This is a question for Ehellions. I’ll give the set up.
My siblings and I all had moved several hundred miles from home by the time our parents were in their early sixties. I lived the closest to my parents, at about 750 miles away. At the times of the visits I’m referencing, my parents were in their 60’s, then their 70’s (they died at 78 and 80). Our parents each had several younger siblings of theirs living in their area, ranging in distance from 10 minutes away to a couple of hours away. Four of my parents’ siblings lived 30 minutes or less from my parents, in three different directions. Every summer, our parents, who were retired, traveled to visit my siblings and me, spending two weeks with each of us at our respective houses.
My siblings and I would travel with our families to visit our parents on occasion, normally once a year or so. Due to school, work, sports, vacation day limits, etc., we usually were only there for about 3-4 days at a time. Since there is no airport near where my folks lived, we all always drove, and it was a very long day of driving each way for all of us. My siblings and I usually did not all come at the same time, as it taxed our folks to have us all there at once, plus our vacation times often just didn’t sync.
My siblings reported to me that they had the same remarks made regarding them that my husband and I had when we visited with my parents: namely, all of our parents’ area siblings, with the exception of the one who lived 10 minutes away, would always tell our parents, “Now when your kids get there, tell them we’d love to see them, and we’ll be home anytime they want to come by.” My mother would dutifully relay this message and ask if we wanted to go visit. Now, on a few occasions, my parents would organize a big potluck picnic at the park when a sibling or I was visiting, and invite the relatives over to join us, but sometimes that just didn’t happen in the time we had there, and we never had the entire family show up, anyway. Please note that all of these relatives were younger than our parents, and fully capable of going anywhere they wanted to, which they did, often.
Here’s the etiquette issue: my siblings and I, who had driven anywhere from 12 to 16 hours each way, usually with children (toddlers to teens) and spouses in tow, would refuse to drive around the countryside and visit these relatives. We always told our parents we’d love to see the others, too, but could they come see us at our parents’ house instead? (My parents had an open door policy with their family members at all times, so this was not imposing on our parents). The one family member who lived 10 minutes away always showed up at my parents’ when she heard we were coming, and we had a good time visiting with her, but she was the exception. My mother, bless her heart, after we’d refused to drive out for visiting, would then call the area family members to say that we would love to see them, and would invite them over for coffee and cake (she always baked a cake or two) so they could visit with us. Almost every time, those family members said they would try, then not show up. Then they would complain to our parents after we left, “Oh, we would have loved to see (name) and his/her family. Why didn’t they come see us? You know how much we wanted to see them! Goodness, they drove all that way to get here, what’s a drive of half an hour or so to come see us?” And my parents (usually my mom) always had to say something like, “They had such limited time here; it just wasn’t possible.” Which was true, actually.
So, were my siblings and I rude to steadfastly refuse to go all over that end of the state visiting, or were the relatives rude to expect us to come see them, and not take our mother’s suggestion to drop by for some cake and a visit? Were we all rude? My mom was the people-pleasing kind that if we had driven all over to visit, she’d have gone with us happily, but if they had come to us instead, she’d have been just as happy with that plan, in fact, probably happier, as she was a homebody. My dad would have done either thing, as well. Still, I always felt bad that this seemed to land in my mother’s lap, but they always contacted her and my dad, not us, before we got there and after we left. One time I answered when one of the relatives surprisingly called while we were there, and I issued an invitation to come see us (I had already discussed this with my parents) and got the reply that, “if we have time, we’ll try to make it, blah, blah, maybe you could come here….” And of course, they never showed. This ended when my parents died, and my sibs and I always felt the others were rude, but are we wrong? Could we have handled this better? What should we have done? 0215-18
When people say things like, “Oh, we would have loved to see (name) and his/her family. You know how much we wanted to see them!”, it’s best translated as, “I’ll say this to make it sound like I’m invested in family but I really don’t have the time to actually make that investment.” I ignore these comments as nothing more than words in the wind because the value is in what they actually DO as opposed to what they say. If they really wanted to see you, they would make the effort to do so and not guilt manipulate you into driving even more and be away from your parents.
Comments on this entry are closed.
The admin response is perfect! I was in a similar situation though my Mom’s siblings all lived in the same town. There was one who pulled that same line. Once, I was going to go to the one aunt’s house to see her on my way out of town and was told not to come as she had been sick. The topper she was never sick and had gone to a harvest festival the day before and shopping and dinner out that day. Thank you admin! I like the pretending to be invested theory–that is it exactly!
Same goes with my family. They always “love to see me” and I’m “more than welcome to visit”. I extended invitations twice to them, but they never bothered to visit, so I don’t bother either. On family occasions where I do see them they still exclaim how they miss me and love to see me more, but I’ve learned to take this with a grain of sand. I live no more than a 1 hour drive from them, so it’s not like distance is an issue. It’s simply a lack of interest.
As you were only there for 3-4 days after drivning 10+ hours it is reasonable that you don’t want to spend more hours in your car to visit relatives that easily could come to your parentes themselves. It was great that your mother took your side, instead of guilttripping you even more.
In my opinion, you and your siblings were not rude, the relatives who wanted (?) to ser you were not necessarily rude, maybe lazy. But your mother was the best!
I had a family full of these. On their terms, on their schedule. IF after two days of driving we did make the swing out their way after calling to make sure they were home, they weren’t home. I was the majority driver and most of the time when we arrived my goal was a flat surface, to catch up on rest. After sixteen hours behind the wheel I do not want to think of scheduling another two to three hundred miles of ‘drop by’ trips. DH has wonderful siblings, they will coordinate to come if we stop at one’s place, to visit us THERE and not add two more hours to the trip time behind the wheel for us. We came across the country, the civility of going one hour to see us isn’t an imposition upon you. Besides, there’s someone else’s place we’re at, visit two at once.
I live in Japan, literally on the other side of the PLANET to all my family. They’re in two groups: North City and South City all in the same state (not even the biggest state). I only make it stateside once every two or three years and I buy tickets several months in advance so it’s not like it’s a surprise I’ll be in town. Lots of “oh, we’d love to see you” and “we miss you so” but when the time comes many of them can’t bother to show up. Le sigh. Smile, nod and stop inviting them to things.
This isn’t a moral issue, it’s one of personal style and tolerance. It’s always possible to make a case for another party to put forth more effort ” if they really care…”. The thing is that constraints of time and energy apply to everyone and it’s better to overlook remarks like those cited above. “Not guilty, your honor. So say we all.” (Because, really, both sides had lives to manage and doubtless did the best they could.”
I’d be willing to cut the relatives slack if this was an occasional issue. However, from what the OP said, this happened with pretty much EVERY relative EVERY time they (or their siblings) visited the parents. I find it hard to believe that they could never find time in their schedules to make a short visit to the parents’ house.
Your statement is perfectly reasonable and that’s the whole point. The thing with expectations is that they are subjective. Since that’s the case, they’re largely a waste of time. Go with what works for the context and let the rest go. Note that this doesn’t obligate any party to put forth more effort than they believe is reasonable given their circumstances. It simply disallows the right of anyone else to arrogate to themselves the moral high ground. In the case of “want to see you”, well, it’s always a case that one party or the other is unsatisfied with the level of effort expended, the location, terms or frequency of visitation or some other aspect of interaction. It’s better to save a bit of energy and opt out of the comparative trauma and the resultant drama.
I think I agree. What I’m seeing is two sides, both saying “we’d love to see you” and both sides consistently unwilling to make the 30 minute drive to actually make it happen. As this continues, both sides feel less and less invested in the relationship because neither side deems the relationship important enough to put forth the effort. (No value judgment on that, really. That’s just the way it is sometimes.) As the years go on, the local relatives could even start to feel like coming over for a visit would be an unwelcome intrusion for this visiting family that had never had an interest in stopping by themselves.
I do believe that in a visiting-relative situation, the locals should make things easy for the visitors. Any relatives that don’t find that possible, for whatever reasons they have, aren’t rude at, they just have their own limitations or priorities.
In the end, both sides are dismissing each other with lip-service about wanting to see each other, and neither one is really to be believed anymore.
It isn’t a simple ”oh no one is rude for not making the effort to see the visitors”. It’s the hypocrisy of it all – don’t lie and say oh I can’t wait to see them when you know you have no intention of making time to do so. I cannot stand people saying such things just to sound like they care when they actually do not – actions speak louder than words and by their LACK of actions they prove they do not actually care enough to put themselves out to see the visitors. It is NOT incumbent upon the visitors to go see the relatives if the visitors have not participated in presenting a false persona for the sake of – I don’t even know what. Why not just say ”oh they are visiting, how wonderful for you to have them with you!!”. So the drama and the trauma all comes from those who are lying. And if all that behavior isn’t rude in a person’s perspective, I definitely do not want to interact with someone who would not find such behaviors to be rude.
I agree with Stacy. Sadly it could be a case that OP and sibs took their relatives’ figure way of speech literally only to be disappointed later on.
At this point in my life, my day is, unfortunately, too full. As a result, I don’t generally go out unless it’s shopping, doctor, etc. as I will have to make up the time doing my chores when I get home. If I get five minutes to myself (a miracle), I’d like it to myself.
That being said, if I had relatives coming cross state or country to visit, I would love to have them all in one place to visit and would gladly give up a few hours to go there and schmooze rather than have them come to my house and wasting time and energy in a series of trips to visit several locations. Because of my time constraints, I like the efficiency of a gathering.
Of course, that assumes I actually want to see these people. Clearly, your parent’s siblings weren’t as interested as they were professing.
I take those sorts of statements as polite blather. Like, “we should get together sometime,” it’s usually meant as, “I’ll make noises about getting together, but really I’m going to binge watch Frasier in my underpants.” Unless someone makes a specific plan (“let’s get together Tuesday afternoon”), you just nod and move on.
I also had the same problem. Lived 700 miles from my dad and when I visited, I was expected to drive all around the area visiting other relatives. The first few times I did and my dad would go with us. When my dad got older, had some mobility issues and traveling was more taxing on him, I would email the relatives to let them know I would be at my dad’s and they were welcome to come (dad was also fine with this because they usually didn’t visit him because he didn’t want to go shopping and out to lunch, etc., because of the mobility issues). I also got the we will try but why don’t you come here and bring your dad. They expected me to pack up my ailing, mobility limited father and family and make the trek to where they lived. I told them it wasn’t possible and I didn’t want to spend my limited time driving all over and tiring my dad out with all the traveling. When my dad passed away and I was at the funeral, they all said you still have to come visit us even though your dad is gone. I didn’t even bother with a white lie, I just flat out told them that since my dad was gone there was no reason for me to spend all my vacation time driving around in the car.
I lived across the country from my parents for a few years. When we (fiance and I) would come home to visit, my mom always made it clear to people that they were welcome to visit us at my parents’ place, but we weren’t going to be driving all over the place to visit. I was always grateful for that. It was our vacation and spending so much time driving around to visit isn’t very relaxing. My sister would usually come for part of the time with her family (5 hour drive) and I always really wanted to spend time with her. Luckily, Mr. S’s mom was of a similar opinion. She would arrange activities at their house while we were there.
I have a similar situation when I visit my parents. They live about two hours (driving) from a large city (into which I fly when I visit). Some times, I stay in big city for a few days before going to visit them, and yet people who have said that they’d love to see me are happy to have me make the plans, find a restaurant (in their city). Virtually no one invites me over.
When I’m in my parents’ city, there have been times that those in big city have asked if I was planning to drive to big city for the day so I could visit. Um, no. You could drive to little city to visit us. I’ve already traveled five hours by plane and two more by car.
This has been going on for years. I finally came to the conclusion that those who want to see me will make some effort to do so and the rest wouldn’t mind seeing me if I made it super-convenient and easy. I know who my true friends are and will see the others if it’s easy. It is a bit sad though.
I live in a different big city and have driven all over the place when others are in town.
I agree if they wanted to visit with your family , they
Would make the time . You have to think
, well their loss on not visiting. I would not make any more effort. I had relatives move close by
, we were close in age with small kids . I had invited them to a outdoor big pumpkin Halloween event . They
Showed up a hour and half late . Never said oh
I am sorry. I thought that was rude . One more time we made plans and she actually said to me , oh I forgot I made plans with my neighbors. If it gets cancelled I will call you . Last time . We never have got together. Our kids are older now .
Yow, from the first paragraph I thought this was going to be a math problem! LW did perfectly well, and this was so long ago – I hope nobody’s still giving her grief about it. Goodbye to old drama.
I love the relatives who complain ‘We never see you’ who also won’t stop by when they are in your neck of the woods. We live near a big city, and husband’s relatives live 2 hours away. Somehow, the 2 hours to drive to our house is soooooooooo far, but 2 hours to their house is nothing and we should be willing to do it whenever they ask at a moment’s notice. Must be some relativity thing. We go when we can, let them know they are free to visit whenever, but let their attempts at guilt tripping go in one ear and out the other. If they really want to see us, they know where we live.
Yes, it must be some relativity thing. And it also applies to time in other circumstances, money and whatever.
”You can do that, it will only take an hour of your otherwise wasted time. I can not do it because it will take an hour of my precious time.”
All you can do is have a big potluck with ample notice and invite everyone. You will see who shows up consistently.
My mom always says “You could have come here, why should I always have to go to you?” Needless to say, her siblings are not close and I’m not interested in most of them!
If I’m visiting my parents I’m there for THEM. They’re worth the 5hr drive. Everyone else is welcome to come hangout too but I’m invested in my family time with the people who love me the most in the world. The end.
This happens with old friends too when you move away. They hear you’re in town and want you to come to them despite having set plans. Then are salty you tell them where they can meet up with you. Anyone not willing to compromise isn’t that interested and you’re not rude to not change plans or suffer discomfort to please them.
Mom should have refused to be the middle person and simply said, “If you want to see them, you need to call them and make arrangements. You are always welcome to come here, but I can’t tell my adult children where to go and whom to see.” You would never have gotten those calls.
This reminds me of my ex-in-laws. They lived about a half hour away and insisted that we bring the kids to Sunday dinner several times a month and to celebrate all holidays and special occasions at their house on their terms. But they would never accept an invitation to our home because “that’s too far to drive.” (They were in their early 50s, perfectly healthy, and drove other places all the time.) I was so sick of packing up babies, toddlers, diaper bags, high chairs, and all of the other minivan full of stuff involved, that I finally snapped one day when I heard my father-in-law say for the thousandth time, “That’s too far, why don’t you come here?” and I smiled and said, “Hey, I know I’m blond, but guess what I figured out? It’s just as far for us to drive from [town A] to [town B] as it is for you to drive from [town B] to [town A].” Looking back on it, I realize it was a pretty snarky thing to say, but I managed to say it with a smile, and I think I got my point across. Not that it changed anything. But then they became EX-in-laws and I didn’t have to deal with it anymore. Admin’s comment made me realize maybe they weren’t that invested in seeing us that often, but were fine with the visits as long as we would do all the work.
Same with my ex in-laws. Always had to come to them, they would never come to us. And when the kids got older and had events/birthday parties/etc. they never came because it was “too far” and yet we would schlep to see his siblings’ kids (who lived in the same town as in-laws.)
As you said, they are all EX now and I don’t have to deal with it, but my kids still have to go to holidays/cousin’s celebrations/etc. and have no one come to theirs. And they wonder why my kids aren’t that interested in visiting!
I have to say that although I totally agree with the OP, I can see where the relatives are coming from, too. “OP and family are on vacation and are free all day long but I have to work. I work all day, go home to pick up spouse/kids, drive to the house where they’re staying. How long can I stay before I have to turn around to go home and get the kids to bed/get ready for work tomorrow? Maybe a couple of hours tops. If OP and family came to me, we’d have more time together.”
This is no problem, and spending time laying blame is useless. Of course family is going to say,” oh I would love to see you ” but if you’re not close, they may not go out of their way to actually put forth the effort– that doesn’t mean they don’t love you, don’t want to see you, it just means that there are other things to do. Stop worrying about it and just have your mom plan on having a potluck one day and invite them over and if they come, they come, and if they don’t, they dont.
I do have one problem with the OP insisting that she doesn’t want to “drive all over the state” when she gets there, when in fact it does sound like these relatives are within a 30 minute radius. I personally would probably do it just to get out of the house for a bit. 🙂
30 minutes or less, but in three different directions – so it would be three separate one-hour round trips.
I came from another COUNTRY, planned my trip SIX MONTHS IN ADVANCE, and emailed the dates to everyone. I was visiting for six weeks, but somehow my sister-in-law had such a “busy schedule” that she couldn’t fit in a visit to me at my mother’s house (45 minutes from her own). By the way, I don’t drive (vision problems) my mother is too elderly, and the bus system in her town is terrible. My sister-in-law, who does drive, had six months notice to request vacation/free up even one weekend day to come see me, but she just couldn’t manage. She begrudgingly spoke to me on the phone for 5 minutes.
I would think it is rude to even suggest that somebody who made the effort to drive hours out to visit to get in the car and drive some more. What is thirty minutes to these retired people? These invitations to visit were not actual invitations but in the neighborhood of we ought to get together. You should have recognized this for what it was. Everybody knows it won’t ever happen. In fact, your mother shouldn’t have even notified your relatives that you were even in town until after you had left. Then when they call she can say – Oh – So and So and her family were here last week. Then when they said anything about you visiting – she could have said – “Well, they were only here 4 days and had to get back. Our days were packed there wouldn’t have been time to drive out to your place.”
Before we moved several states away from my family and friends, we had moved only a few hours away from my hometown. Everyone did the “When are you coming back to visit?! I miss you!” until I got sick of trying to fit in 2 or 3 visits each trip. A few times I brought up the fact that we had a spare room at our place and anyone was welcome to visit. The response I got was, “Yeah but if you visit you can see a lot of people, if I come there I’m only visiting you!” I don’t see those people anymore and not just because I live 1000 miles away.
I don’t think the OP and siblings were rude; I completely agree with Admin’s comment. I would note that Mrs_Deb makes an excellent point – but explaining *why* it may be difficult for someone to wedge travel into a “local” visit requires more communication (and the care that goes with it) than seems to have been present in this tale. So again – spot on, Admin. Those folks don’t really care.
I will note that I was born into a family of folk that despise being dislodged from their home turf. When I was a kid and my father’s siblings were all in the same town, they would compete to see which family could persuade all the others to come over for an afternoon picnic. (My dad solved that by having the most kids, biggest house and yard, and best hijinks on tap. Good times!) But that competition later evolved into the “if YOU cared about ME, you would visit ME. I shouldn’t have to go to you!” It was a wierd manifest of who cares more (and Aunt L kept score). Ugly stuff, at the heart of it.
In our modern age, I saw this play out when a niece was driving cross country with her two toddlers – cars packed for a cross-country move, following the moving trucks and trying to keep the kids happy. My house was on her way, so of course she stayed a few nights with me, to recoup. We had fun, and it was great – and we let everyone who was interested know she was around and they could come by. Her friends from college came from miles away. My sister, who lives 700 miles from me in a town that was not en route, sulked that our niece did not change her plans and drive 800 miles out of her way for a visit like the one she had with me. Sis has decided the *I* need to apologize for “monopolizing” the babies, and that our niece is “not worth knowing”. We’ve been unfriended on facebook, and any time our paths cross (in real life or in social media), Sis makes snarky comments about not really being family.
Do not feed the drama llama. It bites.
I’m a giant jerk and refuse to spend my Christmas holiday driving all over God’s green earth with my small child. I have had several family members get bothered by it. People who don’t bother to try and hang out with us any other time of year.
I split my kid, so I only get Christmas Day or Christmas Eve with her. And these people think I should rush through our time together/gift opening, shove her in the car away from all her cool new toys, drive in crappy weather to their house, make her be kind to people she’s seen three times in her whole life, and then rush back home in crappy weather because I always had to work the next day.
At my old job, if Christmas Eve was a weekday, I worked it. And then I worked the day after Christmas. And then the Saturday after to make up for the production we lost. Tell me again why I should schlep all the way to see you ‘because it’s the time for family’?
Had a story on the old BB about how grandma expects her son & DIL to fly with the kids to see her on Christmas. They would have to get time off work, pay for multiple airfares, and stay in a hotel since grandma doesn’t have room in her house. Grandma is retired, doesn’t have any issues to keep her from flying, they offered to pay for her ticket and have room for her to stay in their house. But no, they need to come to her.
To me, this is just a situation where you and your aunts and uncles simply aren’t close enough to be a priority in each other’s lives. Yes they could have (and perhaps should have) made the effort to drive to see you, but you didn’t do it either. Believe me, I fully understand why, having driven so far to get there, you didn’t want to spend one of your few days there driving around more, but you could have, if the relationship had been really important to you. And they may well have had busy schedules that made driving 30 minutes each way inconvenient, but they wouldn’t have let that stop them if it was important to them. But I don’t think you should let it bother you. It often happens that extended family are people that you are glad to see when you get the chance, but not people that you miss or think a great deal about. You’re just not a regular part of each other’s lives. You can still think of each other fondly, though, and send newsletters or be friends on Facebook. No reason for resentment, IMHO.
The OP is driving 12 hours each way and the relatives refuse to drive for half an hour. The unfortunate behavior, unless there is a disability or extreme work schedule, is all on the relatives’ side. There is no “both sides” here.
Exactly this. Extended and far-flung family drifts apart as each generation ages, which is normal in our lives with limited hours. Letting it cause resentment is stirring up needless drama.
I used to drive myself crazy trying to get out to see everyone when we were back in our hometown. Many times, even when we agreed on a time and we drove to meet friends the meeting either didn’t happen or lasted only minutes. After insisting that we bring the kids (“We’d love to see them!”) our friends would ignore them then get irritated when we’d have to entertain our sons. Somehow, I was usually made to feel guilty that – despite my efforts – it was not a long, chatty visit.
One year I just had enough of the hassle and the guilt. Firm decisions were made and relayed to friends and family: For relatives within a half-hour drive, we would go to them if that’s what they wanted. Everyone else was asked to either visit at one of our parents’ homes at a time convenient for them or we arranged a picnic or other activity (with as many friends and family as possible) held at a central, convenient location for all. It worked! Most people were happy.
Of course, there were the manipulative few who played the “But you knew how much we wanted to see you and those precious boys!” card. To which I usually replied, “We wanted to see you so much, too! We were just SO disappointed that you couldn’t make it. But we do understand; life is so busy.”
I was usually a doormat who would wear myself down and tear my heart up trying to please everyone. That year, I began to grow a polite spine. I became a better relative, friend, wife, and mother because stress and guilt were no longer a constant part of my “vacation.” I was able to relax and have fun with my husband and sons. It was – and still is – bliss!
Are you kidding, you drive what I’m guessing is about 12 hours, you have 3-4 days there to spend before you have to turn around and make the same drive back, and they expect you to spend part of that short time driving some more? No. They could come to see you at your parents’ place.
In fact, when I moved away from my home town for a few years, I learned after the 2nd or 3rd trip back to just not tell everyone I was coming, because then I was expected to spend that entire visit schlepping around to see everyone, and it was exhausting.
Not to calling your uncles, aunts and cousins manipulative. however I cannot help but wonder what if you and your sibs said yes right away when those relatives offer their homes for you to stop by. They might have to come up with some other stores to dissuade your attempts to visit. They knew all along that you would not drive another extra afternoon across the state to visit, hence they stuck with their invites.
They didn’t really want to see you guys that much, all the nice words were no more than words in the wind, truthfully.
I get this from my relatives all of the time. It started when I moved out of the town I grew up in to go to college, and never stopped. I live overseas now, and can only make one (planned out far in advance) trip back a year.
My priorities when I visit are my parents and my siblings. I would like to see my extended family as well, but I only have so much time and don’t want to spend it driving around the city making dozens of individual visits. We always have at least one day-long open-house party when I am in town but usually the relatives who are the loudest about how they miss me and want to see me never have the time to even drop by. Yet they still gripe about how they never see me anymore.
Once I lost my temper with some of these relatives and snarkily pointed out that the road ran in both directions, and that their phones could make as well as receive calls. Nothing changed.
I don’t think that they actually care to see me as much as they care about playing happy families and publicly appearing to want to see me. Oh, I am sure that they would be happy to see me, but only if I do 100% of the work to make that visit happen. They won’t even meet me half-way.
I have pretty much written them off at this point.
“phones could make as well as receive calls.” I’ve said similar before. For some reason my older relatives place the burden of keeping in touch on me. Even though I have work and family to keep up with, and they (now retired) only have to look after themselves and “help the kids /grandkids”.
My sister and her husband live 2000 miles away and happened to be traveling through. They would be about 2 1/2 hours away with about 2-3 hours available to spend with us. Guess What??? We got in our car and hustled down there because we had a chance to see them! People will show you what they really value by their actions. The point is – actions do speak louder than words.
I know the feeling. We would visit my dad and stepmom in my hometown and we would make ourselves crazy driving around. When we had a baby, we would see one or two relatives who put themselves out (made dinner, etc) and the rest were welcome to stop by Dad’s house.
Now, we have two kids and my dad has five dogs so we stay in a motel and my stepmom is happy to organize a restaurant dinner for interested parties when we come to town.
I live fairly close to my family and most of DH’s, so I didn’t think I’d have to deal with this issue too much. However, when we first got married the family created such a a debacle about the holidays that DH and I sent them this note. Not all of it has to do with travel but putting our feet down about this the first year has really helped our relationships. Moreover, the expectations were more clear when we started having kids. I hope some of you find this useful. I removed names and such-which is why the text is a bit awkward but you get this idea.
When we got married this Spring, we had a great time at the wedding and thought we were well on our way to great relationship with each other and with you. Imagine our surprise, 6 months later, when both of us were treated to tears, insults, and threats when we tried to call all of you and plan our holidays this year. We love you all and want to see you, but I think it’s best if we establish some ground rules. I know you would never try to hurt us intentionally, but it’s clear from our discussions that you aren’t understanding some of our frustrations. Wife and husband have agreed to the following and hope you will too.
1. The new in-laws are family too. They deserve some holiday time with us.
2. At least occasionally, we will have some time to ourselves at the holidays.
3. We will not kill ourselves trying to attend multiple celebrations, especially if doing so requires long distance travel, large expense, or unreasonable amounts of time off work.
4. At least occasionally, the family can plan to celebrate at our house-remember that roads go both ways.
5. Traditions are great…but be reasonable. IE-Yes, most years we do X Holiday with my family and Y with Wife’s, but you will simply have to forgive us if weather, family situations or finances cause us to change this once in a while.
6. You can at least try some traditions from your new in-law. You should also let he or she know ahead of time what the expectations are for gifts, dress code, meal contributions, etc… No fair trying to make us look foolish for being unaware. (note-this was in response to DHs family picking on another inlaw for getting too dressed up at Thanksgiving)
7. Excluding your new in-law from gift exchanges, family pictures, etc… is a surefire way to create lingering bad feelings.
8. Expecting your new in-law to do all the cooking, cleaning, or serving is similarly creating problems. They should help, not do it all.
9. Understand and try to accommodate medical conditions, religious limitations, diets, etc… both in the meal and in your home. We will try to do so as well. All of us should be reasonable in our expectations of another person’s home. Forgive us if we are not perfect.
10. You probably had to deal with this at some point in your life. Remember how tough it was and cut us some slack!
We used to get invited to either my aunts’ houses or my grandmother’s house to visit with family, but none of them came to see us. We’d usually be forced to spend the day at their far superior houses, starving to death because they didn’t think we’d want to EAT while there (and no, they weren’t required to feed us, but we had to stay there sometimes while they ordered dinner…for themselves. The only exception being my grandmother…she fed EVERYBODY.) My parents finally had enough and started to say this to relatives who wanted them to do all the driving to visit them. “We have a front door too, and it opens and closes just like yours does.” Needless to say, when they were tasked with going to visit MY parents, it never happened. It got us out of a lot of long, boring, painful visits.