Dear Annie: We host Thanksgiving dinner for my husband’s family every year, and I enjoy doing so, but I have a problem with my stepson’s wife. They have not lived together for almost three years, but they still travel together regularly, including visits home.
I have continued to include her, as well as her three children (all from previous relationships) in every invitation for the holidays. She never responds. Most of the time, they don’t come. But occasionally, they show up two or three hours past dinnertime. I can make adjustments for a couple of unexpected guests, but not for five people who are that late.
I would like to tell her that if I don’t hear from her, she should not come at all, but my husband says that would hurt his son’s feelings. What do you think?
— Last-Minute Hostess
Dear Last Minute: If all five of them are coming late, it includes your stepson, no? So why is this the wife’s fault? Is your stepson incapable of using a telephone?
Here’s our suggestion: If you don’t hear from anyone in this family before the holiday, call your stepson and ask whether they are planning to come. (If you prefer, call his wife directly.) Start your dinner on time, and if they show up two hours late, say, “How nice to see you! I had no idea you were coming. There are extra plates in the kitchen. Help yourself.” Be gracious and welcoming, but don’t drive yourself crazy for people who are too rude to show up at a reasonable hour.
Dear Annie: I have two children whose birthdays are a day apart. My youngest was a year old a week ago, and my older child turned 3 the next day. I am really hurt because my family did not acknowledge the baby on his birthday.
Our family’s tradition is to call on the actual birthday and send a gift in the mail. This year, no gifts were sent to either child, and only the 3-year-old received any phone calls. No mention was made of a gift “on the way” or of the fact that the baby turned 1 the day before.
I am not concerned about the gifts. But am I wrong to be upset that my 1-year-old was not even a thought? I can understand that people are too busy to call two days in a row, but isn’t it proper to call for the child who celebrates first? I always send gifts for a child’s birthday and follow up with a phone call. Should I stop? Can you print this and blast them for being rude so I can mail them a copy?
Dear Mommy: No, but we will suggest you change your expectations. Kids whose birthdays coincide with another sibling’s, a major holiday or other event often get shortchanged. We agree that the relatives should not have ignored your younger child when calling for the older. But your older child can speak on the phone and understand what the call is for. The baby cannot, and that is probably what prompted the neglect. But whether or not they phone, you should continue to do so. Don’t punish the children because their parents are inconsiderate or forgetful.
Dear Annie: “Unwilling” said he has a major problem with his parents’ 40th anniversary celebration because they want a white-sweatshirt photo. OMG!
Both of my parents have Alzheimer’s. Because of trauma from alcoholism, abuse and mental illness, my immediate family has not been together in one place for 40 years. Get over it, “Unwilling.” You are supremely blessed to all still be alive and able to celebrate being a family. Enjoy. Be grateful. Let go.
Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Email your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, or write to: Annie’s Mailbox, c/o Creators Syndicate, 737 3rd Street, Hermosa Beach, CA 90254. To find out more about Annie’s Mailbox and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.
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