My husband's parents are divorced, so we see his mom (he’s closest with her) and her new husband on Christmas Day.
Then we see his dad and new wife on another day.
For my parents, it’s whatever other day works, so they’re always alone on Christmas Day.
My relationship with them is strained and distant so getting together is always an awkward, depressing experience.
Yet I constantly feel guilty for not spending time with them.
Are we being selfish for prioritizing the most enjoyable visit?
Is it “the right thing to do” to alternate whom I see on Christmas Day, even spend it away from my husband to see my folks?
I know it’d crush him. But there’s no way he'll give up laughter and good food for a visit to the black hole that’s my parent's place.
You and your husband should participate in the holidays together.
If you later have children, you may even end up inviting some or all of these relatives to your home for some holiday celebrations.
Meanwhile, there’s obviously personal history that’s justified your pattern with your parents so far.
You could now try to get past guilt and accept who your parents are through counselling.
Also, consider options: Avoid “the black hole” and invite them out - a Christmas Eve dinner or Boxing Day lunch somewhere bright. Or, treat them to a musical event or other upbeat performance during the holiday week.
Reader’s Commentary “My heart broke reading Grandma’s letter (Nov 23) about her over-scheduled grandson.
“If she interferes too much, she’ll be cast out of her grandson’s life.
“But if she interferes too little, she’s consigning that young boy to a horrifying existence.
“The parents may believe they’re preparing their child for a life of success in a competitive world, but they’re not.
“They’re teaching him that his feelings, interests, and identity don’t matter, that it’s more important that he be a trained seal, so that his parents can enjoy bragging rights.
“They’re ensuring that he’ll have low self-esteem, depression and anxiety.
“His punishing schedule ensures that he has little contact with people who might object to what the parents are doing.
“Isolation is the classic tool of abusers.
“How have these parents defined “success?” By their own narcissism and materialistic considerations, or by their child’s well-being?
“I also experienced a narcissistic parent as a child, and again as a parent whose mother thought she knew better for my child. (She didn’t.)
“This boy’s already unruly in school, angry, and retreating.
“Does his Grandma ever go to her grandson’s school to find out how he’s doing socially and academically?
“She could reach out to teachers there who may be able to help. They can either confirm that what Grandma’s witnessed is accurate, or that the boy’s thriving.
“She should start asking tough questions, like: “Have you asked your son what he enjoys or how he sees success?” “Is he involved in activities that he wants to do, or are they solely chosen by you?”
“Grandma must also start asking tough questions of herself: How much of this does she feel is a repudiation of her own parenting style?
“I agree that as long as that little boy knows someone is truly his champion, he’ll be okay and have a shot at true success.”
Ellie – Grandma has an important role in making him feel special for who he is, not just about what he does.
FEEDBACK Regarding the woman dealing with a “horrific split” (Nov. 21):
Reader – “After two “great” years together, my spouse’s ex-girlfriend started searching his emails and bank accounts, and exhibiting erratic behaviour.
“She refused to get help until they split years later. She was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder.
“He found huge relief in her diagnosis providing some answers. But his ex wasn’t comforted by this.
“She refused to take care of herself, started taking drugs, drinking heavily and behaving promiscuously.
“I believe she’d have been more open to her diagnosis if she’d sought help on her own terms, rather than to get my boyfriend back (I wasn’t in the picture then).
“While for this writer too, a diagnosis might give her an explanation and make her feel better, her husband might not be able to handle it yet.
“She should accept there were great moments between them, now gone, and stick with counselling for herself.”
Tip of the day:
Try some new get-together patterns at Christmas that might lighten old family divisions.