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How to handle in-laws using my home instead of theirs for their party

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When our oldest son was a freshman in high school, we decided as a family that instead of having a high school graduation party, we would spend the money sending him on a mission trip overseas for a month. When we told my in-laws, my mother-in-law got upset and insisted that we had to have a party for him. Several times we brought it up, making our decision clear to them and each time my in-laws objected angrily. We sent out Graduation announcements stating we were not having a party or reception. My mother-in-law invited 25 people to our house to have cake after the Graduation and without our permission. She mentioned it to our 17 year old son, who was put in an awkward situation and wasn't comfortable with telling her no (he knew she would get upset). When we found out about it, we told her that we already had other plans for after the Graduation. She said, "Well it won't be an all afternoon thing - we'll just be there for an hour or two." We are not happy because we had plans to go to an upscale restaurant to celebrate our other child's 16th birthday and then take him shopping to choose his birthday gift, and now we have had to cancel our plans. The Graduation begins at 1:00 p.m. and will likely end around 3:00 p.m. Then photos will take about an hour. Then we would drive home to change get on the road around 4:30 p.m. and drive to the city arriving around 6:00 pm. That would have given us an hour for our son to shop around for a birthday gift. Our reservation was for 7:30 p.m. There isn't time for a 1- 2 hour party. The restaurant did not have a later reservation time available. My in-laws NEVER just stay an hour or two, plus they never help do the prep work or clean up, and they always make a mess whenever they come to our home. They are arguing that they have a right to celebrate the Graduation (we agree), but they aren't respecting that it is our decision not to have a party or reception at our home after the Graduation. I already tried to suggest they have one (Memorial Day is the day after Graduation) on Monday at their home, but they won't listen. Our home is being remodeled (the entire house!) plus we don't have extra money to pay for beverages or ice-cream or any other items that will be needed to host a party of 25 people. What's even worse is that they made their own guest list and invited everyone already! I have learned it is better to keep quiet when my in-laws are in their overbearing "control-freak" mode because ever since we got married and began to try to live our own lives, they have turned against me and made me out to be the bad guy whenever my husband and I don't do something exactly how they tell us. My husband doesn't like it either, but he is at a loss for how to let them know that they are overstepping the boundaries and disrespecting us. Any suggestions?

  1. He's at a loss? Um, they're his parents, he needs to tell them "We won't be home, we'll leave a note on the door explaining that as we indicated in graduation announcements, we are not having a party, and leave your phone number on the note in case they have any questions."

    She can't MAKE you do it, you know? She's not your boss.

    1. History: last year my in-laws insisted we had have a hog-roast in the Fall and invite a large number of family (some who aren't a regular part of our lives) because we had dug a new fire pit during the summer. We were saving up our money for the mission trip (over $3,000) and the remodel on our house, which began last summer and won't be done until this summer. We just couldn't afford it, plus our schedules were so full that we didn't have a free weekend on the calendar. We tried to explain this to them, but they wouldn't listen, so we let time pass and never had the party. They have brought it up on several occasions, the most recent being when a distant family member was diagnosed with cancer. They have a lot of money and a beautiful house and yard - perfect for having their own party at their own place. 12 years ago we moved out of state to get away from them, but 2 years after that they moved within 45 minutes of us. Nothing seems to work!

      2 Replies
      1. re: Loveoneanother

        A big fat NO should do the trick. Your in-laws are disrespectful bullies, and you've let them get away with it for too long now.

        Maybe send them on a (indefinite) mission trip far, far away, on their own buck.

        1. re: linguafood

          Bwhaha! I know of a lovely little school in Cambodia that needs help. OP just needs to nab the in-laws' credit card #....

      2. At the risk of confirming your own fears, I would keep quiet on your in-laws plans too. You won't win on this one.

        I don't think that in their mind, they are intentionally trying to be disrespectful to you. They simply want to celebrate your son's accomplishment in the manner they feel is appropriate. Indirectly, feelings may get hurt in the process.

        I would be honest with them and let them know that the use of your property is fine, but that beverages, etc. are on them, as it is their idea, and you just can't afford it at the moment.

        When my wife and I were married centuries ago, I asked my parents if I could use their house for our reception, which Swiss standards was very large. They agreed, but I supplied a bartender, catering, all food, service, and all glassware, plates, and cutlery. My wife and I even remained behind to ensure that all was washed, dried, and cleaned, and repackaged before we left on our honeymoon.

        1 Reply
        1. re: SWISSAIRE

          Nice. Thank you for the helpful response. You are obviously a good person. I'm thinking about calling her and asking how much room we should make in the fridge for the beverages and other items she will be bringing. I may also ask if she would like to bring the paper plates, napkins, etc... ahead of time and we can store them in the pantry for her until the day of her party.

        2. They can't invite people to your house. The rest is just details. If people come over, say you're sorry for the misunderstanding and give them the in laws address. Or just bring clothes to change into and skip going home. They don't have a key to your house, right? Unless they plan to break in, that makes it clear. And your husband needs to stand up to them. But that's probably not for Chowhound...

          1. Steps:
            Remake reservation at upscale restaurant for 16 year old.
            Have cakes/toasts with sparkling cider to praise his bday and his bro's graduation.

            Have your husband call his parents to say "As we said on the invitation, there is NO CELEBRATION at our house. If you arrive, we won't be in." Then follow through. Do they have keys to your house? If so, change the locks. I'm serious.

            Notes: You are not modeling good behavior for your sons. You are caving--and going overbudget--for what? For a bully?
            Your older son is starting to take after your husband in terms of being used/bullied because he doesn't want to make others "uncomfortable." There is a difference between being kind to one's elders and letting them run you over. Now, your 16 year old is having his birthday plans canceled because of this mess. STOP IT NOW!

            And let the flaming of this response begin.

            10 Replies
            1. re: pinehurst

              Your post certainly does not warrant any flame comments! You are spot on! I just cant imagine anyone doing this- and unless the OP says no- firmly- and carries through with it, these kinds of things will continue to happen.

              1. re: pinehurst

                We are Christians and therefore look for solutions that do not cause the family to fall apart. We are modeling good Christian behavior for our sons because we are teaching them to look for nicer ways to deal with issues instead of simply damaging relationships.

                1. re: Loveoneanother

                  You're wanting to teach good values to your kids, yet you're allowing your in laws to run your life and walk all over you? That's not teaching them anything good.

                  1. re: Loveoneanother

                    You are not damaging ANY relationship by respecting your bond with your sons, and promises that you made to them!

                    You are not modeling good behavior, Christian or otherwise. You can stop the damage that your disrespectful inlaws are causing by telling your husband to LEAD HIS FAMILY. Part of that leadership involves making sure that his wife and children are not disrespected by anyone---including his parents. Leadership means doing difficult tasks. He's now a husband and a father first, not a son.

                    He LEFT his parents to be your partner and your sons' dad.

                    Being Christian is not equal to being a doormat.

                    1. re: Loveoneanother

                      And if everyone is Christian, shouldn't your in-laws be treating you with good Christian behavior as well?

                      Being a Christian doesn't mean that you allow people to walk all over you and disrespect you, your husband, your children, and your home. And yet you're allowing that to happen.

                    2. re: pinehurst

                      You beat me to it. I was going to say to just not be home and let the inlaws figure out what to do with all the people they invited.

                      And, for the record, I didn't have a graduation party. My parents didn't think graduating high school was something to be celebrated... it's a given.

                      1. re: juliejulez

                        Ditto on the grad party for me, Julez.

                        1. re: pinehurst

                          Same here. End grade 12, graduate. That's it.

                        2. re: juliejulez

                          And my lovely daughter, for whom I was planning a high school graduation party, just informed me that she doesn't really want one! Woo hoo, I am off the hook! (I guess paying for college is going to be present enough, and financing that is all the stress we need!)

                          1. re: juliejulez

                            Fourth'ed, no graduation party for me either.