General Etiquette > Family and Children

Nephew's birthday Update #99

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BG1: My brother lives several states away, more than 7 hours of travel time.  For the last 20 years, it's usually been me and my DH who travel for family visits - for many of those years, our parents lived in the same far state as my brother, so it made sense.  But even when our parents lived down near me for 6 years, my brother and his partner visited our state only once or twice.  I have typically visited (with and without my DH) my brother's state twice a year or more.  I'm OK with this; DB leads a busy life, traveling for work and I know it's hard to make time and energy to do family visits sometimes.  This is even more true now that DB has a child, Nephew, who is darling but a lot of work!

BG2:  For the last 10 years or so, my DH and I have vacationed in a third state with friends.  They are locked into a certain week of the year at their lakeside cabin.  We really enjoy our time with them and look forward to this vacation very much.  This year it will mean even more to us as one of the friends we vacation with has been diagnosed with cancer.

Unfortunately, my nephew's birthday falls within the vacation week, and the two locations are much too far apart (5+ hours) for a day trip.  Therefore we have had to decline when my brother has invited us to Nephew's birthday parties in the past.

You know where this is going, right?  :P

A few nights ago I was talking to my brother and he brought up Nephew's birthday.  "DN's 3rd birthday is XX date, you know you could come..."

"Oh, DB, I'm sorry," I said, "but that's the start of our vacation week.  We just can't."
"Yeah, well, great," he said sourly.  "So you'll miss it again."
"It's unfortunate, but it just lines up that way.  We're locked into that week."
"Well, I can tell you, DN's birthday isn't going to change.  So I guess you'll always miss it."

I think the conversation was slightly longer, but that is the gist.  And then he abruptly said he had to go, he'd call me back later in the evening, and we hung up.  And then he didn't call me back.

So, is this really a problem, or is my brother expecting too much?  Is it normal to have family travel 7 hours one way for a child's birthday party?  Even if we weren't on vacation, I'm not sure we would go up for just the birthday party - that's a lot of travel and expense for a weekend.  And I would rather see my brother's family at a less hectic time - from the pictures of previous years, the birthday parties are big, with three extended families (we would only know my brother and his immediate family, and my parents) and several friends and families.  I'm sure the parties are fun, but I feel like we'd have better quality time with my brother and family on a less-scheduled and chaotic weekend.

My brother is going through some difficulties, including relation$hip problems with his partner, so maybe his grumpiness is more about his general stress and not a real reflection of his thoughts.  I'm torn between ignoring the conversation, or calling him up to tell him again that I'm sorry we'll miss DN's birthday, but we're hoping to find a weekend we can come up when we can all spend some quality time together.


I love my niece and nephew, but there's no way I'd travel 7 hours to attend their birthday parties.  I think your brother is being completely unreasonable and quite self-centered about this.

It's ridiculous to expect you to travel so far for a birthday party, even if you didn't have other plans.

Okay, so. I don't think you're being at all unreasonable for not wanting to make such a long drive to spend very little quality time with nephew. But I don't think your brother is being unreasonable for wanting you there, and being sad that you won't be there this year or presumably at any year in the future, either. I think suggesting to him that you would love to plan a visit and spend time with his family would go a long way to soothe his hurt feelings.

My family is very close. One sis lives 4 hrs away and another 5 hrs away. None of us have ever traveled for any of the kids bday parties. If they were going to be in town for another reason, we might move a family bday celebration around so they could join us.

I think you'll just need to explain to your brother at some point in the future that you won't be attending his children's parties unless you happen to be in the area for other reasons.

ETA:  Did your aunts and uncles travel to your bday parties when the two of you were young? Is that where he is getting the expectation? Or does your SIL's family live close so the other side has family in attendance?


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