My son is my only child. When he was 4, I divorced his father and raised him on my own. I didn’t receive any financial support, so I worked full time to support us. Now my son is married with three children. But since he married, I am not included in family holidays like Thanksgiving or Christmas. For years, I invited them, but they never accepted. They spend holidays with my daughter-in-law’s family. It bothers me that my in-laws don’t seem to care that I’m left alone. I’ve had many talks with my son about this, but nothing changes. Is there anything more I can do?
I’m sorry that your feelings are hurt. I am also sorry about the volume of mail I receive from people who feel lonely or knocked around by the one-two punch of our compulsory (family) holidays: Thanksgiving and Christmas.
But let’s take a step back, Anonymous. You went to some length in your windup to tell us what a dedicated mother you were. But you didn’t work and sacrifice to secure a seat at a holiday table 30 years down the road. You did it out of love for your son. (And good for you!) But sadly, parenting is not a quid pro quo arrangement. Your son does not owe you anything.
You write that you have had many conversations with him about this. But have you said (to him or his wife, depending on your relationship): “Honey, I have no place to go on Thanksgiving. Would you ask Mary’s parents if I can join you?” Be that direct. This is your flesh and blood we’re talking about, not a pal from book club. If you have already been this direct, either your son does not want to ask his wife or in-laws, or he has asked and was refused. You have limited leverage either way.
I don’t want to sound callous here because I know the holidays can weigh on us. But perhaps you should start exploring different avenues: volunteering on Thanksgiving or inviting friends to celebrate with you. It would be magnificent if your son (and his in-laws) considered your predicament without a nudge from you. But they haven’t. So be clear. If they still won’t bend your way, start knocking on different doors.
My brother-in-law is a police officer. He carries a gun, even off duty. He comes to visit us once a year. I told my sister I do not feel comfortable having a gun in the house. (I have a small child.) She said she would talk to her husband, but I doubt she has. What should I do?
Follow up. Ask, “How did Jim feel about leaving his gun at home?” In the event of pushback (or noncommittal dithering), add: “We know that Jim is a responsible gun owner. We just don’t want guns in our home.” If you continue to believe she’s shining you on, install a metal detector at the front door. Happy Thanksgiving!
Every year, my sister hosts Thanksgiving, and we all contribute healthy, organic dishes. But my 80-year-old mother insists on bringing her homemade applesauce, to which she adds sugar, a problem for diabetics in the family and not healthy for the rest of us. She thinks that a little sugar doesn’t hurt anyone (including the diabetics) and that people can choose not to eat it. Her disregard of dietary needs and preferences rankles. May I insist she leave the applesauce at home?
LYNDA, NEW JERSEY
Don’t let a trifling matter like applesauce grow a millimeter larger than it has to. Be diplomatic. Ask your mother to bring two batches: “Your delicious original recipe and one without sugar, please.” Or make the sugar-free version yourself. The essence of potluck dinners is giving up total control for the rainbow contributions of many. No one likes an autocrat. True, your mother does not appear to have a solid grasp on diabetes. But do you really need to get into a tug of McIntosh about it?
Politics as Unusual
My in-laws voted for [insert candidate]. I didn’t. They are coming to visit us. How will I bear their presence? Their candidate symbolizes everything I fear for in this country. I want to stop blaming them and feeling so angry, but I don’t know how. What to do?
A wise (and very fit) man — my trainer Ed Cashin — posted a sign on his gym door: “No politics, please. Only kettlebells.” There will be time and great need for important conversations in the coming months. But if you are feeling raw right now, as many of us are, postpone talking politics until you can do so calmly and respectfully.
Try to focus on shared interests instead: family news, hobbies, movies and TV shows you’ve enjoyed (e.g., “Doctor Foster” on Netflix). If all else fails, settle for minutiae: “How, exactly, do you make that chestnut stuffing, Jack?” And don’t be shy to say: “I’m feeling bruised by the election. Let’s wait to have that discussion.” We’ll get through it. People of good faith always do.