Christmas dinner has always been hosted in our home. All our children attend with their significant others and grandchildren. My doors are open if any of them wants to bring a friend who’s alone during the holidays.
Among our three children, #1 and #2 have always been close, but neither are close to #3. Our rule is that they’re to be civil, treat each other with respect, and come together as family. They’re now all adults over 40.
This year, we’re renovating our home and unable to host. Child #3 offered their condo, but their siblings said, “no way, it’s too small.” In fact, it would’ve been a lovely space for it.
Both other siblings then told us that they’re hosting together at one of their homes, and they’re excluding their sibling. Why? We learned there was no incident or fight. "We’re just not close. Now this is at our homes, our rules."
My husband and I were shocked. Our excluded child was hurt but told us to attend to avoid drama.
I’m so upset and torn. Do we go to this dinner and leave one child alone at Christmas? Or do we take a stand and tell our children, It’s all of us or none of us?
We also suggested splitting the day to spend time with both “sides” but that’ll mean a big commute and we may miss one if the weather’s bad. What do I do?
How awful to find that the “Grinch Who Stole Christmas” still lives in the mean-spirited planning of two of your adult children!
They’re not only excluding their sibling, but knowingly making the holiday miserable for their parents, who’ve always made Christmas the time of giving warmth and compassion that it’s meant to be.
It’s easy to be divided on this dilemma: You could spend Christmas Eve with the “excluded” child and Christmas Day with the rest of your family.
For me, the latter would be hard to take. I’d taste bile in their gravy.
But if you don’t attend their “new-rules” event, they can respond with some drummed-up self-serving statement of how they perhaps felt you always sided with the youngest, or some other resentment they’ve harboured since childhood.
Yet you haven’t mentioned being aware of any serious hardships they suffered at the hands of their ostracized sibling… just “not close.”
I’d give your #1 and #2 adult children one gift only this holiday: A recommendation that each gets counselling for carrying their grudge or sibling rivalry to the extent that they can’t be civil on this one day that’s so significant in your family history.
Meanwhile, after much deliberation on my part – and I’m sure readers will weigh in - I say, do not attend their dinner. It’s a spiteful, segregated event.
Absent any understandable reason for their behaviour, fulfill with your husband your roles as still-existing heads of family and say that, excluding one of your children is to exclude you both as well.
I don’t think going to the other sibling is the right decision either. Your message is, as it always has been, that Christmas is for all the family.
Find friends you can dine with that night, or volunteer at a Church dinner, somewhere where you can feel the generosity of spirit and hope for peace and goodwill that you’ve always treasured.
Hopefully, by your absence, your adult offspring will miss and re-think what it means to celebrate a family Christmas.
FEEDBACK Regarding the young man worried about his relationship with his girlfriend ending despite his best efforts (November 22):
Reader – “My husband could’ve written that letter in our early years, when he worked, studied and volunteered, all full-time, while I tried to adjust to a new town where I knew no-one.
“I’d strongly recommend they both immediately read 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman.
“Turned out my husband’s language was "acts of service" which he was speaking non-stop to me, while mine was “quality time together” which I begged for via regular “we-have-to-talk” confrontations. Hurts and walls rose between us.
“This book opened our eyes, made us laugh, and inspired each of us to learn to speak each other’s language, as we fell more deeply in love. Just celebrated our 50th, are inseparable, laugh a lot, and living our dream!
“(The author’s other three “love languages: physical touch, words of affirmation, and gift-giving”).”
Tip of the day:
A Christmas dinner that serves grudges is a bitter rejection of the holiday spirit.