Christmas presents from me and from "the parents" (picked out on my big shopping trip and wrapped by me, but paid for by the parents). They were all delighted, and while the kids settled down comfortably to look through their new books and play with their new toys, Mia and I got to talking. Mia asked how Dad had known to get all the presents that they wanted, and I told her that I had remembered the conversation that we had had the last time I was visiting about what the kids liked, what she liked, what her husband liked, and what their storage limits were, and that's how I was able to figure out good gifts to give. We then had the following conversation:

Mia: You're still driving all the way up from your house just to do the cooking and the shopping and the cleaning and the wrapping? That must be so tough.
Me: Well... yeah... it can be.
Mia: I'm getting worried about our parents. John (her husband) just found out that his grandmother was diagnosed with dementia, and no one noticed for a long time because they only saw her on holidays.
Me: Well, I keep up with Dad really well - we talk at least once a week, and I drive up every other month or so.
Mia: But I'm still worried that we're not doing enough for them.

Now... I was waiting for her to say something about her going to visit the parents, or call the parents. She hasn't visited since last Thanksgiving - Dad owns a particularly stupid large dog, and my nephew Mark accidentally teased the dog (he put the dog's food down in the wrong place, then when John pointed it out, picked the food up and turned around - the dog snapped, bit my nephew, and then panicked when he realized he had hurt his friend. The dog spent the next two days cowering and whining, and was re-trained heavily, because he had never shown food aggression before). Mark is not afraid of the dog at all - I mentioned that the dog had eaten the ornaments I bought them last year, and Mark giggled and smiled and then showed off his scar. But Mia doesn't organize visits away from the parents house either, since she's afraid of the dog now. She doesn't answer the phone when they call or call them back.

Grace, besides living 600 miles away, is mentally ill, and while she leads a fairly normal life, she is more likely to contact people when things are going wrong and she is hurting. She is also in grad school, and working hard to get out with as little debt and as high grades as possible, so she has a very hard and hectic life right now. She has thanked me for being close to Dad and being there for him while she can't be.

Jack calls semi-regularly, and tries to organize Skype chats at least every other month so the parents can see how the kids are growing. He tries bring his wife and kids up to visit at least a few times a year, and invites the parents down several times a year. He has a busy, hectic life (his wife is finishing up her Post-doctorate work and looking for Professorships and they have a 4-year-old and a 1-year-old), but he takes as much time as he can for our parents... though he doesn't give me a wish list either, so I have to spy on him too and make notes on what everyone is interested in.

So... it comes back to Mia. It sounded like she was hinting strongly that someone needs to do more, but I can't see that it's me. I do call once a week and do come up every other month to visit and cook and help with things. I cook every holiday meal, and do what chores I can to be helpful. I keep tabs on all my siblings, and keep abreast of all family gossip so that if anyone is having an issue with anyone else, I can usually smooth it out before it becomes too big by playing peacemaker and relaying messages that everyone else is too stubborn to say, or that they don't think is important (but is usually the linchpin of the entire misunderstanding). The only way I could be more dutiful would be if I stopped my own life and moved in to become the personal family secretary. Sometimes I feel taken advantage of, but I know if I didn't play this role, the family would just sort of drift apart, and Dad would be lonely.

How can I ask Mia whether she meant that she should do more, or if she was hinting that I should somehow do even more than I already do? If she does not want to come to the parent's house because of the dog, she can ask them to meet her somewhere else on non-holidays, since Dad loves the kids and has been missing them a lot. Or maybe if she was hinting that Jack or Grace should do more? If she has a new concern over the parent's health, then isn't it better to check it out herself than to just take my word for it? Or should I just be blunt and say that I am stretched a little thin, and I would love some help from a sibling close enough to make a difference to my crazy holiday workload?

cicero

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Re: Is the hint too subtle when the person who made it missed it?
« Reply #1 on: December 27, 2012, 03:19:05 AM »
Kendo - speaking as the child who is taking care of the elderly parent - it's time to stop hinting and time to start speaking.

I don't know your stepsister, i don't know if she was hinting that *you* need to do more, or if this was just a sudden lightbulb moment of "hmmm i didn't realize that so much was *being done* somehow by invisible elves".

I am one of five siblings, plus there are tons of step siblings/siblings-in-law/step-grandchildren. My father is currently living alone since his wife was institutionalized. he's *basically* ok but he needs a lot of help (which he won't admit to) and I *can't* do it all. My other siblings live a 12-hour /~1000$/7 time zones away (one brother lives about an hour away but he has his own issues).

so alot of it falls on me and i do the best i can. My father visits the other siblings 1-2 times a year when he stays there for about a month. and the siblings try to visit here - taking away some of the burden off me. for now this is working ok but i did have to speak up and say "guys, i'm ok with A but i need your help on B and C".

in your situation -the first thing i would do would be to drop the holiday stuff. you are not, and should not, *be responsible* for an entire family of grown ups. your father doesn't have a good memory? well, gee, neither do i. that's why they made things like lists, wish lists, smart phones,etc.

second - have a conference call with all the siblings and be upfront. "guys, Mia mentioned somethign to me the other day and i think we all have to face up to this. our parents are getting older . I visit them [x times a year]. at their age, i think it's important that one of us sees them at least once a week so let's set up a rotation. I also think that they need X service and Y service. I can deal with X; who can take on Y". and so on.


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BC12

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Re: Is the hint too subtle when the person who made it missed it?
« Reply #2 on: December 27, 2012, 04:07:13 AM »
How can I ask Mia whether she meant that she should do more, or if she was hinting that I should somehow do even more than I already do? If she does not want to come to the parent's house because of the dog, she can ask them to meet her somewhere else on non-holidays, since Dad loves the kids and has been missing them a lot. Or maybe if she was hinting that Jack or Grace should do more? If she has a new concern over the parent's health, then isn't it better to check it out herself than to just take my word for it?

I think you should let her comments go this time. There's no need to acknowledge hints. If she has something to say, let her come out and say it. If she thinks there's a problem that needs solving, let her offer solutions - you don't need to provide them for her.

Or should I just be blunt and say that I am stretched a little thin, and I would love some help from a sibling close enough to make a difference to my crazy holiday workload?

You can be blunt and ask her for help if your parents need it. You could have done this at any point, though, not just after she dropped some hints. And for the record, I don't think she was really hint-dropping. I think her husband's grandmother's dementia story kind of scared her, and she's realizing that the same story could possibly play out with her family if she continues to only see her parents on holidays.

I think it's really commendable that you help out your parents so much, but I hope you don't burn yourself out. Always being the family peacemaker sounds like it would be exhausting. Why do you do it?
« Last Edit: December 27, 2012, 04:10:03 AM by BC12 »

oogyda

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Re: Is the hint too subtle when the person who made it missed it?
« Reply #3 on: December 27, 2012, 08:07:46 AM »

 
Mia: You're still driving all the way up from your house just to do the cooking and the shopping and the cleaning and the wrapping? That must be so tough.
Me: Well... yeah... it can be.
Mia: I'm getting worried about our parents. John (her husband) just found out that his grandmother was diagnosed with dementia, and no one noticed for a long time because they only saw her on holidays.
Me: Well, I keep up with Dad really well - we talk at least once a week, and I drive up every other month or so.
Mia: But I'm still worried that we're not doing enough for them.
 

This was your chance to tell her that you think you are doing plenty and if she thinks *we're* not doing enough for them, she should start doing something.  Anything. 

Granted, that could be twisted around to her agreeing that you're doing enough and there's nothing more to be done, so maybe you should have just agreed that *we're* not doing enough and she should, at the very least, visit.
It's not what we gather along the way that matters.  It's what we scatter.

Just Lori

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Re: Is the hint too subtle when the person who made it missed it?
« Reply #4 on: December 27, 2012, 08:30:11 AM »
As the recipient of many a "something needs to be done" phone calls that actually mean "you need to do something," I think I have a solution.  The next time my family member calls, I'm going to say, "Well, let's make sure we're on the same page about what's been done so far.  What have you done to help?"

Cue chirping crickets.  Complaining about the parents doesn't count.

Seriously, you can't ignore the elephant in the room, which is that something more may be needed.  When this comes up again, ask Mia what she has in mind.  Take it from there.

Sharnita

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Re: Is the hint too subtle when the person who made it missed it?
« Reply #5 on: December 27, 2012, 09:12:37 AM »
As bizarre as it sounds it is entirely possible that by "we" she meant "you".  In my experience there are often one or two siblings who take on the majority fo the care for elderly parents/family members and it seems that there is always at least one other family member who does very little to help but can make plenty of suggestions and criticisms. If it becomes clear that she thinks you should be doing more I think you can be polite but firm in letting her know where the boundaries are and where she cam step up if she has an interest or concern.

Girlie

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Re: Is the hint too subtle when the person who made it missed it?
« Reply #6 on: December 27, 2012, 09:15:01 AM »
Oh, I feel your pain. My mother is not elderly, but because of some choices she has made, I often end up being the caretaker of her pets and property for long periods of time. That includes making sure her bills get paid in a timely, careful manner (though I use her money, it's MY time that gets eaten up by all of these extra chores and responsibilities). My husband thinks I'm taken advantage of. I feel like I'm being a dutiful daughter.

Cue my siblings, who like to ramble on and on about me in particular and how I don't "respect" mom enough, don't "do" enough to help her out, etc. etc. They could go on and on for hours. They do nothing to help her, and she doesn't trust them with her finances, which is why this load falls on my shoulders.

So, I ignore them. I've learned to tell my mom when something is NOT possible, period, but for the most part, I do the same stuff I've always done.

So I guess it all boils down to this: When you start to feel like you're being taken advantage of, it IS okay to take a step back and not help. When what you're doing makes you feel good, or doesn't bother you too much, go ahead and do it. And don't let your siblings bother you too much about it, because at the end of the day, you only have to answer for yourself.

buvezdevin

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Re: Is the hint too subtle when the person who made it missed it?
« Reply #7 on: December 27, 2012, 09:19:50 AM »
KB, I really like Cicero's suggestion of having a group discussion with your siblings, which can be especially useful to have as older relatives begin to reach a point where their needs change.

It sounds like Mia may have been reflexively commenting from recognition that *she* should be doing more - she doesn't answer their calls or call them?!

If Mia does make an ambiguous comment along the lines of "we should be doing more" I think it would be reasonable to go with a generous read of such a comment and reply "that would be great, what are you considering doing?"
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SPuck

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Re: Is the hint too subtle when the person who made it missed it?
« Reply #8 on: December 27, 2012, 10:07:52 AM »
I think you should forget that particular comment now. You didn't utilize it when it was said and it is now passed. As for the care taking aspect you have two separate issues. The regular visits and then the added stress in doing everything for the holidays. I think that both warrant different discussions at different times. The holidays would be  talk about everyone has to get over their hang ups and start doing Christmas lists/wish lists. Being the family personal shopper just isn't working any more. The second conversation would be at a different time. Concerning are you actually worried about your parents health or do you just want your siblings to try and visit them more.

Kendo_Bunny

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Re: Is the hint too subtle when the person who made it missed it?
« Reply #9 on: December 27, 2012, 10:28:43 AM »
I think it's really commendable that you help out your parents so much, but I hope you don't burn yourself out. Always being the family peacemaker sounds like it would be exhausting. Why do you do it?

Because my mother died a month before my 6th birthday. I adore my Dad, who is pretty much in the pink of health for a man in his early 70's (some joint problems and slightly high blood pressure). My natural sister can't be counted on for much of the family work and planning, because she often creates drama, then when she gets out of her low points, feels horrible about it and has no idea how to make it up (she's not schizophrenic or anything like that). I enjoy cooking and playing Santa, but I'd like help with some of the details (like wrapping, gift lists so I didn't have to do so much guessing, maybe bringing side dishes).

Mia seemed more worried about her GMIL's dementia because Dad has given John the same screwdriver set for the last three years, but Dad has always had a poor memory for little details like that. When I was 5 he couldn't remember that I hated turkey soup, and now that I'm 26 it's only just beginning to enter his mind that I really hate turkey soup. He does remember that I'm severely allergic to lavender. He does not remember that John has a serviceable screwdriver set, but he does remember exactly what John does for a living, remembers that Mia had a peanut allergy that sorted itself out in pregnancy, and while he's not always spot-on with the day the grandkids were born, he knows their birth months and can usually narrow it down to the week. So... not really a man who is losing little things here and there, but kind of an archetypal "Big Picture" type who remembers important points and forgets little details, and always has.

Mia calls on holidays, and if you call her, she may call you back within two weeks. Then again, she might not. Dad is upset that he has barely seen his grandkids in the last year - both are sweet kids, and Dad has a big house and a huge backyard, while Mia lives in a tiny condo. One of my family peacemaker messages was informing Mia that Dad does love and miss her children - Dad's not the most demonstrative man, and she thought it meant he wasn't glad to see them and didn't mind that they weren't visiting.

bopper

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Re: Is the hint too subtle when the person who made it missed it?
« Reply #10 on: January 02, 2013, 11:33:27 AM »
Mia: You're still driving all the way up from your house just to do the cooking and the shopping and the cleaning and the wrapping? That must be so tough.
Me: Well... yeah... it can be.
Mia: I'm getting worried about our parents. John (her husband) just found out that his grandmother was diagnosed with dementia, and no one noticed for a long time because they only saw her on holidays.
Me: Well, I keep up with Dad really well - we talk at least once a week, and I drive up every other month or so.
Mia: But I'm still worried that we're not doing enough for them.
Me: Well, an easy thing for you to do is Skype with them...you could see how they are doing and they could see the kids.