Ask Amy: Annual family drama ruins her Christmas

December 16, 2013 

Dear Amy: I have siblings, divorced and remarried parents, extended family, in-laws and a baby on the way.

Holidays have unfortunately become an emotional wrestling match to see who can guilt us into spending actual Christmas Day with them. For many years, I have celebrated "Christmas" on random days in December and January to accommodate the family schedule. Some years we attend up to seven gatherings.

Our house is under a huge renovation right now; otherwise I would host a gathering, but still the responsibility seems to have fallen on my shoulders to nudge everyone into picking dates.

My mother is upset that my in-laws have asked us over for dinner Dec. 25. She is refusing to choose a date to get together.

Having and hosting one big dinner for everyone is not logistically possible, and my parents have each said they would prefer not to share the holiday with others.

Sometimes I feel our families are acting like children. What's your suggestion to create family peace and joy at Christmastime?

— Tired of December drama

Dear Tired: You don't "feel" your adult family members are acting like children; they are acting like children (this is not really debatable). And you are being a bad "mommy" to all of these disparate family members — trying to accommodate all of them — even as they rudely refuse to cooperate.

This sort of scenario is sadly typical of some families during the holidays, but it is fundamentally twisted, and in your case, things won't change until you are brave enough to stake your claim and value your own happiness, health and holiday energy during an extremely stressful time.

Ask yourself, "What do I want?" You and your husband should reorient yourselves toward your own immediate family. Others can function on their own behalf and arrange for a time to get together that is convenient for you. This also means managing their own disappointment if Santa doesn't give them exactly what they want.

Dear Amy: "Sad After All These Years" has a story familiar to me. My parents were married for 25 years. My mother is an addict. She abused me, my father and my brother.

My brother and I watched my father forgive and try harder with each and every relapse and infidelity of my mother's. As difficult as it is, "Sad" needs to create a new life for himself; otherwise this pattern will repeat itself.

— Grew up young

Dear Young: Sadly, I think you may be right.


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