Author Topic: Time to switch hosts for holiday events - wording  (Read 3234 times)

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mj

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Time to switch hosts for holiday events - wording
« on: February 05, 2014, 12:27:19 PM »
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

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Re: Time to switch hosts for holiday events - wording
« Reply #1 on: February 05, 2014, 12:44:29 PM »
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

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Re: Time to switch hosts for holiday events - wording
« Reply #2 on: February 05, 2014, 01:14:03 PM »
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

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Re: Time to switch hosts for holiday events - wording
« Reply #3 on: February 05, 2014, 01:41:22 PM »
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.
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buvezdevin

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Re: Time to switch hosts for holiday events - wording
« Reply #4 on: February 05, 2014, 01:49:16 PM »
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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kudeebee

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Re: Time to switch hosts for holiday events - wording
« Reply #5 on: February 05, 2014, 03:42:25 PM »
I agree with buvezdevin.  Talk about the importance of still having extended family get togethers and continuing traditions. Then bring up the idea of rotating hosting duties. Have a list ready for the next few years with the holidays that you celebrate as a group so that siblings can sign up for one.

Zizi-K

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Re: Time to switch hosts for holiday events - wording
« Reply #6 on: February 05, 2014, 04:13:19 PM »
With 8 siblings married with children, you're talking about events that could run to 40 or 50 people. Do all the siblings have home that can accommodate that many people? That's a side question, I suppose.

But to your main question: it sounds like this has already been broached, and MIL has decided to stay out of the discussion. Are all of the siblings available via email? That might be the best way to get the ball rolling. I would suggest that communications come from your husband, though they can be from both of you when he writes "we were thinking" or "we would like to propose..." Since it sounds like these issues have been raised at least to some people, you can start by noting your concerns. The work always seems to fall to some people, this requires a lot of driving on others' part, MIL seems to be experiencing difficulty hosting more and more every year etc. You both wanted to broach the possibility of rotating locations in order to ensure that everyone gets to host and share the traveling equally. Etc. I would say relatively little in this first missive. People will inevitably bring up objections - but what about x or y tradition? Those who are on your side will jump in to provide solutions to those objections. I guess what I'm suggesting is that you open up the discussion and not try to necessarily lead it to one particular conclusion and just see where it goes. Open it up as a discussion, not as a pronouncement or demand, and people will respond well I think.

However, with 8 siblings, plus their spouses and children, all with their opinions and preferences, I have such a hard time imagining that everyone will come to consensus! There will be people who can't host, who don't have the money or the space, people that find it difficult to travel certain years, etc. But if you can do it, good on you, it will renew my faith in humanity.

LemonZen

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Re: Time to switch hosts for holiday events - wording
« Reply #7 on: February 05, 2014, 04:25:41 PM »

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.)

My dad's side of the family is very much into Tradition, while my mom's side is much like you, let's do what works now and change it up when we feel like it. Having seen both sides, I know it's a struggle for each side to see the other point of view.

For Tradition families (IME) there is a LOT of emotion tied up in Christmas, childhood memories, feelings of security in "this is the way we always do things", and so on. It's unsettling for them to change. It is also a very tangible reminder that mom/dad won't be around forever, and this is (to them) the beginning of the end. For your MIL too it's probably hard to face that she cannot be the hostess she has always been, and she has to redefine her role in the family.

So I agree with other posters, try to approach it from a "let's preserve the family traditions" point of view. Maybe try to come at it from the angle of "MIL has worked so hard over the years, let's let her put her feet up a little and pitch in." If there are things that you can still do that are the same, try to incorporate some of those. For example my grandmother always made specific Christmas cookies, and even though she can no longer host we always have her bring a plate of cookies for dessert. (I try to help her in the weeks leading up to the holidays with the baking.) This gives her an opportunity to contribute, and keeps the "flavor" (pun intended) of the holidays for the rest of us.

All that being said, I doubt you will escape this without a lot of drama. But from your post it sounds like some of the other siblings are feeling the same, so you'll have some support there I hope.

With 8 siblings, I imagine the gatherings are quite large and as time goes by the family will only grow. There will probably come a time when people will drift apart to do their own thing whether or not you change it up.

cattlekid

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Re: Time to switch hosts for holiday events - wording
« Reply #8 on: February 05, 2014, 05:24:01 PM »
I am following this thread with a keen eye.  In our situation, there are 9 siblings and Grandma as the matriarch.  I am a grandchild. 

Holidays are on a similar scale and Grandma has held on to the tradition of hosting one or both at her house.  It is not a requirement to attend if she is hosting, some people can't travel at the holidays (those that would have to travel cross country) and others have to balance holidays with their spouse's family.   

Overall, out of the 9 blood siblings, there are four that are in geographical proximity to Grandma.  Out of those four, there are two that have a home big enough to host our standard sized gathering.  Out of those two, there is one who I believe would host willingly and the other one who would do it, but grudgingly.  If any other of the siblings would want to host, a large percentage of the remainder would have to travel if they wished to attend, which as stated above isn't always feasible. 

I will be very interested to see what is the outcome of this conversation.  I think our family is going to have to have the same conversation soon and both DH and I fear that the group will not find a satisfactory way to proceed and we will break into factions instead of the more or less cohesive family we have been up to this point.

mj

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Re: Time to switch hosts for holiday events - wording
« Reply #9 on: February 05, 2014, 10:29:03 PM »
Yes, the count of people is at least 40 and growing.  Most of us have homes that can fit them all in, the ones who are willing to host definitely have enough room.  But yes, MILs home is the largest and she really did do a lot to the home to make it entertainment central - so I understand some of the reluctance that can come with switching. 

Not every set comes every year due to traveling to their other extended family and that has become a source of tension, they will host 2, 3, or 4 parties for one holiday and pressure everyone to come to each in order for everyone to spend time together at some point.  Every holiday though, it is stated again to set the date earlier, at least give 2 weeks notice and we realize that all could have made it.  It's just not happening currently, MIL & the 2 sets wait until a few days before the week of the 25th in December and start scrambling and well, crying & whining.  But in hindsight we are all able to pinpoint days that we all could come without needing to do multiple events in order to make it happen.  It's really coming down to lack of planning & organization AND unwillingness to change to accomodate current reality.

It's very important to MIL, but so are the other traditions and it has become really out there due to the two sets wanting everything to be the same in order to please her, and well themselves in the process.  It's very lopsided at this point, so it makes sense to DH & I that there becomes some sort of equalizer.  We can't for sure pinpoint what is most important to MIL & the two other sets because they will say everything is important and have become unwilling to part with anything in the past, yet now it's too obvious it is not working and too many of the sets want change.

So the solution to rotate hosting would solve most of this, imo - they get to keep other parts that are important, the gift exchange, the food (most of the would be hosts agree they would host meals similarly wherein people could bring food if they want, just a slight change in that they are not handing out to the sets of what they ARE making, just the offer to bring what is most important as far as food to them).  The changes would be location and organizational details, which imo, is not much considering the situation - although I understand they think it will be.

And yes, definitely DH will do the talking (he is reading here too) and I'm just there to support him but will probably chime in here & there.  I understand that this is a sensitive issue to them & others, but it is also important to us to feel a part of the holidays and currently it is just not happening.

kudeebee

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Re: Time to switch hosts for holiday events - wording
« Reply #10 on: February 05, 2014, 11:49:37 PM »
I am following this thread with a keen eye.  In our situation, there are 9 siblings and Grandma as the matriarch.  I am a grandchild. 

Holidays are on a similar scale and Grandma has held on to the tradition of hosting one or both at her house.  It is not a requirement to attend if she is hosting, some people can't travel at the holidays (those that would have to travel cross country) and others have to balance holidays with their spouse's family.   

Overall, out of the 9 blood siblings, there are four that are in geographical proximity to Grandma.  Out of those four, there are two that have a home big enough to host our standard sized gathering.  Out of those two, there is one who I believe would host willingly and the other one who would do it, but grudgingly.  If any other of the siblings would want to host, a large percentage of the remainder would have to travel if they wished to attend, which as stated above isn't always feasible. 

I will be very interested to see what is the outcome of this conversation.  I think our family is going to have to have the same conversation soon and both DH and I fear that the group will not find a satisfactory way to proceed and we will break into factions instead of the more or less cohesive family we have been up to this point.

I think you will find that as the grandkids start to get married, the sibling groups will start breaking off into their own celebrations. A larger gathering of extended family is still possible but it will change.  Married grandkids now have another set of family to visit, families live farther apart, etc. 

Another Sarah

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Re: Time to switch hosts for holiday events - wording
« Reply #11 on: February 06, 2014, 05:53:19 AM »
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.
I mentioned putting yourselves out there to host because I have been in this exact situation, although my family is a lot smaller.

The reason for doing that rather than having a big discussion is because it is hard - very hard - to have this sort of conversation without somebody taking offence, which derails the whole thing and turns anyone suggesting change into the bad guy. Not everyone is capable of having a clinical discussion about the practicalities, some people will assume you are disparaging them whether that's your intention or not.

What might be a better way to approach things is to set up a situation where there is a precedent - by you or any sibling taking the reins and asking (not taking over - asking) to do one event your way, you are more likely to get agreement because it's only one holiday, but it lets you prove that those holidays don't lack the tradition everyone loves, MIL and sibs can enjoy the holiday even if they're not in charge, and it opens the door to other siblings doing the same thing, so the rotating holiday happens organically

However if you really don't want to try that, this is what I suggest - as other posters have mentioned, make sure the discussion is focussed on keeping the tradition, not losing it - make a point of "it will be easier to get everyone together if we change the meeting point so there are different distances to drive"
I'd get a sounding from the other siblings prior to the big talk, make sure everyone's on the same page. I'd also focus on doing this in honour of MIL, to keep the big tradition she's put together. I'd also explain how I felt to MIL alone - it sounds to me like the sibs are jumping in to defend her, and your DH may be right, she might honestly be quite glad to get rid of the stress.

mj

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Re: Time to switch hosts for holiday events - wording
« Reply #12 on: February 06, 2014, 08:47:58 AM »
DH mentioned right now after reading your post that one of the older sets hosted Easter one year and it was meltdown city as soon as they asked to host and used it's only one holiday approach.  He also said that his mother made the hosts invite two more families that the hosts were unfamiliar with because that is what she would do. 

Great.  I think we are beginning to realize that it's just not going to work, most of us are terrified to even converse with them because of the histrionics, yet we are all bone tired and frazzled over the current issues, holidays are just not fun and relaxing at all.  I think this is going to turn into doing our own thing all the time now.  But I will update after the conversation.

buvezdevin

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Re: Time to switch hosts for holiday events - wording
« Reply #13 on: February 06, 2014, 08:58:31 AM »
Would it be possible, either in a group discussion or as smaller convos, to share the thought you've had:  "With the way the family get together *has been changing*, if no adjustments are possible, we may opt for an individual family celebration - we love x, y, z about the big get together, but a, b, c is increasing/decreasing and it may be better to do something different on our own."
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Another Sarah

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Re: Time to switch hosts for holiday events - wording
« Reply #14 on: February 06, 2014, 09:21:34 AM »
DH mentioned right now after reading your post that one of the older sets hosted Easter one year and it was meltdown city as soon as they asked to host and used it's only one holiday approach.  He also said that his mother made the hosts invite two more families that the hosts were unfamiliar with because that is what she would do. 

Great.  I think we are beginning to realize that it's just not going to work, most of us are terrified to even converse with them because of the histrionics, yet we are all bone tired and frazzled over the current issues, holidays are just not fun and relaxing at all.  I think this is going to turn into doing our own thing all the time now.  But I will update after the conversation.
I'm really sorry that this is stressing you out so much - its not what holidays are meant to be about!
Hang in there, remember that a lot of the other siblings feel the same way and stand your ground. at the end of the day, it's your holiday too, if it's no fun for you, then MIL and the other two need to appreciate that.