1. Melissa

    I am one of seven siblings in a family. My parents are still alive. This year, I invivted all to my house this coming Sunday to make gingerbread houses, cookies, and see Santa as he goes through my town. I thought this would be a great thing to do for the younger nieces and nephews in the family, and give the kids a chance to see Santa rolling around on a fire truck.

    There is a pending divorce in the family – one of my brothers is getting divorced, and he has two children ages 7 and 10. The ten year old has become very difficult and the family has made many overtures to her to try to bring her out of her shell. Despite her age, she is difficult to get to leave the house for any activities without my brother being accused of abuse (he has never laid a hand on her in anger). I could go into more here, but suffice to say her mother has been involving her in very inappropriate ways in her mother’s dispute with my brother, which is only confusing my niece.

    The etiquette issue is this:
    I sent an email invitation to all siblings for Sunday at my house last week. I asked for RSVPs so that I would know how many were coming so I could plan dinner for them in addition to the cooking making ingredients and the gingerbread houses. My divorcing brother is the only one who responded, expressing his desire to come but concern about getting the 10 year old out of the house. My youngest sister offered to help get her out of the house by finding a riding lesson for my niece in the morning, which we know that my niece would like. However, someone (not me) told her the cookie invite was Saturday instead of Sunday, and she got the lesson on Saturday. Now I am under pressure to change the date, time AND location of the invitation to my elderly/retired parent’s house.

    While I am equally concerned about my niece’s welfare, I am pretty upset that I am getting this pressure from my family. Santa will only be in town for the one day, and I already have plans filling the Saturday.

    Any suggestions on telling them that Sunday is the day, without actually telling them all to ‘pound sand’ and ruining my holiday?

    • Melissa

      PS – I do not have children. Since they have been old enough, there has been a tradition of me making gingerbread houses with them every Christmas.

      In addition, I have been unemployed and only recently (within the last week) started a new job. So money is very tight and I have already spent the money on getting the materials for the houses.

  2. Alicia

    You sent the invite for Sunday. Just firmly but nicely say that the invite is for Sunday and you hope that your niece and other nieces and nephews can make it but that the invite was always for Sunday and that it is not changing. If it is the sister who got the horse ridding asking then suggest that she change the horse riding date. Then go on talking about how much you love the kids decorating gingerbread houses at your place every year. Being firm but polite. Being polite sometimes means using your backbone in a firm yet kind way.

    In other words stick by your guns without saying pound sand.

    • Jerry

      I concur with Alicia’s excellent answer. I might add that you can counter the pressure your family is imposing with respect to your niece’s riding lesson with some of your own: you can tell them that money is tight, that you already bought the materials, but that Sunday is the only day you can do this before Christmas given your work and other commitments.

  3. Brockwest

    While the strict etiquette answer is clear, that you don’t have to change your plans, when family is involved there are many more issues to be answered.
    I don’t understand why the horseback riding couldn’t be changed instead. Let’s say the horseback riding is unchangeable, that doesn’t prevent both events from still happening.
    In issues of custody, things rapidly get very sticky. If it’s only a matter of the child acting out because of her trauma at the separation, then she will need time to handle her life. It’s a good idea for children of divorce to get counseling, especially if there are issues arising as serious as reluctance to leave the house which could be a sign of panic attacks, anxiety, or agoraphobia. Either way, you might want to suggest counseling. Counseling could help protect your brother against untoward accusations too.

    So in this very special case, family concerns outweigh etiquette concerns. If there is no additional expense involved in your taking the party to the other house, you may want to consider it. If for some reason there are extra financial concerns, then by no means should you feel obligated to comply.

    Why don’t you talk to your brother, who it sounds you have a nice relationship with, explain the problem and see if he can get the horse trip changed or the visit to your place changed. Perhaps your niece would be willing to come as it’s a special visit to your place, just as the horse riding would have been special. Good Luck. Let us know how you did.

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