Dear Annie… Full house drama
Dear Annie: I have two sons. One of them, “Brock,” is divorced, but you would never know it from the way he and his ex, “Sandra,” spend time together, especially around the holidays. When they were married, Brock adopted Sandra’s daughter, and they had one son together. I love Sandra, and I’m glad that she and Brock have remained not only civil but friends.
One of the reasons that Brock and Sandra got divorced was because she had poor boundaries with her friend “Amanda.” Amanda and her extended family all lived with Brock and Sandra. Amanda has several grown children, two granddaughters who are in middle school and an infant grandson. Sandra ended up taking care of the kids a lot.
Now, my problem: Every holiday, all of these kids, grandkids and significant others come to my house. They eat, sit around and take up all the room. At Christmas, I buy a gift for them because I don’t want them to feel left out when my family opens their gifts. My other son and his wife, daughter and son either don’t come out (claiming he has to work) or they come out much later. Recently, this son told me that the chaos with Amanda’s family is the reason.
Amanda and her family have been coming over for years and expect the tradition. But we are talking about eight extra people at every event. I don’t have time to enjoy my real family, as everyone is so spread out. Next year, how do I stop all of these people from coming over?
Dear Overcapacity: I’ve got a New Year’s resolution for you: Add “no” to your vocabulary. You’ve been extremely accommodating to Sandra and her guests for a long time; that doesn’t mean you can’t set boundaries now. Talk to Sandra and your son (in person, if possible, and on the phone, if not) about how you feel: You’d like more time to visit with them and their kids at Christmas, so you’d like to keep it to just family next year. Try to keep the conversation upbeat — but be firm. Know that you are not the bad guy for having boundaries. If you have any doubt, put yourself in Sandra’s shoes: How would you feel if your mother-in-law asked you to stop bringing eight extra guests to her house for the holidays?
Dear Annie: I recently received an inheritance from a relative who passed away, and I was quite surprised and honored. What is the best way to thank the immediate family for this generosity? I have never experienced this before and want to make sure I do the right thing.
Dear Kevin: I am sorry for your loss. What a lovely surprise for your relative to have honored you with such a gift. He or she must have thought highly of you.
While it’s a nice impulse to want to express your gratitude to his or her family, matters of inheritance can be prickly and sensitive. The person to whom you really owe your thanks, the deceased relative, is no longer here, but you can still express your gratitude: By praying to him or her, by visiting his or her resting place or by donating a small amount of the inheritance toward a relevant cause, for example. Perhaps the most meaningful way to honor him or her, though, is simply to live with gratitude in your heart — which you’re already doing.
— Send your questions for Annie Lane to email@example.com.