General Etiquette > Holidays

Time to switch hosts for holiday events - wording

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mj:
bg/ this gets into really touchy area with my ILs, and most especially DHs siblings.  Any slight change to the way things have always been is typically very melodramatic and held onto for years to come by focusing in on one word others have said and then they are offended.  Forever. \bg

It has become increasingly obvious that MIL is not up to hosting duties anymore.  Some of her children try to cover for her but they end up making everything a bigger mess.  She tells one set one thing, another set another thing and on and on.  It is chaotic and stressful for everyone.  A few of the siblings are now basically the host, but at MILs place.  And then they complain about it, at the event.  It's horrible, yet they are the ones insisting on it and the ones in charge, but make events to their own dislike, I don't understand it.

Another sibling set (I'm referring to set as in the adult child with spouse and children) suggested to talk after the Christmas holidays to try to iron everything out.  With the background both DH & I are nervous while knowing that it is impossible to control their reactions if they get mad over a particular word or what have you - but we also know that this is needed if we want to continue on participating.  And DH does for his parents understandably.

Our solution that we want to bring up is rotating hosts and homes for the holidays and since MILs mother has turned over that tradition, MIL has never given it up.  Never.  I know this is going to be touchy but it actually address pretty much everything that most people are stressing over.  People are upset that they have to drive all the time, ok this evens it out, sometimes they won't have to drive so much hosting it in their home or it will be in their town.  Another upset is helping clean & cook, each host will get to determine what they would like their event in their home to be like and extend their own brand of hospitality.  And this ties in with the other upsets that people feel like the holidays are being dictated by just the few (MIL and her adult children who are now the "hosts" in her home) without regard to others comforts or wishes, as the host themselves they get more of an ownership and stock in holidays and the comfort of knowing even if this holiday is spent doing what X wants, the next holiday they host they will get to plan it to include things and traditions they favor. 

I think it's a great idea for other reasons too, ones that aren't exactly easy to bring up.  But as it is MIL is heading into end of life stages, most of the rest who aren't the "hosts" right now will probably go their separate ways due to the Holiday Hogging and see this as the time they can do their own things, which a lot of us have been missing for a while. 

So my question is for those of you who have been in similar positions, how do you approach this conversation?  Do you bring up the future?  What is the best way to approach those who are very sentimental over tradition?  (I am not one, I see it as more this makes more sense, is logical and therefore easier, lets do that now.  So I have a very hard time understand those who want tradition more than a nice holiday.)

Another Sarah:
I'm not quite clear what the situation is here - does MIL have live-in children who are now essentially hosting the holidays, or are the adult children taking over MIL's house to host for the holidays?
How many sibling sets are there?
I think it sounds like you and DH and one other set want to change the tradition, but how many people are opposed?

I think tackling this from the basis of "MIL is too old to host a good holiday and the grown up kids are messing it up" is guaranteed to upset someone, however you say it. It may be true, but that doesn't mean it'll be popular.

I think what you can do is ask MIL if you can host a holiday on the basis that you want to host a holiday, she has done so much over the years and you want to repay the favour. Then other siblings may step up.

Its ever so much more tactful and dodges the whole issue of "holidays aren't fun anymore" without actually lying. You do want to host a holiday, she has done a lot over the years and you do want to give her a good holiday, the way hers used to be.

I think with a matriarch situation like this, you do have to be aware that this is part of being the family to her - the holidays are hers, whether you like it or not, but by approaching her, you make her feel important and valued and she gets to think she's being gracious by saying yes.

mj:
DH has 8 siblings, most married with children.  It is a very large family.  There are 2 who take over the hosting and one other who lives there for parts of the year (that is a long background to explain, but this one is mostly doing it since she is staying with her parents, not out of duty bound feelings), and generally hosts when living there.

Yes, there will probably be upset with the first two siblings and MIL, although Dh thinks not for MIL, but I think so.  Either way MIL has said she does not want to be part of the discussions and has left the organization up to others for most of the past few years holidays, she will occasionally send out an email but most of the time if she does say something it is in person and if she happens to remember.  Which generally leads to information that is faulty.  It really is a mess.

Just saying I want to host this holiday coming up would not work for the two current hosts, the idea is for everyone to come together to talk about the problems and smoothing everything over.  I think just trying to take over a holiday to host would go really badly in his family and they did ask to to talk, so that is what I am asking about.  Especially to get advice for those who have been in similar touchy situations, I've seen a few on the board where it relates to changing traditions and how to handle it - but not specifically about hosting traditions.  If there is some threads, please forgive me I don't frequent here as much lately and have not seen them.

pierrotlunaire0:
Could you approach it as: We need to start preparing for the future.  MIL will not be around forever, and I don't think it is fair for the entire burden to fall on the two (physically) closest.  Plus the younger generation needs to learn how to plan the logistics.

In my father's family, this is how we started doing reunions.  One of the adults would be designated the "host," (often the one person not in the room when the discussion came up).  That person would be responsible for securing a place to hold it in (home or park), sending out notices, and providing beverages.

buvezdevin:
If this will be a group discussion, then I think you can initiate your participation by knowing and stating the objectives you support and which you believe are likely shared, some of these:

1.  You value and would like to continue the tradition of an extended family gathering.
2.  How the family organizes and has gatherings should be planned not only based on previous practices, but with consideration of what works best with current circumstances.
3.  Any specific aspects of traditional gatherings - is it usually lunch, or dinner, do you exchange gifts, whatever aspects you would like to see continued.

Then, identify the specifics that *you* would like opened for group consideration, recognizing that what works best for most is the key.  Regarding Location, offer the thought of rotating hosts, locations as an option.  Let others express their opinions, though have comments of your own ready - focus on what you see as the potential positives, spreading the hosting opportunity/effort, etc.

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