Wedding Woes

Let people know you'll be in town and then do what you need to for your parents.

Dear Prudence,

Happy “ruining the holidays” season to all who celebrate! Between the drive, flight, and time change, it takes me an entire day to get to my hometown—it’s a terrible and expensive day getting between two of the busiest airports in the U.S. This isn’t my family’s fault, but I do feel resentful that once I get to town, they expect me to be the one to reach out to plan a visit and then drive a further 45 minutes to see each of them. I didn’t see my sister and her toddlers last time because I experimented with just giving her my travel dates and telling her to come by when she could. And she still holds it against me!

My mother is in poor health, so I’m going home for two weeks this year. My focus is staying very close to my parents so we can spend quality time together and so I can do some house chores, take her to treatment, etc. I’m not going to have the time or emotional capacity to do visits with my siblings and cousins the way we’ve become accustomed to, as much as I truly love them and want to spend time with them! (Also, for some context, I was adopted. So I’m still connected with everyone in my bio family except my bio parents, but they don’t have my real parents’ well-being on their radars really.)

What I want from them is the emotional wherewithal to understand that I’m not on vacation for the holidays and that this is going to be a financially and emotionally taxing trip spent holding my mom’s hand at a dialysis center and beginning the uncomfortable work of preparing their home for her final stage of life. My fatigued resentment wants me to say, “Hey siblings and cousins! I’m going to be in town these dates, if you want to get together it’s your turn to plan something and to drive to me! I really for real will not be organizing anything” which seems petty, and honestly probably wouldn’t even work.

Can you help me with a script in advance (over text or a call) that communicates how much I really just need my family to show up for me in this way this year? I know I can’t control the outcome, but I’d like to give it my best shot at reaching through their absolute complacency. Once we’re in the same place we have an amazing time together! I rented my own place in my parents’ neighborhood, so they can all come to me in the evenings for dinner without disturbing my mom or making me drive across town. What do you think?

—12 Hours Plus 45 Minutes Is Too Much!

Re: Let people know you'll be in town and then do what you need to for your parents.

  • So it’s not their fault you live an entire travel day away. And it’s not their fault you arrive cranky and put out- only you are in charge of your emotions here and it’s not any one’s responsibility to know or manage those for you. 

    That said- plans are a two way street. Tell folks your travel days, when you are available and that if they want to meet up to get in touch with you about what they have in mind to hang out. It’s not on you to always schedule things. 

    Also- if you need people to show up for you in a specific way then you need to be clear about your needs. They cannot read your mind or know how you’re coping right now, so if you need them to do so something you need to tell them what that is. Clearly. Specifically. Tell them you’re free after X time at your rental and you’d love if they came by then, but you’re not up for traveling to them. You can’t force people to be there for you but you can make it easy for them by telling them exactly what being there looks like. 
  • Why can't you be more finite with your plans?  People don't like ambiguity and the philosophy of "well I got to town now you pick up that relay baton" is not working.  So if there are people you want to see, call them and make plans.  Don't be passive-aggressive about it and then have everyone upset when you didn't do anything. 
  • I'm a little confused b/c I don't understand how the bio family and adoptive family are interacting here.

    I admit, I can probably seem guilty of this, b/c when people travel in, I absolutely want to see them, but so much of the time people come in with everything planned to the hilt already and I feel like I'm being polite by saying, "Tell me when you can cram me in".

    I feel like people really need to stop with the "I just want them to know".  That's literally impossible and if you were held to the same standard, you'd fail it too.  Just use your words, LW.  "This isn't really a vacation, my mom is sick and I'm starting this process. I would really like you to come visit me, so I can have some support and a break from this while I'm here.  X, Y, and Z would be good times for me". (LW needs to do this especially b/c it sounds like there are going to be appointment times to work around).
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