Let me start by saying I love my IL's. They're wonderful, sweet people. BUT - they never give notice for events. I thought it was getting better, and this holiday season proved me wrong - I need some eHell techniques for me and DH to try to get through to them to explain what we need.
This has apparently always been the way that his family has operated. We get calls from DH's mom mid-week asking us "if we're going to be there Friday." When we respond with a baffled "Where on Friday?" she then tells us it's so-and-so's birthday/christening/etc. There can be a few reasons for this:
Scenario 1) One of his many cousins has sent an invitation to his parent's house instead of ours, and she didn't let us know until days/hours before the event. These ones don't bother him or me too much - if they can't be bothered to send it to the right address, he's not that fussed if we're not there. If they ask where he was after, he'll straight-up tell them he didn't get the invitation, he hasn't lived at his parents for X years and we already had plans by the time he heard.
Scenario 2) The family event was literally planned the day before. Like the call we got at 1pm on a Sunday asking if we were going to his grandma's birthday. When he asked when it was, he was told 4pm. Cue fuming, but he doesn't want to punish his grandmother for the short notice (3h!!!!), so our day is upended and we go.
Scenario 3) IL's probably had something planned in their head for a while but didn't let us know until days/hours before. This is what took the cake this year. Knowing this planning problem, he questioned his mom for weeks about finalizing the Christmas family times and locations, since we split the holidays, and got weeks of "I don't know yet" until about the 21st. We went, and we thought we'd managed OK for this year's holidays. Cue New Year's. We had dinner plans with one of my out of town family members, a birthday party for a friend we'd committed to at least 2 months in advance, and another friend who asked us to stop in if we had time. Packed night, well planned, never any discussion of family plans. DH peeks at his phone and checks his voicemail partway through dinner when he sees a message from his dad left at 6pm. Contents of said message? "Where are you? You mom wants you to be here. Your brothers are here already." And instantly DH is quietly fuming again - especially since he said the voicemail wasn't even a question, it was a "where are you" as if we should already know.
So tell me, eHell - any magical tips and tricks for dealing with this and getting them to understand that we are busy people, we cannot - and will not - drop plans to accommodate last minute requests? We've been trying to put it that way and teach them by turning down last-minute requests whenever they aren't convenient - but the problem is that sometimes the requests are ones like his grandmother's birthday, where we'd be punishing the wrong person and he'd feel guilty. So we go, and the cycle continues. Anyone out there found a way out of this - firm, but polite - that doesn't involve us ripping our hair out in frustration? Or at least some deep-breathing techniques we can use?