General Etiquette > Family and Children

Parents should be divorced = awkward Christmas! Update #8, 18, 28, 46, 55, 69.

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My parents have been married for a little over 40 years. For as long as I can remember (i.e. at least 30 years) they have lived together in the house I grew up in when realistically, they should have been divorced. My father sleeps in the basement and my mom sleeps in the master bedroom upstairs. They pretty much live separate lives and my mom is irritable and confrontational towards my father even when I go to visit them both and they are in the same room together. They have both said negative things about the other to me and my siblings, even after I've asked them not to. I'm not entirely sure why they haven't divorced other than laziness/money issues. Anyway, this is what I've grown up with and now, I'm officially DONE!

The last time we were at their house was for Thanksgiving and my mom had made a whole spread, really delicious, homemade. My father sat in the living room and visited with us but didn't eat a single bite. My children were asking why he wasn't eating anything. I just gave them a lame excuse but I knew the real reason - they had had a fight about something (probably my dad threw out something moldy in the fridge that was my mom's - she has hoarder tendencies) and now have an agreement that they won't touch each other's food. It was not fun at all to eat and enjoy a meal knowing my dad wasn't also partaking.

Bottom line, when it comes to one interacting with the other, both are incredible immature and emotionally stunted.

End BG.

Here is my dilemma - typically every Christmas, we go to my parents' house in the afternoon and have a meal, unwrap presents, etc. Usually my parents are able to somewhat keep their petty bickering to a minimum but after Thanksgiving, I truly have no desire to go there. I have spoken to my sister who was also at Thanksgiving with her children and she agrees although she is much less likely to say anything. I know that my mom will be hurt if I refuse. She is newly retired and enjoys cooking/baking/hosting, having her grandchildren over. I have thought about having them over to my house but DH and I don't really like cooking/baking/hosting and it doesn't really solve the problem that they pretty much can't be in the same room together without fighting about something.

I would really appreciate some suggestions on how to tactfully handle this.


Restaurants are your friend. One night with Mom, the next with Dad.

Yep. This is how I've learned to deal w/ my parents--who, incidentally, are still married and yet have lived separately for 20 yrs.  :o Everything's so much better when they're on their own--they're perfectly reasonable people. Just not together.

This year, for xmas, we're going to MIL's. And brother is hosting the family meal later.

I know you said you don't want to cook/bake/host, but what about a laid-back hosting? Appetizer spread (that you picked up at the store the day before), juices/soda. Very laid back, everyone has fun opening gifts, and if your parents can't behave civilly to each other, then either they come at different times or one or both of them stays home.

Have your sister over, too. Or get with her to make plans for just your two families.

And if your mom is hurt that she can't cook/bake/whatever for her grandchildren, tell her nicely that your children are starting to ask questions about why grandma and grandpa aren't eating together, and you'd rather not subject them or yourself to such discomfort. What it boils down to is the fact that you shouldn't give up the comfort of yourself and your DH and children to appease someone who can't even behave civilly to her roommate/husband. Your parents have trampled your boundaries and shown they're more than willing to continue doing so, it's time to stop letting them.

If your sister will help, have them over, one at a time to your house and just do appetizers like another poster suggested.  It is too bad they can't make more of an effort at least to make it pleasant for the grandkids.


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