August 2006 Weddings
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Family drama...advice needed (long)

My family lives in rural Massachusetts.  It's a huge, close-knit extended family, and almost all of them live within an hour or so of my parents.  I'm the oldest of three girls...I'll call my sisters M for middle, and Y for youngest.  M is married, has a 1 year old daughter, and lives 2 miles from my parents.  Her husband also has a huge family that all lives locally. 

Y lived at home until 13 months ago, when she moved to LA.  Last Christmas, Y spent it with me, DH, and my MIL in Orange County.  This Christmas, Y came up to have Christmas with DH and I again. 

M is not handling this well at all.  She's constantly making comments about us leaving her, how Christmas doesn't feel like Christmas anymore, etc.  She talks about us moving back (despite us telling her it's not happening) and since Y's ex-boyfriend works with M's husband, she holds on to this believe that Y and her ex will get back together and Y will move home and marry him.  (yes, seriously.) 

The reality is, we just won't be home for Xmas much anymore.  After travelling almost every year for Christmas for the last decade, I loved not going anywhere this year.  Not to mention, it's expensive and time consuming to travel cross country then, and if we don't spend Xmas with MIL, MIL is totally and completely alone.  DH's dad is in Virginia, we'll probably never spend an Xmas with him, so it's not like my family is getting the short end of the stick here.  And I go home for baby showers, and christenings, and weddings - the events that I think are the most important.

Y works in retail and probably will be working on the 26th for as long as she stays in that field, which makes a cross-country flight at Xmas impossible.

I'm not really sure what to do.  My first Xmas away from my family was hard, but I'm happy in my marriage and we are building our own traditions.  My sister isn't even away from her family...she's got a kid, and about 60 relatives between she and her husband that live within 15 minutes of her. 

We almost certainly won't go back next Christmas and neither will Y.  Are we horrible people?  I'm really not sure what to do.  I hate feeling responsible for ruining M's Christmas every year, but I'm annoyed that she can't accept that we are adults now with families of our own and different commitments.  I end up feeling guilty and it's this huge downer on my holiday. 

I'm really not sure what to do here, short of going home every year for Christmas.  Any advice?


Re: Family drama...advice needed (long)

  • I know how this goes!  People get weird ideas about holidays, and they have expectations that can be unrealistic, etc.  You're not responsible for M's happiness, and it's unfair for her to blame this on you and Y.  Still, that really only applies in a vacuum.  You can't reason M into understanding that you're around for all the other big stuff, etc.  I think for family unity, I'd head back from Christmas in the next few years. 

    DH's parents live near us, but the extended family (all 100,000,000 of them) live in Maine.  The ILs always head up to Maine and really wanted us to go with them this year.  However, we saw them for Tgiving and went to Disney World with this earlier this month.  I thought my parents deserved Christmas.  My parents do get Christmas every year.

    I know we'll eventually have to go to Maine.  It's impractical and my dad's bday is the day after Christmas (which I hate to miss), but I'll probably have to at some point.

    Yuck.  Family crap is so annoying.  Why can't people just be understanding?

    Well, that would be telling

  • I think that you and your DH should make some type of schedule with your family and when you'll be where for what holiday. We are doing something similar with DH's brother's family and parents in the south. We can fly down there ONCE a year, so if we go down for the summer, then they gotta come up for a holiday if they wanna see us. If they wanna see us for a holiday down there, they can't expect us at other times.

    I think its a bit extreme to say that you'll "never" have Christmas somewhere. I personally would rather my sibling came for TG or Christmas than a baby shower or birthday. I think maybe, since she seems to be the whiner, you could talk to her and tell her you situation and how often you'd be willing to travel in a given year. Then, you two can figure out what you'd both like to see each other for the most. Even if you say "I'll only be able to come for Christmas every 3 years" at least you are managing her expectations. 

    As far as your youngest sister, if her schedule is different than yours, so be it. She's the one who decided to move out the CA from Mass to work in retail of all things. If she can't afford the $$ to fly home that's her issue to figure out or whine to your parents about.You shouldn't feel like you can't see your family because of her.



  • also, you can always fly back home after Christmas - like from the 27th to the 30th, say. That way you see your family w/o abandoning your MIL.
  • Well geez, it's crappy that she holds you personally responsible for ruining Christmas (or crappy for her that she lets your absence ruin Christmas). You seem really awesome, ESF, and I'm sure I'd miss you if I were your sister, too... but what about the rest of her family -- what are they, chopped liver?

    It sounds like staying put for Christmas works out really well, considering your other sister is there and that your MIL would be alone otherwise. If you're happy with your decision I think you're doing the right thing to stick by it. Hopefully M will grow up and realize that things aren't always going to work out the way she wants them to.

    (Sorry if this sounds snotty/mean. I'm in a bad mood.)

  • I am also the oldest of 3 girls! Stick out tongue

    I also live out of state from the rest of my family. But not as far as you!

    For major holidays like Christmas there is always the hassle of trying to all get together with inlaws, distance, work etc. And I also have family in retail so, I understand that too.

    I would be so super sad if I didn't get to see my sisters on the holidays. I don't care if it is Christmas day - but I would want to celebrate it at some point with them. I love my other relatives but my sisters and my parents (besides H) are the most important to me.

    If my sisters moved away and didn't come home for 2 christmases and planned on not coming home over the holidays again I would be devastated. Cut your sister some slack. She LOVES you!

  • Thanks everyone.

    For the record, it's not that I don't plan on ever going home for Christmas again, it's just that I don't see it being a semi-regular occassion.  If either my husband and I are not able to take time off of work, it can't happen. And we may not know when its time to buy tickets, like in August, if we can take the time off in December.  So, any sort of regular schedule or promises far into the future just aren't possible.

    The idea of going home a couple days after Christmas is a good one though so I'll keep that in mind for the future.


  • And this is all about her...why?

    Really, I don't get this.  She is your SISTER for the love of god, it's not even your mother saying this, which I at least would understand.

    I do believe that the family member that moves away from the center of the family universe bears the responsibility to go to them, not so much the other way around.  I mean, they are the ones who want to stay home, so travelling is a much bigger deal. 

    That does not mean that you travel at their whim.  I get she's your sister and you love her but this is not right.  You are so worried about her precious little feelings and she seems not to care about yours.  (Yes, I'm over stating it and making fun of her a little.)  but dang, she thinks Y is going to go home and marry this ex?  M has issues.

    If my husband's brother and wife moved away with their kids, I would be incredibly bummed.  We'd probably give them some grief about it, honestly.  After having the same conversation a few times, we'd drop it, though.  We'd *** and moan amongst ourservles but we'd leave them alone about it.

  • I haven't read the other responses, but here are my thoughts:

    1) M is being a little unreasonable but probably feels comfortable fully expressing her feelings (no matter how extreme) to you guys because you're her sisters.

    2) You could invite her family out to see you for the holidays.

    3) It's easier to not see people you love during the holidays if there are plans in place to see them eventually (like plane tickets booked, that sort of thing).

  • I can't be of much help. After this Christmas, we're thisclose to telling both sets of parents that we're not going to spend Christmas with either of them ever again.
  • I'm terrible about christmas and family advice (i just wrote a blog post about my completely effed up family holiday), but for what it's worth, NO YOU ARE NOT a terrible person.  This was the last christmas I will be spending at my parents.  I can't do it anymore.  It's not worth it for anyone.  DH and I have alternated families for the past 5 years, and we *might* make it back east next year.  But I am really hoping to be knocked up and have an excuse to stay home.

    Which is to say that for some reason, I don't feel allowed to not see family unless I have one of my own, since I am very much driven by guilt. But I do not recommend the same for others!

    And you are right-  you see your family for the truly important events, and that's what counts.  DH and I decided that we will not go to the OC for Christmas anymore - but we will visit other times.  The holidays are just way too emotionally loaded and are universally disappointing. 

    Hang in there!!


    I am a runner, knitter, scientist, DE-IVF veteran, and stage III colon cancer survivor.
  • Also the oldest of three girls! Woo-hoo!

    As someone who just spent her first Christmas w/out her M (she was in Hawaii with her in-laws; the nerve!) I think I can sympathize with your sister. It's just not the same. I understand that everyone grows up, gets married, has "new" family in far-off places and all that jazz, but that does not change the fact that I deeply miss the Christmases when we are all together.

    Your sister isn't being selfish, heartless, controlling, insensitive, or any other adjective that was thrown her way in this thread. She's just being honest, real, and sisterly. She wants to have her whole family around during the holidays, an emotion I think many can understand. But I bet she understands that this cannot be the case every single Christmas (unless she is truly unreasonable). If you let her know you will be with her every other Christmas or every third Christmas, or one Christmas every decade, I bet she will "get it," (assuming she doesn't already).

    Don't be so hard on your sis. She loves you and wants to spend time with you. And hell, it's better than the alternative! 

  • Politely and firmly tell M to grow up (maybe not use those exact words). What's stopping her from making the cross country trip? Since I graduated college in 2000. I've been home from christmas or thanksgiving twice in that time.

    Maybe for a family gift - you could get M and / or parents a web cam? If you guys have one too you all could have a conversation with faces. Not the same thing but it's an option.

    In the end however, she needs to grow up and realize the world doesn't revolve around her.

    my read shelf:
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