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How do you tell your mother-in-law her dinner parties/family dinners are not fun?

reedmangler Nov 29, 2010 08:21 AM

My mother-in-law is a nice lady. She means well. She is 78 years old with 6 adult children. She loves having everyone over for Christmas Eve dinner & present opening. My father-in-law has had some health issues this year & doesn't have all of his strength back.

This is the way it typically plays out: Mother & Father-in-law slaving away in the kitchen, bickering about timers & gravy, etc. Father-in-law usually loses his temper about something, due to the stressful nature of cooking for such a large crowd. We don't see them until dinner & then mother-in-law won't sit down, for fretting about forgetting something and then 'polices' everyone's plates--"Why aren't you eating that?"

Mother-in-law asked today if we would like to come this year. I said "Yes, but I don't want you killing yourself to make it happen. We all want to help. I think you should consider a different logistical set-up, instead of a formal sit-down dinner. Perhaps heavy hors d'oeurves, buffet style?" Of course, she would not hear of it.

I have three young kids--age 7, 4 and 8 months. I want them to remember Christmas at Grandma & Grandpa's fondly, not with the two of them hiding in the kitchen & stressing out, not at the celebration.

All of us (the adult children & spouses) have discussed this at length and are in agreement that it is really unpleasant. Is there any way to handle this or do I just suck it up?

  1. sunshine842 Nov 29, 2010 08:24 AM

    the kids do the cooking at Grandma & Grandpa's.

    Everybody brings a dish (or two) so that there's really nothing to be cooked.

    somebody else hosts.

    1. j
      jujuthomas Nov 29, 2010 08:50 AM

      that's a tough one. if she's like my MIL she has "martyr syndrom", so won't DREAM of putting the burden on anyone else. for a wonder, my FIL put his foot down this year - they've had a lot of health issues in the last several months - and I got to host Thanksgiving. I hope it's the start of a trend!
      can you have a family meeting after dinner this year and discuss alternatives? just make sure to be kind and loving, to let them know you want to spend time with them without the stress. :)

      1. w
        Whinerdiner Nov 29, 2010 08:53 AM

        Tell them that your "gift" to them this year is that they get to sit, and enjoy the day with their grandkids. The adult children plan the meal, divvy up the cooking, and each bring a dish. Explain to your in-laws that the best gift they can give the kids is a memory. No one is going to remember what was served, but the kids will entertain each other for years with stories of how grandma sang off key or how grandpa cheated at charades.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Whinerdiner
          hill food Nov 29, 2010 03:26 PM

          good point and a nice way to word it, but how do you cheat at charades?

        2. c
          Cathy Nov 29, 2010 08:54 AM

          She is not going to admit she is getting older or that she and dad need help. That she would ask if you would "like to come over this year" is a clue.

          Siblings (not spouses) need to suggest changes to mom starting now, in the weekly or daily phone call, they can tell her they know dad is not going to be able to help as much. Siblings need to go over early to help out, cutting items the night before, setting the table early in the day, menial stuff, letting dad rest. Spouses and children can show up for dinner. Someone could volunteer to go shopping with mom the week ahead (perhaps to be asking about family recipes..and then ask if could come over to watch how something is prepared...). Subtle, but helping.

          6 Replies
          1. re: Cathy
            mtngirlnv Nov 29, 2010 01:37 PM

            I agree entirely. Let the kids tell them, not the spouses. Or war will ensue. I know.

            1. re: mtngirlnv
              coney with everything Nov 30, 2010 04:44 AM

              +1

              1. re: mtngirlnv
                GraydonCarter Nov 30, 2010 02:36 PM

                > not the spouses

                Reedmangler can try to orchestrate the effort but absolutely needs to remain behind the scenes with the MIL. Then at some point, before arriving at the in-law's house, stop, take a breath, and admit that it is what it is.

                1. re: GraydonCarter
                  h
                  HillJ Nov 30, 2010 02:41 PM

                  Reedm, ask yourself-what's wrong with the occasional backseat. Sometimes letting others do the "driving" is a very cool and relaxing safe place to be. Why stress more than need be. Sit back, relax and enjoy the ride.

              2. re: Cathy
                m
                mpjmph Nov 30, 2010 12:00 PM

                Completely agreed... Make it about helping, keep the meal mostly the same except with help the whole family. That is much easier than significantly changing the meal. Also, do not put her out of the kitchen entirely. My grandmother insisted on helping right up to the end (age 85), and was terribly upset if she couldn't contribute. At first it was just help with the turkey while she did everything else, then different family members took over different dishes, one at a time. Eventually there were just a few tasks that were hers - peeling the hard boiled eggs, slicing the pound cake... For the last few years, she was perfectly happy just to have a seat near the action so she could join the conversation as the rest of us cooked (and taste the turkey when it came out of the oven to give final approval).

                1. re: Cathy
                  s
                  Sal Vanilla Dec 6, 2010 07:51 PM

                  Yep. This is probably the answer. That way gran still has the dominance of having it at her house (if that is her thing). If she fusses over all the help, the backup plan is to tell her that having it at sibling A's house is the only other alternative, but that you thought keeping with tradition - with modification would be the happiest alternative.

                  It could be that gran resents having to host. Maybe someone should say they would like to do it at their house (and make whatever arrangements with siblings) and have the two elders be catered to for a change. Time to pass the torch so to speak. If there is something special that mom does that memories are made of - ask her to make it and tell her why.

                2. s
                  sedimental Nov 29, 2010 09:33 AM

                  If all of these good suggestions don't work, there is always honesty. She would not be "killing herself" if she thought you all didn't enjoy it. You can be kind and honest at the same time. Her children need to let her know that the fun is no longer there due to the stress and worry - a potluck style dinner would be more fun. Don't make it an option. I would suggest potluck style at her house or moving the dinner to somewhere else-as she sounds like a bit of a control freak and would likely resent others in her kitchen. I don't think "helping" in her kitchen, at her house, would work.

                  1. i
                    Isolda Nov 29, 2010 10:03 AM

                    Plan a potluck with the siblings, then tell your MIL she doesn't have to worry about a thing except decorating her beautiful house. Tell her it's your thank you gift for hosting everybody all these years and all you want is the company. Plead picky children with sensitive palates if you must (everyone's got a picky kid or two in their family tree) and make it clear that no one else should be catering to their limited tastes.

                    Make sure everyone brings their dish in their best china, if a formal dinner is important to her, and bring champagne if you drink alcohol just to set this apart from previous years. It's the start of a new tradition, not the handing off of an old one. I think if you bill this as something new and different, rather than a takeover of something she has always owned, you'll have more success.

                    1. k
                      kerosundae Nov 29, 2010 10:29 AM

                      haha, reminds me of the lunch we did for DH's 30th yesterday, except the 2 of us were your MIL&FIL, this was for 14 people, we barely sat down the entire time, neither of us slept the night before and at one point just before lunch, I walked out in the snow in my house slippers. We're cooking for Christmas as well and for even more people, so we will definitely rethink our entire menu to make it pre-preparable. So I'm trying to figure out a solution.

                      1. r
                        Raids Nov 29, 2010 10:50 AM

                        Okay, she likes to host Christmas dinner, so I say let her host Christmas dinner. Doing this is important to her.

                        But will she really not accept help? And think about what it means to help: offering to help an hour before a dinner of that size is not help. It is anti-help, unless you are offering to set the table. Offering to peel potatoes a few hours before dinner is help. Offering to wash the first set of prep dishes is help - for me, this occurs something like five hours before the actual dinner.

                        All the sous chef-type stuff, where help really would be appreciated, occurs hours before dinner. People do not seem to realize this. Granted, it would be awesome if everyone could do this stuff the day before...but it doesn't seem like that's a possibility in this case.

                        In my opinion, people come around with offers to help during the last couple of hours, when I am in the groove. I am simmering my gravy, mashing potatoes, throwing together the salad, etc. Interruptions are actually not helpful.

                        So, talk to them ahead of time, say you are mandatorily enforcing some time for them to sit down and take a break from cooking, and that they should schedule in some assigned tasks for you.

                        The other thing is that it just seems like your mother-in-law and father-in-law fight. In public. That's too bad, but is it really just limited to cooking? And if she's policing your plates...that's just bad manners. Maybe you can alleviate this by telling her how wonderful everything is.

                        And one family member, the most tactful one, should level with both of them and tell them that's it's not the appearance of everything that matters, it's the actual quality of time had by all, and that what everyone remembers about Christmas dinner is the stress, not the good time, and that you'd love to do whatever you can to help change that.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: Raids
                          EWSflash Nov 29, 2010 05:01 PM

                          "And one family member, the most tactful one, should level with both of them and tell them that's it's not the appearance of everything that matters, it's the actual quality of time had by all, and that what everyone remembers about Christmas dinner is the stress, not the good time, and that you'd love to do whatever you can to help change that."

                          Raids, that's just plain beautiful advice. No guarantee that it will work this year, but it might. And then the gen 1 offspring can bring it up next May or sometime that's fairly far removed from the holiday and put the bug in their ear, giving them a chance to mull it over. It wouldn't have worked with my mother, but then she was always open to going to somebody else's (that would be my) house. She would bring a couple of things, which of course, while I was at the peakof a large cooking frenzy, would show up with her stuff and insist that it be put in the (totally full) refrigerator or (likewise full) oven immediately, if not sooner.
                          You can't fix everything or everybody, but I wish you luck.

                          1. re: EWSflash
                            PattiCakes Nov 30, 2010 10:48 AM

                            Ditto. Perhaps the explanation that you want all of the younger members of your family to remember Grandmom and Grandpop sitting at the table and enjoying Christmas dinner, not working themselves into a frenzy. They are far to important in your lives to be relegated to the latter.

                        2. s
                          soupkitten Nov 29, 2010 11:06 AM

                          i wouldn't tell her something so negative and hurtful, when she is obviously trying so hard to make something nice for her family. she is being a "control freak" either because she *is* a control freak, or that there is something very important to her that she's trying to convey or express-- tradition, family, culture-- something really lame and un-fun, like that.

                          i'd go about it differently and express to her that even though the meal, the family togetherness, the traditions, whatever are all wonderful, that you want your kids to enjoy the time with her and fil-- maybe more shared responsibility for the meal, everyone brings a contribution. . . and mil and fil get time to lead games or stories in the living room, with the kids, away from the kitchen for part of the time. maybe break the meal into a main or important dessert that mil still has complete control over, but this comes out after a grazing buffet that everybody else contributes to. the family can get together a week in advance and bake cookies, or make tamales, or something-- i don't know your family, so insert your own culinary tradition here. btw the impetus should come from this woman's own children, not the spouses of her children, so that it looks like caring and compassion and loving-- which it is-- and not meddling and seeking to take control of family tradition-- which it isn't, right? :)

                          if all the younger generations' families came in with a contribution in mind ahead of time "i would love to share my favorite chocolate cake" or "we have a great chopped salad at our home all the time, i'd love to bring a huge bowl. . ." it could go over better, too-- because people will already seem to be excited about, & involved & on-board with the joint project.

                          1. dave_c Nov 29, 2010 01:42 PM

                            Sounds like all the siblings are in agreement and want to do something different.
                            Which of the 6 adult siblings is the "favorite"?

                            My suggestion is you all agree to help cook the dinner and have the "favorite" or a "mob" of siblings go into the kitchen and take over. Reason with the MIL and FIL to sit down and enjoy the grandchildren.

                            Also, state that someone wants to learn the recipes by cooking the recipes with the MIL supervising.

                            1. BubblyOne Nov 29, 2010 02:14 PM

                              Sorry, you're screwed. No offense- but some people are just not good at entertaining and continue to do it anyway.

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: BubblyOne
                                s
                                smartie Nov 29, 2010 03:07 PM

                                yep I am agreeing with you. With some people ie family you just gotta go to. My ex MIL was an over fancy cook for the age of my children and their tastes and food came out hours after we had been invited. I have a step sister who is a rotten cook but frequently invites family. Roll eyes at your spouse and siblings in law in private and say thank you for the invite.

                                1. re: BubblyOne
                                  southernitalian Nov 30, 2010 06:41 AM

                                  Yup. My MIL insists on doing Christmas although she'll complain to me all year when family comes to stay with her and she has to cook for them. She's an awful cook and looks miserable all day but good luck trying to convince her to let anyone else do it. Such a huge bummer.

                                  1. re: southernitalian
                                    m
                                    mandycat Dec 4, 2010 06:36 AM

                                    My parents had a neighbor for years whom they (privately) nicknamed Ding-Dong. As far as we could tell the only pleasure she got out of entertaining (or anything else, really) was to complain and whine about all the drudgery involved. The topper was when she dragged her weary body over the day before her family arrived for Christmas dinner to borrow some sort of gadget that she needed to clean the inside of her kitchen cupboards . By that time my parents knew her well enough not to ask the obvious question: "Are you nuts, cleaning the inside of your cupboards on December 24th?"

                                2. gaffk Nov 29, 2010 03:14 PM

                                  Honestly, these are all really good answers for people who are married for 5-10 years. Your in-laws are probably married 50+ years. Let them argue, let them stress, let them police your plates--as you said, they are nice people and probably connect with your children on other occasions. The comedy of the Christmas dinner will go down in their lore.

                                  1. h
                                    Heatherb Nov 29, 2010 03:21 PM

                                    Two options that I see.
                                    1) Present a united front among the siblings and their spouses about your mutual unhappiness with how things unfold. Offer two alternative choices (potluck, dinner out, whatever) for them to choose.

                                    2) Let it be. If they want to have a miserable experience, let them do it in the kitchen. The siblings and their families can go enjoy one another in a separate room. The parents are CHOOSING to do this. If that's what they want, let them. You're not being bad kids/in-laws since you have already offered to help - enjoy your holiday and don't worry about them. This may sound heartless, but as someone who had a some very stubborn grandparents, it may be the only viable option.

                                    1. amyzan Nov 29, 2010 03:32 PM

                                      My parents are in their seventies, so I hope I can be of help. There's no polite way to tell your MIL that her dinners aren't fun. It would only hurt their feelings to tell them you all don't enjoy yourselves and you fear the kids are forming unpleasant memories.

                                      The six kids may have to insist on a change of venue to eventually transition to new traditions in coming years. The best that can happen is for one of the 6 kids to host, or for one of them to lay down the law that you are all going out together, no arguments. If in laws continue to host, MIL will insist she do it all. In my experience, something that radically alters her quality of life would have to happen to get her to change the way she hosts. It's terribly unfortunate that some people are so very set in their ways when it comes to hosting dinner, but it's just the way things are, more than likely. You could try having one of her daughters work on MIL, trying to convince her to host differently--buffet, or potluck, or even just a more cook ahead, tandem effort with this favorite daughter. But, based on your post, I doubt MIL will go for it. I sympathize. My parents are a challenge in this regard as well. I suppose I'm lucky that they divorced when I was a teen, so I only have to deal with one of them at a time. (That came out snarky, but I actually meant it sincerely!)

                                      1. jfood Nov 29, 2010 03:45 PM

                                        Do NOT break the heart of an elderly woman who has been doing this for years. You have two choices:

                                        1 - Suck it up, try to get some of the pressure off her by suggesting each of the kids bring something but if she insists, suck it up
                                        2 - Make a reservation at a local restaurant for christmas dinner.

                                        telling her that it has been unpleasant , or that you do not want her grandchildren to remember her that way is not a good idea in my opinion.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: jfood
                                          EWSflash Nov 29, 2010 05:09 PM

                                          True. There are ways of couching it in better terms, I thnk. I don't think the OP has any need to direct negativity at her in-laws, she just wants for it not to be a nasty horrible experience for them and the grandchildren.

                                        2. hill food Nov 29, 2010 03:48 PM

                                          I think the only "nice" way of posing this is to not express what a joy suck they are at these gatherings (and believe me I know, I try to avoid my parents during the mounting steam whistle shriek of stress that builds for a week beforehand)

                                          where was I? oh yeah: "we're worried that YOU'RE not enjoying the holiday and the scarce/precious/meaningful time with your grandchildren, and they're not getting to spend the dwindling time with you." (paraphrase that please) and if you can, pack 'em off with the non-cooks for sledding or a light brunch or something, anything, while the cooks destroy (in the IL's minds) the kitchen (of course not, have someone assigned for cleaning as you go) and leave a few last minute things like the gravy or plating for them to complete (and this is not the time to get creative with the recipes no matter how bored you are with them).

                                          my mission is:to figure out how to react as my mother's voice starts warbling and cracking more and more each day as the blessed/dreaded event approaches and find a way to say what I was told repeatedly as a child "you're RUINING Christmas!"

                                          1. h
                                            HillJ Nov 29, 2010 04:04 PM

                                            You don't! One day said MIL will be gone and then you can carry on any way you please. Until then, find the joy and make the most of the family time you have together. Control means something to older people sometimes. You'll be older one day too and likely want things your way :) Family dinners are memories.

                                            4 Replies
                                            1. re: HillJ
                                              reedmangler Nov 29, 2010 05:29 PM

                                              You are probably right. Just makes me sad for my kids...I myself have distinct memories of one set of grandparents being loose, fun & happy and the other being strict, mean & uptight. I guess you can't force people to look inward and prioritize--happy, sweet memories vs. the dishes were washed before we opened the presents.

                                              1. re: reedmangler
                                                h
                                                HillJ Nov 29, 2010 06:00 PM

                                                reedmangler, I had a similar set of grandparents; one always up for an adventure, the other all about proper. Food was the happy medium. Funny thing was the two sets got along great at meal time. Why? For us, the grandkids. So dinner, holidays, birthdays it was all about being together over yummy food. Fussy as we all might get about the celebratory details-the bigger picture is what we counted on. I love those memories; including the crazy stuff.

                                                1. re: reedmangler
                                                  j
                                                  julesrules Nov 30, 2010 06:36 AM

                                                  You can't control the relationship between your kids and extended family (it took me a while to realize that mysefl). My only suggestion is to provide some other opportunities for your kids to spend time with the ILs, maybe separately from each other, maybe doing things that are relaxing for them (gardening, going out for coffee, classic movie and popcorn at your place...)

                                                  1. re: reedmangler
                                                    Karl S Nov 30, 2010 08:37 AM

                                                    Well, not all children prefer loose for too long; some prefer highly structured. And many children learn best within family how to deal with disappointment, delayed gratification and frustration.

                                                2. c
                                                  Cathy Nov 29, 2010 04:05 PM

                                                  Did anyone READ this? 'MIL asked today *IF* we would like to come this year'.

                                                  Not what time it would be starting, not that it was assumed everyone would be there, but **IF** her own son and his family would like to come to Christmas Eve,as they have, every year.

                                                  MIL needs to talk with her children. Something is going on.

                                                  13 Replies
                                                  1. re: Cathy
                                                    h
                                                    HillJ Nov 29, 2010 04:07 PM

                                                    If the emphasis is on IF, the OP needs to clarify the post.

                                                    1. re: Cathy
                                                      hill food Nov 29, 2010 04:21 PM

                                                      re "IF": MIL may have a sense of formality that forbids expecting (although my money is on that she silently does) and a formal invitation needs to be issued, which would also explain the need to do everything to the detriment of the occasion for the sake of protocol. passive/aggressive control behavior, if I may employ pop-psych jargon, but creates a denser minefield to maneuver.

                                                      1. re: hill food
                                                        reedmangler Nov 29, 2010 05:24 PM

                                                        everything you just said--yes. But the advice(s) given here are causing me to rethink my issue. Lots of good stuff to think about.

                                                        1. re: reedmangler
                                                          hill food Nov 29, 2010 05:47 PM

                                                          just don't beat yourself up over this, one set of grandparents bickered (sometimes bitterly) with each other constantly and it took me years of living my Beaver Cleaver childhood to realize that was just how they communicated, I didn't love them any less and never felt unloved. I learned to separate how they dealt with me from how they dealt with each other and all was manageable (not perfect, but a good lesson). in a way it taught me not to hold a silly grudge and sometimes life ain't happy-clappy. my point downstream was (and sorta contrary to some of the things I've said), maybe don't try any fundamental changes and if you have the opportunity to engineer time w/o the pressure take every advantage you have. I applaud that even if your IL's are a pain at the Holidays, you want you're kids to have a relationship with them. Some wouldn't make the effort.

                                                      2. re: Cathy
                                                        jfood Nov 29, 2010 04:35 PM

                                                        whether it is the mother of the daughter or the son, i would just suck it up and show up and try to enjoy as much as possible.

                                                        1. re: jfood
                                                          hill food Nov 29, 2010 04:41 PM

                                                          jfood: that probably is the easiest and most diplomatic

                                                          OP: try if you're in the same area to do a low-key zoo, theater, whatever thing with a lunch out, on a more low-stress-expectation day.

                                                          plus it can be a subtle learning time for the kiddos to politely understand there are times when it's not always going to be picture perfect and we just deal with it and ameliorate things in other ways.

                                                          1. re: hill food
                                                            jfood Nov 29, 2010 04:46 PM

                                                            christmas eve sorta reduces the choices.

                                                            but the downside is to say something, bad reception, then no family gathering this year. FIL is sick, dies and then everyone has significant guilt for making his last Xmas one he spent alone without his kids and grand kids.

                                                            ciao

                                                            1. re: jfood
                                                              hill food Nov 29, 2010 04:50 PM

                                                              yup.

                                                              1. re: hill food
                                                                jfood Nov 29, 2010 04:53 PM

                                                                and here's why

                                                                my aunts and uncle put my grandmother in a nursing home way to early. they had her first birthday in the home and you could see she did not want to be there and she should not have been there.

                                                                guess what...she died in her sleep that night.

                                                                1. re: jfood
                                                                  hill food Nov 29, 2010 04:58 PM

                                                                  well dang j, you're making me all choky. good point, but dang.

                                                                  1. re: jfood
                                                                    amyzan Nov 29, 2010 07:51 PM

                                                                    Oh, that's just tragic, jfood. Good lesson.

                                                            2. re: jfood
                                                              southernitalian Nov 30, 2010 06:47 AM

                                                              Exactly Jfood. This is why God gave us Bailey's, wine, Guiness, spiked egg nog and all of those wonderful beverages that taste extra good on Christmas. Suck it up.

                                                              1. re: southernitalian
                                                                jfood Nov 30, 2010 07:03 AM

                                                                As a non-drinker please add belgian chocolate to those items that keep the mouth occupied at times of distress. :-))

                                                          2. pikawicca Nov 29, 2010 05:30 PM

                                                            Why on earth are you letting your almost 80 year-old relatives shoulder the burden of a huge feast? Host it yourself, and ask the oldsters to bring their favorite dish.

                                                            1 Reply
                                                            1. re: pikawicca
                                                              reedmangler Nov 29, 2010 05:43 PM

                                                              They won't have it any other way. I hosted one about 3 years ago. The eldest brother hosted another year when MIL had back surgery--and everyone enjoyed themselves (except the M & FIL, evidently--as this invitation has come so close to Thanksgiving.)

                                                              I suppose I simply need to accept and bow to the 'control freak' in my MIL. I just wish they (she) could see how this approach negatively impacts everyone's enjoyment of the holiday.

                                                            2. n
                                                              NicoleFriedman Nov 30, 2010 04:53 AM

                                                              After my husband's father died (who was a professional chef), my husband took over Thanksgiving duties- and would cook enough for a small restaurant. This year he just had knee surgery and we had to order in as it would have pained him too much if someone else did the cooking. For my husband, until he is on his death bed, he will be cooking Thanksgiving. This is not just about the food. If your MIL is even remotely similar, as long as she is physically capable, do not try and take this away from her. Unless this is the only day she can see her grandchildren, everyone should suck it up and let her have her day.

                                                              1. Karl S Nov 30, 2010 05:21 AM

                                                                You don't say anything. Only blood relatives get a say in this matter. This is one of those areas that non-blood relatives should be wary of getting anywhere near.

                                                                Understand that your MIL's identity (and even part of her very life force) is probably quite invested in this, and taking it away from her (which is how she'd likely understand it) can only happen voluntarily or by sheer inability.

                                                                One of her children might begin by asking her what it means to her to be doing this, and its importance to her. In other words, start by giving her space to share her perspective without judgment, rather than invalidating it in advance.

                                                                1 Reply
                                                                1. re: Karl S
                                                                  scoopG Nov 30, 2010 10:04 AM

                                                                  I agree 100%. Sounds to me that there are much larger issues at stake here.

                                                                2. k
                                                                  Kochav Nov 30, 2010 10:20 AM

                                                                  One big point that's not been addressed yet is what happens when the MIL and FIL are no longer hosting. In families where there's been a long-standing tradition to go to the grandparents' house for major holidays, the passing of that oldest generation can mean the end of family gatherings and traditions. I've read advice column letters about this, and saw it in my DH's family. Once his maternal grandparents passed away, that was the end of pretty much any kind of family holiday gathering for his side of the family. No one wanted to pick up the hosting mantle. Or, they just hadn't had any experience hosting a big gathering, and were reluctant to take the plunge. The adult grandchildren weren't as invested in going to an aunt or uncle's house. And so forth.

                                                                  It's been important to me to have happy memories of my parents celebrating big holidays (T-day, Passover Seders, etc.) with us in our house. I didn't want to have the first Thanksgiving dinner at our house be one where everyone is primarily thinking that the only reason we were there instead of at Grandma and Grandpa's was because someone had died, or was seriously ill. And I want to establish our own traditions, so that my kids in turn will have traditions of their own. Not to mention that someday they will be encouraged to stage a palace coup and insist that it's time for me to pass the baton. :-)

                                                                  Also, what is this business about "let the daughters and daughters-in-law do the heavy lifting--that is to say, all of the cooking."???? What about the sons and sons-in-law?

                                                                  4 Replies
                                                                  1. re: Kochav
                                                                    sunshine842 Nov 30, 2010 10:36 AM

                                                                    me, too -- after my great-grandmother passed, I've seen most of my cousins just once...when my grandfather passed. Little by little, we're linking back up via email and Facebook, but a lot of our lives have passed with no contact across what was a very close family.

                                                                    I DO have, however, warm and fuzzy memories of my great-grandmother's house packed with rafters, and quivering with the noise of kids and laughter, and the smell of oyster stew with those funny little hexagonal crackers floating on the surface.(Their anniversary was Christmas Eve, so it was a big occasion, as Santa would put in an appearance by the end of the night, too!)

                                                                    1. re: sunshine842
                                                                      reedmangler Nov 30, 2010 11:24 AM

                                                                      It is a sad thing. After my maternal grandmother passed (10 years ago) the family just sort of lost its footing. I hadn't seen some of my aunts, uncles and cousins since her funeral; that is, until my own mom was diagnosed with cancer this past summer. Yet another reason all of this has me wearing my heart on my sleeve w/regard to sweet & lovely memories.

                                                                    2. re: Kochav
                                                                      reedmangler Nov 30, 2010 11:21 AM

                                                                      LOL--unless we want to eat scrambled eggs or take-out, the gentlemen in this particular family are unable to contribute much to the feast. But they do help with the dishes :)

                                                                      1. re: Kochav
                                                                        m
                                                                        mojoeater Nov 30, 2010 02:51 PM

                                                                        I agree. I am usually offended if the guys don't participate. We share cooking in our house. The guys - even if they aren't cooks - should at least peel potatoes and wash stuff.

                                                                      2. boyzoma Nov 30, 2010 11:46 AM

                                                                        You'll probably have to bite the bullet this year, but since you and the other siblings have already discussed this issue, then be the first to speak up for next year. You can say something like great, we'll come this year, but I get to host next year (or which ever sibling will do the hosting). It's about the only way to tactfully start making the transitions.

                                                                        1. m
                                                                          mojoeater Nov 30, 2010 02:58 PM

                                                                          Unlike some people here, I don't expect much on the holidays. They've always been kinda stressful, even as a kid. If we had the holiday at home, mom was stressed and dad complained. And there were so many people around at the grandparents' (only 1 set alive when we were kids) that I couldn't really tell you what any of the adults looked like, let alone have fuzzy memories of them. I know my Irish grandmother scared me.

                                                                          So now we rotate family duties - Thanksgiving with my family, xmas with his, then the next year the other way around. Some of it is fun but none of it is all that great. Food is almost always average. We make our own happy memories at other times. To us, the date isn't all that important.

                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                          1. re: mojoeater
                                                                            GraydonCarter Dec 1, 2010 05:31 AM

                                                                            Sometimes you can't escape your MIL's influence. Once when it was our turn to host Thanksgiving, my (now ex-) wife composed a wonderful menu consisting of traditional dishes with a more modern take, including a beautiful terrine aux petits légumes. When her mother saw the menu, she decided to make mashed potatoes herself (having flown in from out of town and staying in our guest bedroom) and then her Dad insisted on Turkey. Tradition!

                                                                          2. n
                                                                            nolapark Dec 1, 2010 07:07 AM

                                                                            What I wouldn't give for just one more miserable holiday meal with my grandmother!

                                                                            My great grandmother cursing in Italian at my gmom (her daughter in law)...my gmom cursing her daughter in law (my mother) in English while all the men in the family played cards and drank homemade wine.

                                                                            2 o'clock meant macaroni and gravy, turkey, meatballs, and a table full of antipasti...eat as much as you want after my uncles made their plates. All of the men wearing sleeveless tshirts to the table so their rayon blend 'Saturday Night Fever" suits wouldn't get stained. Somebody taking bets on the game in the living room. Then the required verbal assault on my cousin for bringing yet another new girlfriend to dinner...why she thought it was ok to wear rollerskates to the table is beyond me...

                                                                            I love me some 70's, miserable, dysfunctional, almost too much for kids to be in the same room conversation, holiday fiascos. My mother, to this day, is still mortified that she subjected us to that scene. My brother and I, however, consider those days to be the priceless gems of our childhood. Maybe yours will, too.

                                                                            3 Replies
                                                                            1. re: nolapark
                                                                              Karl S Dec 1, 2010 07:23 AM

                                                                              A shift in perspective is a great social solvent.

                                                                              1. re: Karl S
                                                                                scoopG Dec 1, 2010 08:01 AM

                                                                                Great story and a reminder that parents have little control over the "mystic chords of memory" of their children. As the saying goes, children come through us, not to us.

                                                                                1. re: scoopG
                                                                                  h
                                                                                  HillJ Dec 1, 2010 08:09 AM

                                                                                  If I ever have the good fortune to be a MIL one day, I hope my children and their spouses will never feel this way about me. That is reason enough for me to do the polite thing and find a way to enjoy the time spent together (imperfections and all).

                                                                            2. Pia Dec 1, 2010 07:19 AM

                                                                              Are you all local? Maybe one of the siblings could drop by each day before the dinner and help out, and someone could give a friendly call to your MIL a week or so in advance to ask about her dinner prep plans and offer to go shopping with her. Ideally, you could all help MIL with the food prep to avoid so much stress on your in-laws on Christmas Eve. If it doesn't quite work out that way, it can't be a bad thing for her to get extra phone calls and visits from the kids.

                                                                              1. s
                                                                                sedimental Dec 1, 2010 07:03 PM

                                                                                Wow. I am not being snarkey, but I am so glad that honesty is a value in my family. I could not imagine "suffering through" a holiday in fear that someone might die and be upset about a holiday gathering. That I would teach my children to be dishonest and bury their feelings about being miserable through a holiday so that "it doesn't upset grandma". Sheesh. In my family, we just announce our feelings without judgement and work together to compromise. I know, not the American way! LOL

                                                                                15 Replies
                                                                                1. re: sedimental
                                                                                  BubblyOne Dec 1, 2010 08:16 PM

                                                                                  Good for you, but I don't think that is the norm any more than a Norman Rockwell Christmas.
                                                                                  I think most families fall in between, hence all the comments.

                                                                                  1. re: BubblyOne
                                                                                    Karl S Dec 2, 2010 04:55 AM

                                                                                    +1.

                                                                                    I come from a blunt family, too. But everyone announcing their feelings can be as overrated as perpetual omerta. Sometimes, people need their inner Nana to tell their inner child to shut up and deal.

                                                                                    1. re: Karl S
                                                                                      s
                                                                                      sedimental Dec 2, 2010 07:25 AM

                                                                                      Seriously? I think it's the "outer" Nana that needs to deal!
                                                                                      I would have responded different if the OP had said that only she felt this way (because that maybe would be more of a personal preference issue)....but the OP said it is the "entire family" feels the same way. The entire family! I am surprised with the several comments that the entire family should "shut up and deal" with an out of touch MIL. But it looks like the majority of responders think that the family should do something.

                                                                                      Honesty is never overrated. There are many graceful and loving ways to tell MIL that less stress and fuss would be better for everyone this year. There are some good suggestions in this thread. I hope the OP reports back.

                                                                                      1. re: sedimental
                                                                                        Karl S Dec 2, 2010 08:10 AM

                                                                                        Well, coming from a bluntly honest family (and being well known for being bluntly honest myself), I will say that people do things in the name of honesty that are ego-serving more than truth-and-love-serving.

                                                                                        The rituals of food and table are designed to help us remember that any virtue taken to excess becomes as much a vice as a lack of said virtue would be.

                                                                                        1. re: Karl S
                                                                                          reedmangler Dec 2, 2010 08:39 AM

                                                                                          And therein lies the complicated problem...and the delicate, balanced approach that needs to be taken, I suppose. Yes, I want to spare MIL's feelings. I love her & respect her.

                                                                                          But the holiday is not hers alone.

                                                                                          That's what vexes me--it winds up being a very self-serving spectacle, which no one (likely herself included) ends up enjoying very much.

                                                                                          1. re: reedmangler
                                                                                            c
                                                                                            Cathy Dec 2, 2010 08:45 AM

                                                                                            This year, the sibs have the perfect 'excuse' to help out- Dad has been ill.

                                                                                            There are also 3 weeks left to plan it out, with her involvement.

                                                                                            Keep us informed. I hope it goes well.

                                                                                            1. re: reedmangler
                                                                                              s
                                                                                              sedimental Dec 2, 2010 09:19 AM

                                                                                              Well said reedmangler. It is a delicate situation. Traditions and rituals that no one enjoys should not continue in my opinion. When my 73 year old stubborn grandma began to lose her cooking skills, then dropped the New Years Turkey on the floor on the way to the table.... we insisted that things change. She would not voluntarily give it up. We needed to gently take it over. Our tradition now is to have an "all Appetizer" buffet New Years Party. It worked out well. It can be done! Good luck!

                                                                                              1. re: sedimental
                                                                                                reedmangler Dec 2, 2010 10:13 AM

                                                                                                The dropping the turkey thing--that is our greatest fear. It would be humiliating for her and FIL would likely erupt (out of embarrassment). Of course, none of us wants to see that happen.

                                                                                                I am afraid that she will not listen to reason (because this very issue was brought up last year--she promised to let us help by bringing food--she promptly 'forgot' that we were all bringing stuff and wound up working her tuchas off all evening anyway) and it will take a huge disaster (such as dropping the entree or igniting the tablecloth with the candles that are forever in the way) for things to change.

                                                                                                It's almost pathological.

                                                                                                1. re: reedmangler
                                                                                                  scoopG Dec 2, 2010 05:18 PM

                                                                                                  Of course no one wants to see that happen. "Older" people have different reasoning - usually grounded in 50, 60, 70+ years of living. You need to better understand IMO geriatric care and best practices in dealing in elder care.

                                                                                                  1. re: scoopG
                                                                                                    reedmangler Dec 3, 2010 04:01 AM

                                                                                                    Please do elaborate--any insights would be helpful.

                                                                                              2. re: reedmangler
                                                                                                Karl S Dec 2, 2010 09:31 AM

                                                                                                Hence my initial suggestion to focus on soliciting her perspectives in a way the opens rather than closes doors.

                                                                                                1. re: Karl S
                                                                                                  reedmangler Dec 2, 2010 10:16 AM

                                                                                                  You (and others here) have made so many outstanding suggestions.

                                                                                                  One of DH's siblings called the other night to suggest having it at their (much larger) home. We have had it there in the past (when MIL had back surgery) and it was great. DH made the argument that the guilt would be overwhelming if this should happen to be anyone's last or last healthy holiday, and that it obviously means a lot to MIL to have it at her house.

                                                                                                  DH has his work cut out for him, given that he will be the one trying to convince her to 'evolve' her plans...

                                                                                              3. re: Karl S
                                                                                                s
                                                                                                summersnow May 2, 2012 08:17 AM

                                                                                                Very well said, Karl. I totally agree

                                                                                              4. re: sedimental
                                                                                                scoopG Dec 2, 2010 05:16 PM

                                                                                                The OP claims that the entire family is agreement with her. This we do not know. I think there is a much richer subtext appearing here. One of control. Control of the in-laws, control of the kids, control over the meal....

                                                                                                1. re: scoopG
                                                                                                  reedmangler Dec 3, 2010 04:03 AM

                                                                                                  Not so much my 'controlling' of these things, more the family wishing to not be 'controlled' into a uncomfortable holiday. We are all aiming for a drama-free, low-stress (for everyone) memorable holiday.

                                                                                        2. b
                                                                                          Babyducks Dec 2, 2010 04:21 AM

                                                                                          This has been a very interesting thread. I'm not close to 78, but I gladly passed the torch to my kids for hosting holiday dinners. I'm pretty much a control freak in the kitchen as well, and all the confusion that goes with cooking and kids running around would just be too much for me. So I bring the stuffing and a couple of other things to their home. I do much of the cleaning up and all ends well, at least I think it does.

                                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                                          1. re: Babyducks
                                                                                            reedmangler Dec 2, 2010 09:08 AM

                                                                                            That sounds like exactly the kind of low-key, everyone pitching-in, enjoyable holiday that we wish we could have--with any luck, this year will be different.

                                                                                          2. m
                                                                                            mjhals Dec 2, 2010 10:58 AM

                                                                                            We have a similar problem this year that has actually turned into a blessing and a wonderful opportunity. My grandmother has had Christmas Eve at her house for the whole family ever since I was born. At 91 this year she's just not up to putting the whole thing together, but no one wants to see the joy of taking care of her family taken away from her. Our solution is that grandma has a nice seat at the kitchen table (with plenty of coffee and krumkakles) while I do exactly what she tells me to do in the kitchen.

                                                                                            I hope to replicate all her dishes as faithfully as I can (no subing non-fat milk for the cream in the mashed potatoes, and no way can I sneak in a "new" dish like shredded brussel sprouts!), so everyone gets to experience the tastes they remember, and, better yet- I get to learn secrets from the master! I'm going to perfect my gravy for sure this year.

                                                                                            I understand that being able to manage it this way has a lot to do with my grandma's temperment and the fact that it's just not physically possible for her anymore, but is it possible to "sell" a similar idea to your MIL? Maybe use it as an opportunity to get your children involved in the kitchen with her (or just keep her company), while the middle generation helps with the prep? Good luck to you!

                                                                                            5 Replies
                                                                                            1. re: mjhals
                                                                                              Karl S Dec 2, 2010 11:00 AM

                                                                                              That is a lovely solution. And, btw, very traditional.

                                                                                              1. re: mjhals
                                                                                                sunshine842 Dec 2, 2010 12:10 PM

                                                                                                What a good solution for everyone!

                                                                                                1. re: mjhals
                                                                                                  h
                                                                                                  HillJ Dec 2, 2010 12:13 PM

                                                                                                  What a lovely way to share the holiday traditions and make wonderful new memories together. Inspiring!

                                                                                                  1. re: mjhals
                                                                                                    gaffk Dec 2, 2010 01:40 PM

                                                                                                    Love this idea--learning the secrets from the master is priceless!

                                                                                                    1. re: mjhals
                                                                                                      l
                                                                                                      lsmutko Dec 6, 2010 09:33 AM

                                                                                                      I'll echo the praise for this idea. My grandmother did this herself, not just lighten her load, which was still crazy, but because it was important to her that I be comfortable and competent in a kitchen. She was never well-off, and I learned so much about economy and stretching a food budget there, too.

                                                                                                      I also have great memories of holiday prep that I draw on still, both emotionally and practically in my own kitchen. It was grandmother, her daughter (my aunt) and me. The family was heavily male -- we only got one girl per generation -- and though it was old school that my brothers and cousins didn't get summoned to help and I was a little put out by it at the time, I treasure the exclusivity of it now.

                                                                                                    2. Bill Hunt Dec 2, 2010 07:50 PM

                                                                                                      I have had family holiday meals, that devolved - many in fact.

                                                                                                      Here's an idea. Call the other five adult children, and have this year's event catered. Let M-I-L sit back a bit. She will still probably want to be more directly involved, than you'd like, but with an outside element involved, should be distracted by the kids, grand-kids and others.

                                                                                                      Might be worth a try?

                                                                                                      Most of all, tell the entire family how much you love them all, and relish the meal. While food is very important, sometimes family is more important, regardless.

                                                                                                      Hunt

                                                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                                                      1. re: Bill Hunt
                                                                                                        reedmangler Dec 3, 2010 04:06 AM

                                                                                                        Catering has been brought up--hopefully the idea will take hold. And I agree completely, the food is way past secondary to the family--the problem here is that the preparation of the food eclipses the family at nearly every family gathering that we have had in recent years.

                                                                                                        Hoping that this year will be different.

                                                                                                      2. c oliver Dec 2, 2010 08:06 PM

                                                                                                        I generally feel an obligation to read all the replies before I do but not this time.

                                                                                                        Give it up. Suck it up. Explain to the children that the grandparents are losing it (kindly, of course). Let them do their dinner no matter how awful it may be. We're not talking about food here; we're taling about love. You'll have a gazillion great meals. Not many more with this generatioin of family. Suck up.

                                                                                                        5 Replies
                                                                                                        1. re: c oliver
                                                                                                          Bill Hunt Dec 2, 2010 08:18 PM

                                                                                                          You know, that works for me too. Sometimes, it is NOT about food, and each of us has certain "dues," that must be paid. Might differ, person to person, but we all have our dues.

                                                                                                          Hunt

                                                                                                          1. re: reedmangler
                                                                                                            h
                                                                                                            HillJ Dec 3, 2010 05:15 AM

                                                                                                            reedm, I hope it also demonstrates how common this is and that many of us have had to cross the same challenges. My MIL just sent out an email announcing her ground rules for this year (drat the BIL who bought her a computer!). So, I anticipate a few days worth of email exchanges from various family members over the menu, kitchen detail, etc. Gotta love the holidays! I bring THE WINE!

                                                                                                            1. re: HillJ
                                                                                                              reedmangler Dec 3, 2010 05:43 AM

                                                                                                              Thanks, HillJ--it does help. Your post made me giggle--thankful that MIL is not on the interwebs--that could open a Pandora's box! I might just bring the wine, too--though I might not share ;-)

                                                                                                              1. re: reedmangler
                                                                                                                h
                                                                                                                HillJ Dec 5, 2010 01:14 PM

                                                                                                                reedm, after the expected few days of family emails I learned a great deal about the fine art of "asking." There appears to be a big difference btwn offering to help lessen the cost & prep time involved in preparing a large family dinner (we are 34 in all) and asking if we can bring a dish. Offering was sharply declined, asking was warmly welcomed. I asked about bringing an appy, cake and wine...which is basically what I would have done to lessen her work load...but the art of how to ask made all the difference. :)

                                                                                                            2. re: c oliver
                                                                                                              jfood Dec 3, 2010 05:49 AM

                                                                                                              Totally agree

                                                                                                              I would much rather use this as a training discussion with my children on compassion, respecting your elders, working with difficult situations and maturing, versus hurting the feelings of the previous generation.

                                                                                                            3. r
                                                                                                              Raids Dec 3, 2010 04:34 AM

                                                                                                              Never thought to ask this yet: is the food good? Are they great cooks? Just curious.

                                                                                                              2 Replies
                                                                                                              1. re: Raids
                                                                                                                reedmangler Dec 3, 2010 04:58 AM

                                                                                                                The food is usually good--she is a fine cook. And a fine person.

                                                                                                                1. re: reedmangler
                                                                                                                  t
                                                                                                                  teezeetoo Dec 5, 2010 11:42 AM

                                                                                                                  First, I think you are a great daughter-in-law because you care about the feelings and well-being of everyone involved. Second, I'm an aging mother-in-law who loves to be the matriarch and loves cooking for the hordes. For big family gatherings like thanksgiving, we still all congregate at my house, but my kids all help and the grandkids are beginning to be of an age where they also help. My kids, including spouses, simply said to me "Mom, holidays are fabulous but there are now 18 of us and it's time to spread the work. So could you assign tasks and let us help?" I gave recipes for all the family holiday favorites to all of them, delegated some of the cooking and made sure each person was comfortable with their assignment, and pressed the non-cooks into set-up and clean-up jobs, which the older grandkids now help with as well. Result? I feel a lot of pride in my family, enjoy doing less, have more energy to simply play with all of them, and don't feel at all patronized or compromised by the collegiality. Perhaps you can find a way to have this discussion that will be comfortable for you mom-in-law. I'm betting you can, because I sense your kindness.

                                                                                                              2. c oliver Dec 5, 2010 12:01 PM

                                                                                                                I had insomnia and was thinking about this :) We have kinda/sorta friends that we get together with every few months. They picked at/criticized each other so much and it drove me crazy. I finally said (okay, I'd had a couple of glasses of wine for courage) "I love you guys but it makes me so uncomfortable when y'all talk to each other like that." It worked! Mostly. I suppose one or more of the siblings could talk to their parents. Not you though. At their age, I doubt anything will change and I wouldn't have a long, drawn out conversation about it. And if/when nothing changes, well, that's just life. (I'm trying to be REALLY nice to my "kids" (30s) now so that maybe they'll be forgiving about things like that.)

                                                                                                                1. e
                                                                                                                  eamcd Dec 5, 2010 12:55 PM

                                                                                                                  We live this too. MIL is very particular and has always considered herself a great cook. She does have some good recipes that she does very well, but doesn't stray far.

                                                                                                                  This year FIL (88) had heart surgery and MIL (80) had a knee replaced. So when we realized it was best to have Thanksgiving at their house (since they weren't up for travel), the current favorite son basically (in MIL's words) invited us all over. But we did it with the caveat that she do the turkey and stuffing (at her insistence). Then the rest of us divided up the other dishes to be brought or finished on site. We were there early and took over prep in the kitchen (including checking turkey temp and making sure it wasn't done and sitting out for hours before dinner -- as it has been before).

                                                                                                                  In DH's family, there is no way MIL would ever, ever hear (or let anyone live down) that her holidays weren't fun-filled and joyous (no matter who fights or gets insulted or dinner disasters).

                                                                                                                  BUT use the health concerns (without belittling them or treating them as decrepit) and I definitely agree with one of the "children" heading the talk. The easiest way may be to still hold it at their house and "let" her make a specific dish or two. Then make sure EVERYTHING else is covered, with each family contributing, including planning who will be there 2 hours before dinner for prep, others to set table, etc. One person can help coordinate the menu and anyone necessary can "remind" her for the 2 weeks before who's bringing what -- maybe ask for advice or favorite recipes....

                                                                                                                  It's a huge transition. My grandmother passed the hosting over earlier than most (she moved to a small apartment). BUT there were certain dishes she always brought and mom ALWAYS deferred to Grandma (her mom) on determining if the turkey/roast was done -- and made sure (as long as she was able) that she pitched in.

                                                                                                                  Don't turn Christmas into a coup, but you should be able to at least make some inroads into sharing the load. I completely agree on saying that you want them to spend time with the grandkids. Maybe some of the kids could have a specific toy or game to play with the grandparents with, so they are actively included.

                                                                                                                  Best of luck to you. Every family is different and the dynamics vary. So do the best you can for all involved and maybe this is the year to just start the transition....planting seeds for future holidays.

                                                                                                                  1. Georgia Sommers Dec 5, 2010 01:09 PM

                                                                                                                    I think you just find a way to make lemonade. The tone can be set by how the family reacts to the ways of your in-laws. When Grandma asks Jr why he hasn't touched his cranberries yet he can reply that he's on his way there but the brussels sprouts are just so good he can't stop eating them! It sounds like she wants to be sure everything is good for everyone so extra unsolicited praise could never hurt. :)

                                                                                                                    While they're quarreling in the kitchen remind your kids that it is just their habit. They scrape and scrap their way through it and that's their way. Laugh about it, no disapproval.

                                                                                                                    As far as them not participating in the fun, there is only so much you can do about that if they won't allow changes, just don't count on that day to be their big time with the grandparents. Everyone can still have a good time with nice memories. The kids won't remember Grandma & Grandpa playing cards on Christmas but they'll remember that they worked in that kitchen all day, fussing and cussing, whirring and stirring, to create a feast for all. That can be a good memory, too!

                                                                                                                    It is what it is, but some spin-doctoring might help out. Good luck!

                                                                                                                    1. s
                                                                                                                      soonerhound Dec 6, 2010 07:05 PM

                                                                                                                      I love the holidays and all their complexity!

                                                                                                                      I think it is important to understand that your in-laws are beyond your control. Certainly, if you could gently nudge them to allow the siblings to take a bigger role in the prep, that would be great- conflict avoided and holiday saved! I would wager you already tries this approach and it didn't work out. In that case, I think you are left with only those choices available to any good dinner guest: accept their invitation and attend the party on their terms, or decline the invitation. You could start your own holiday tradition with your nuclear family, and work to meet the grandparents and other siblings at other times throughout the year. There is nothing wrong with that. In my opinion, it is preferable to attending a miserable dinner, but I understand that your priorities could be different, particularly given the scheduling nightmare you must have trying to coordinate 6 sibs and spouses! Best of luck.

                                                                                                                      22 Replies
                                                                                                                      1. re: soonerhound
                                                                                                                        c oliver Dec 6, 2010 07:22 PM

                                                                                                                        I'm going to disagree with you (hopefully) politely but vehemently. I think there's a loving obligation to live out their holiday lives with them. And then you can do your "nuclear family" some other day(s). It's a small price to pay to give them what they need. I can be tough as nails on these NAF threads but this is one where you bow to the "old folks." IMO of course.

                                                                                                                        1. re: c oliver
                                                                                                                          s
                                                                                                                          soonerhound Dec 7, 2010 04:50 PM

                                                                                                                          Very polite, c. I don't think we really disagree. It is ok to bow to the old folks- certainly it is what I would do in OP's situation; but it helps to remember that there is no obligation we don't choose to undertake. Also wine helps.

                                                                                                                          1. re: soonerhound
                                                                                                                            c oliver Dec 7, 2010 05:02 PM

                                                                                                                            I'm fond of saying that you can't be taken advantage of if you choose not to be. Same thing?

                                                                                                                            1. re: c oliver
                                                                                                                              s
                                                                                                                              soonerhound Dec 7, 2010 05:20 PM

                                                                                                                              Yes- I wish I had said that, instead. Will be stealing it.

                                                                                                                          2. re: c oliver
                                                                                                                            scoopG Dec 7, 2010 04:55 PM

                                                                                                                            "I think there's a loving obligation to live out their holiday lives with them."

                                                                                                                            Absolutely!

                                                                                                                          3. re: soonerhound
                                                                                                                            jfood Dec 7, 2010 05:23 PM

                                                                                                                            I would strongly suggest that this nuclear family idea would turn into thermo-nuclear war. That is not the way you would like your parents or you parents-in-law to spend their last holidays...

                                                                                                                            think how you would feel in 30 yeasrs if the spouses of your children forced the hand that lead to you being treated like a second class citizen.

                                                                                                                            these are not co-workers but your in-laws.

                                                                                                                            nope, i cannot not get near that zipcode.

                                                                                                                            1. re: jfood
                                                                                                                              s
                                                                                                                              soonerhound Dec 7, 2010 06:04 PM

                                                                                                                              I don't think second class citizenship is at issue. I think it is far more respectful to attend their party as they have planned it, or else decline to do so, than to try to force the grandparents to host the party in the manner the second generation would prefer. OP brought up an alternative plan once, in a kind way, and they chose not to go for it.

                                                                                                                              That doesn't mean people shouldn't offer to help, but I think it is fair to assume that OP and the rest of the sibs have been offering to help for years to no avail.

                                                                                                                              1. re: soonerhound
                                                                                                                                scoopG Dec 7, 2010 06:07 PM

                                                                                                                                Force the grandparents? Shudder...

                                                                                                                                Where is the filial piety? I think it is fair to assume the OP speaks only for herself - and not as a blood relative as Karl S. has pointed out. This is a case of the tail trying to wag the dog.

                                                                                                                                1. re: scoopG
                                                                                                                                  reedmangler Dec 21, 2010 12:19 PM

                                                                                                                                  Sadly, in fact, I am not speaking only for myself. There has been a consensus among the sibs for at least 5 years with regard to this topic.

                                                                                                                                2. re: soonerhound
                                                                                                                                  jfood Dec 8, 2010 03:19 AM

                                                                                                                                  this is a pretty bright line in my mind. people go to their parents home forever for the holidays there is NO declining the invitation, full stop. to do so is disrespectful, wrong, self-serving, inconsiderate, self-focused, immature, and all the other synonyms that go with these word. i'm sorry but this is wrong for a blood relative to do, but to think a SIL or DIL is engaged in this behavior is further over the line. Okeedokee...off the soapbox.

                                                                                                                                  People can do as they please, but after losing my dear FIL 3 years ago the idea I might have not attended any of the last holidays with him is just beyond any form of comprehesion.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: jfood
                                                                                                                                    Georgia Sommers Dec 8, 2010 05:42 AM

                                                                                                                                    That says it, jfood. Ditching the old folks on Christmas couldn't be an option for me. Like I said in my post, I think the family can make things better just by treating it differently. I hope so, anyway!

                                                                                                                                    1. re: Georgia Sommers
                                                                                                                                      jfood Dec 8, 2010 08:38 AM

                                                                                                                                      And good luck to all involved.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: jfood
                                                                                                                                        c oliver Dec 8, 2010 09:35 AM

                                                                                                                                        Hey, today IS the Catholic holy day of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. Hopefully miracles still happen :)

                                                                                                                                        1. re: c oliver
                                                                                                                                          jfood Dec 8, 2010 09:45 AM

                                                                                                                                          and a happy chanukkah to you as well. :-))

                                                                                                                                          btw - sautee 3 slices of diced pancetta and place on the pasta with the bolognese when you serve it. takes it to a whole other level.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: jfood
                                                                                                                                            c oliver Dec 8, 2010 09:49 AM

                                                                                                                                            Yes, sir! And HC to you BTW.

                                                                                                                                    2. re: jfood
                                                                                                                                      justanotherpenguin Dec 8, 2010 09:21 AM

                                                                                                                                      jfood: very, very, very well said.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: jfood
                                                                                                                                        s
                                                                                                                                        soonerhound Dec 8, 2010 05:15 PM

                                                                                                                                        All right, I can tell when I've been outnumbered, but I can't resist one more:

                                                                                                                                        First:

                                                                                                                                        "people go to their parents home forever for the holidays there is NO declining the invitation, full stop."

                                                                                                                                        This is a huge overgeneralization that fails to take into account that some families are not just quirky and add-a-glass-of-wine exasperating- they can be abusive, demeaning, and nasty. I would guess you don't intend to include those situations, but in your indignation you did include all "people."

                                                                                                                                        With respect to OP, I hope she and her husband make the right choice, because MIL and FIL's transgressions sound pretty mild. But I don't think I get to say they are bad people if they limit their interaction with the folks to the other 364 days of the year.

                                                                                                                                        1. re: soonerhound
                                                                                                                                          gaffk Dec 8, 2010 05:30 PM

                                                                                                                                          Wow. I like to think that, like most on this board, we actually like our familes . . .nuclear, extended and otherwise.

                                                                                                                                          I, for one, would never reject an invitation from any family member, even if I don't particularly like the food. And I certainly would not reject the aged parents/aunts/uncles. Their food is not my food, but I would eat, smile nicelyand bring what I think is their favorite dessert.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: gaffk
                                                                                                                                            c oliver Dec 8, 2010 05:42 PM

                                                                                                                                            Well, my late MIL was basically unlikeable. But we sucked it up and did the obligatory holiday meals (as well as other things). Lord knows I'm no saint (the mods remind me of that regularly) but if we could put up with her, then the rest of the world's population can :)

                                                                                                                                          2. re: soonerhound
                                                                                                                                            jfood Dec 8, 2010 05:46 PM

                                                                                                                                            I did not include those that cause bodily harm by cuisinart-ing the first born either. :-))

                                                                                                                                            And if the purpose of the quotes around "people" is to delineate people from a-holes, that's a tough one to argue against.

                                                                                                                                            Happy holidays.

                                                                                                                                          3. re: jfood
                                                                                                                                            s
                                                                                                                                            Sal Vanilla Dec 8, 2010 08:55 PM

                                                                                                                                            How very soothing to find an appeal for respect and consideration for the old folks.

                                                                                                                                            It is less than a week (all together) that one needs to suck it up for the sake of family. Others may not have it within them, but YOU always do.

                                                                                                                                            And as someone so eloquently put it "wine helps".

                                                                                                                                          4. re: soonerhound
                                                                                                                                            d
                                                                                                                                            dty Dec 9, 2010 07:47 AM

                                                                                                                                            I don't see ANYTHING wrong with starting a tradition with your own nuclear family AND going to the in-laws during the same holiday season. While others have been dogpiling unnecesssarily on the OP, I actually find OP's posts reasonable and thoughtful. If anybody's expectation is unreasonable, it's not the OP's but her MIL's. My in-laws have a Xmas party every year, but they are practical and thoughtful enough not to force their schedule on everyone in the family; after all, the kids and the grandchildren have families and in-laws of their own to celebrate the holidays with. I look at my mother, and she is sane enough to let her children's family take on more and more celebration duties. If I live to be that old, I certainly would not want to burden my kids with my dictates.

                                                                                                                                      2. reedmangler Dec 21, 2010 12:24 PM

                                                                                                                                        As it turns out, the karma gods came to collect their debt for my putting out bad energy. On December 7th, my sister summoned me home (650 miles away) as my own mother suffered severe complications from her recently-ended chemotherapy. She has been on a respirator since that time and has had 3 emergency surgeries. It has been touch-and-go for the past two weeks, but at this time she is beginning to show signs that she will ultimately survive. She will be in the hospital for at least another month and then will likely have inpatient physical rehab for another 4 weeks.

                                                                                                                                        Shame on me.

                                                                                                                                        3 Replies
                                                                                                                                        1. re: reedmangler
                                                                                                                                          c oliver Dec 21, 2010 12:30 PM

                                                                                                                                          Oh, wow, bless your heart. Good thoughts to you. It really was a coincidence, ya know. Take care.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: reedmangler
                                                                                                                                            s
                                                                                                                                            soonerhound Dec 21, 2010 01:50 PM

                                                                                                                                            I really hope everything turns out ok. Take care of yourself and your family, rm.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: reedmangler
                                                                                                                                              gaffk Dec 21, 2010 02:11 PM

                                                                                                                                              That is awful news, but know it is not the result of your negative energy--there is no shame on you. When ederly folks are in bad health, things can snowball and become much worse than expected.

                                                                                                                                              Hoping for the best for both your mom and you.

                                                                                                                                            2. hill food Dec 21, 2010 05:51 PM

                                                                                                                                              no no no.

                                                                                                                                              this was going to happen sooner or later. don't beat yourself up.

                                                                                                                                              1. s
                                                                                                                                                summersnow May 1, 2012 05:56 AM

                                                                                                                                                Well, why don;t you invite her to YOUR house for special occasions? Or, all of you can take turns. Old people can be very difficult, and not realize it. Good luck!!

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