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amy g.

I think I need help processing Christmas.

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Some of you will remember my post about being conflicted about how to accommodate my sister’s food preferences over her Christmas visit. In the end, I said that I know it will be fine because my 11 year old was serving Christmas Eve at church and it will all be worth it when I have that moment there surrounded by all of my family.

 

Well, the food stuff wasn’t that big of a deal. She got blood tests back right before she came and there was a huge improvement so I think she was less anxious about it. Also she relaxed a few restrictions so it all was fine.

 

But on Christmas Eve, when everyone was getting dressed for church, she asked how long the service was going to be because she loves god, but is ambivalent about church.

 

I saw red.

 

I couldn’t believe that the months of preparation and thousands of dollars I spent didn’t merit an hour of ambivalence.

 

I was not very gracious and said, basically “Get over it. You are going.â€

 

Later I found out that she had already been upstairs telling my adult kids that she and her partner were going to stay at our house and watch netflix instead of going to church.

 

She sucked it up and went. Then she was mad for the rest of the 5 day visit.

 

I have a really bad pattern of putting up and putting up and putting up until I’m just done and I don’t ever want to see the other person again.

 

I’m getting that way now.

 

I feel like I don’t want to spend my future Christmases with someone who could have gone to that service and not felt happy to have gotten to see Dd doing such an amazing job. At the very least, I want people to suck it up and act respectful for 1 hour once a year.

 

A bunch of other stuff happened that my kids say is just how she always acts-very controlling and high maintenance.

 

I usually overlook it, but now I feel like it isn’t worth the effort to accommodate her any longer.

 

But I also think I’m in the wrong. If she had texted me that afternoon and said, “We just got back from NY and I’m feeling frazzled. How would you feel if we skip church and rest?â€

 

I could have had time to process it and would have been fine with it and not just reacted.

 

Is it within my rights to say that I’m not willing to host anymore for anyone not willing to go to Christmas Eve service with us?

 

That seems very distasteful.

 

On the other hand there is nothing in it for me if I’m just the cook and house cleaner. And I don’t get my one happy moment of the year.

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She was wrong and rude, imo.

 

However, I wouldn't draw the line by saying you won't host for anyone not willing to go to Eve service with you. It's probably a better idea to clearly lay out the plans (expectations, really, but you can call them plans) so your guests know what the deal is.

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I also feel like I’m missing something with regard to why everyone attending the service is so important to you. I do think it was rude of her to get in such a snit over it, but I don’t agree with your position—at least if I understand correctly—that it’s the primary or even the whole point of getting together with family at Christmas time.

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:grouphug:   I think there was a mismatch in expectations and understanding of the meaning of that event to you.  Maybe also the bigger issue is really all the water already under the bridge and poor communication in general.   

 

For instance, you really wanted your family there for your DD.  This is a big moment for you and for her.  Perhaps you had this vision in your head of your whole family showing their solidarity and support and being proud of your DD, just like you.  It hit an emotional note for you that you wanted badly to fulfill.  But was the rest of the family aware of how much it meant to you in particular that the whole family go?  Not just as a something to do for Christmas Eve but to go specifically because having everyone there for your DD specifically means something to you.  Or were you assuming they would understand that?  If you didn't share your emotional ties to this, your need for this and WHY, they may not have connected the dots.  They may have thought this was just something you were kind of expecting them to do since you had to go anyway.

 

While I love showing support to my niece and nephews, DH's family culture really isn't big on that sort of thing.  They don't get why I would want to do that, especially since they are from DH's side of the family.  I have no nieces or nephews from my own sibling.  They love their nieces/nephews and support them from afar but they don't have a big desire to attend events of their siblings' kids.  They don't really get that mentality.  It took a while for me to realize they still love them.  They just have a different mindset from me.

 

I'm wondering if there is a big disconnect here in expectation and understanding of why this is expected of them/important to you.  If you had gone to her ahead of time and talked it out, explained how much it meant to you for everyone to be there for your DD, regardless of how she feels about church in general, and been understanding of the fact that it might not be THE thing for the rest of the family but it really was important to you and your DD, your sister might have been able to see it at least a little from your perspective.  Instead, I think you both kind of went into this with expectations and hopes and personal plans that did not match, neither one really conveyed your true feelings about those things and then both got caught flat footed and ended up being resentful of the mismatch and the judgement afterwards.  Not sure how to rectify years of this pattern, though, if that is what is truly happening.

 

I can't remember, does your sister have kids?  

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I'm sorry that it was stressful for you. I don't think your sister was very gracious, and it sounds like she puts herself before others. I can see that your resentment about that could build up over the years.

 

But I would not require a visitor to attend church with us. I've been disappointed when my extended family has not shown interest in seeing my children in their activities (for example, some of them have had no interest in seeing DD15 in her ballet productions). It has hurt my feelings, but I do think they have the right to choose to not go.

 

I don't think you should make going to church a requirement for staying with you.

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Did she have any idea how important it was to you for family members to be at the church service? Things like that are often obvious to us but not to others. I remember a couple of similar situations in my family and in dh's family, where it was unstated but VERY VERY IMPORTANT to one family member for the family to come together and do something together (often a church service) but where that was never clearly communicated.

 

It can help a lot to be clear about your feelings. Something like -- I know church isn't a big deal to you, but this church service is really important to me. It would mean a lot to me to have the whole family there together as my daughter performs X duty tonight.

 

 

Edited by Cosmos
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I'm another person who doesn't get why one adult would have an opinion either way about another adult deciding not to attend a church service.  Please explain.

 

Same here.

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I think the reason why it was important to Amy that her guests attend the service was because her dd was participating in it. Any G, I understand.

If that is true, then why would future attendence for future Christmases be a condition of getting together?

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I think the reason why it was important to Amy that her guests attend the service was because her dd was participating in it. Any G, I understand.

 

Hm.  Well, I guess I can understand that, but then that wouldn't bother me either.  My dad came around the holiday time and one of my kids was in a choir show.  He did come, but if he had not I would not have been mad.

 

I think this is a matter of in general being annoyed with her and seeing everything she is doing as extra annoying.  I do this myself with certain family members.  They annoy me and when they do stuff that would not normally bother me if anyone else does it, it annoys me.

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I think, as hostess, you can set your own rules and requirements as long as you do it ahead of time. If they don't like it, they don't have to come or they can set up their own arrangements and accommodations. But, you need to be okay with them not coming if that is the case.

 

I will tell you that my SIL has a completely different take on family, holidays, decorations, child-raising, sports, academics, and pretty much everything else in life. We get along only because we both attempt to not dwell on the other's beliefs and because we barely see each other. I know if we go visit them, we will attend whatever sporting events her kids are in and whatever holiday or other party the family is going to. Because it is really, really important to her. If you are at her house, you are family and family supports family by physical presence. (I admire what a good hostess she is and how big her heart is. She truly accepts everyone at her house as family.) So, while I don't usually enjoy such outings, I go anyway.

 

I'd definitely give yourself and her time to settle down. I don't think you were in the wrong, but you both need some time and space to cool off. Then, if you like, you can communicate requirements of guests nearer next Christmas.

Edited by RootAnn
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I have 4 siblings who are local.  My husband's sister was local. We don't expect each other to be at each kid's performances and sporting events. We don't even invite each other to them because everyone is already swamped with their own kid stuff and life stuff.  It isn't reasonable to expect them to add in our kids' stuff as well. Most adults today, as opposed to generations in the past, have far busier schedules with both parents working and their kids' enrichment activities in the evenings and can't afford the time and energy to add in the siblings' kids' performances.  Kid performances are for parents and grandparents. And let's be honest here, not everyone else is as charmed with my kids and their performances as I am.

 

Not everyone is comfortable at church. Pressuring/expecting someone to attend your church is counterproductive on both spiritual and personal levels. I think she was trying to be tactful by saying she loved God (meaning she understands being religious/spiritual) but doesn't love church.  Some people flat out hate it-maybe she does too, but it looked to me like she was making an effort to make her no a little softer for your sake.

Are you generally hyper-sensitive to her for some reason?

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Honestly, it sounds like you both behaved badly.  She had a heck of a not-very-polite way of trying to get around going to church (which I assume she had previously agreed to attend) and you didn't handle her last minute announcement well.  

 

It's your home, so you can make the rules for visitors I suppose, but requiring church attendance of an adult seems very controlling.  It sounds like your sister is also a controller, so probably you two have a personality conflict that is going to flare up from time to time.  

 

In your shoes, I'd call her up and express what some of the others have said, "This service was incredibly important to me, I've been imagining this moment as a family for weeks, DD has been planning and practicing for months, and your last-minute plan change caught me off-guard and I blew up.  I'm sorry for how I behaved.  For future reference, Christmas Eve service is a really big deal for me and I'd like our houseguests to attend with us as part of the celebration of Christmas.  It doesn't have to be about religion, but for me, it's about family."  

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This is a really good reality check for me.

 

I agree that I am not clear comminicating my expectations. My son said, “Oh, I didn’t know we were going to church. I didn’t bring dressy clothes.†Now I realize that he had a broken elbow and couldn’t come last Christmas, but for the 20 years before that, he went to church with us on Sundays and Christmas Eve.

 

I did let my older kids skip church Christmas Eve morning so they didn’t need to go twice in one day like the rest of us did, so I can see how I’m not consistent and it is confusing for other people even though I see the expectation as obvious.

 

This is my 26th year hosting Christmas for the same family members. Christmas Eve services have been a part of every single one. No one was staying home to watch Netflix

 

Why it is important

 

I really didn’t know how important it was until the thread about food. Other posters were saying that I shouldn’t be expected to do all of the work and pay for everything year after year.

 

At that point, I realized that all of the effort and expense would be worth it in that one moment of seeing and hearing my family together in the pew next to me. I feel like that is my only payoff. It isn’t like I get presents I didn’t buy myself or get a nice meal I didn’t cook.

 

A lot of other things happened. We loaned her a car to use while she was visiting. She was mad that it wasn’t the car she wanted to drive. That one needs an oil change. She was mad that my oldest wouldn’t let her sing and play the piano Christmas morning so everyone would wake up when she wanted them up. She was mad that everything wasn’t exactly her way all of the time. She was mad that another daughter shut her down when she tried to get my youngest away from me to guilt her into doing something my daughter didn’t want to do.

 

There are a thousand things that I know were completely inappropriate. But that is how she acts. I expected all of that. None of that pushes me over the edge the way that not being willing to go to church did.

 

I remember when I had a kidney infection and was running a fever, but I still went to my little neighbor’s Kindergarten graduation because I’m the only guest she really cared about being there. I feel like we all do things we don’t love because of how important it is to someone else.

 

During church, my sister’s partner was smiling and singing and taking pictures of Dd during the service. It was such a stark contrast.

 

I do think I handled things very poorly. I’m just conflicted about what I want to do moving forward.

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your sis was picking partner time over extended family time, and making sure you knew where you and your family stood.

 

next year, trim the visit..five days is too long. 

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I would be pretty upset that sis came to me AS people were getting ready and asking how long the service was going to be only to find out she had already told my kids she wasn't going.  If she wasn't going, she could have talked to Amy about it before it was time to get ready.  Give her a little time to process and deal with it rather than springing it on her at the last second.  And it's no fun to be the last one to find out. Yeah, I probably would have reacted like Amy did.  

 

But for future events I think I'd not make a blanket statement about requiring church attendance as much as I'd resolve to work on communication w my sister.  And then figure out if church attendance is the hill I'd die on. 

 

 

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Ack Amy. I've been on the other side of those kinds of events before. It just never feels good.

I suppose if there is a next time, I would try to communicate ahead of time what is happening at your house so she can decide if she wants to participate.

Also, I would try to not let this dampen my joy. Perhaps the less you feel you need to accommodate her - but give her the choice to fit in with your plans - the better this would go overall. It's your house, your family, your traditions.

Give it some time. She may realize as well that she did not behave like a guest should.

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Thanks for explaining.   :grouphug:  :grouphug:   I can see how it would be difficult for you.  I think that going forward, when you think of having your whole family in the pew with you, don't think of you sister in that scene.   

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As far as being controlling, I thought the exact same thing. Yesterday I asked my oldest if it is just a matter of us both being divas.

 

We are both used to getting our own way.

 

I do feel like it is distasteful to require adults to attend church.

 

But it wasn’t only that Dd was serving. It is an issue for me going forward.

 

I feel my heart just shutting her out. I feel this familiar feeling of the straw that broke the camels back. I feel like I am just done with her, which I know isn’t rational.

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I think you're both wrong and both right

 

It's not up to you to determine whether another adult has to go to church just because they're staying in your home and I can't imagine making future visits conditional on whether or not she attends church with your family (or attends at all for that matter).

 

OTOH, if I was her I would have gone not because I wanted to attend a Christmas Eve service but because my 11 yo niece was participating and it was important to her (and to my sister - you). I'm an atheist but I recently attended my great niece and great nephew's first communion. It wasn't about attending church. It wasn't even about me agreeing with the purpose of a first communion (RCC). It was about attending something that was important to family members that I love. 

 

So, your feelings are rightfully hurt. She should have sucked it up and gone for the family's sake. You shouldn't expect or demand that she either attend church with your family as a condition of spending a holiday with you.

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I'd be frustrated too, because there she was staying at your home as a guest, joining your family during a special period of time that you had put a lot of effort into, and really, would it have been so hard for her to think of everyone else and have that "what's good for the group" mentality for just an hour?  It's the selfishness part I'd be frustrated with, and even her callousness in telling your children that she was just  going to stay home and watch Netflix instead.  (She didn't need to say it out loud, even if that's what she was going to do!)  She seems to lack those subtle social skills in how to handle a situation respectfully.

 

If, on the other hand, she had politely said, "I'm really sorry, I know how much work you've put into this and how important this is for your child, but I'm really tired/am uncomfortable in a church setting, so I plan to stay home.  I hope you understand.  I really appreciate being here so much though."  Then you might still be disappointed but it would be a lot more palatable!

 

Instead, she came off as selfish and lazy.  I admit I don't have a lot of patience for that, although I do have a lot of patience for a difference in opinions when stated respectfully!

 

But, I'm also the type of person who, even though I'm a Christian, if I was staying with a Muslim family for a week, I'd be happy to attend a service at an Islamic mosque with them if they invited me because I'd think that's the gracious thing to do as a guest.

 

 

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At that point, I realized that all of the effort and expense would be worth it in that one moment of seeing and hearing my family together in the pew next to me. I feel like that is my only payoff. It isn’t like I get presents I didn’t buy myself or get a nice meal I didn’t cook.

 

That makes sense, but it doesn't mean that other family members know this. Even if they have gone to church services with you for 20 years. They may be thinking, "I've done that for twenty years. That's plenty."

 

It does sound like your sister is rather thoughtless. But still clear communication can really help. Instead of making it a "requirement" for your guests, I would phrase in terms like, "The only gift I want for Christmas is for us all to go to church together. It would mean so much to me." And then work on making peace with the choices that others make.

 

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As far as being controlling, I thought the exact same thing. Yesterday I asked my oldest if it is just a matter of us both being divas.

 

We are both used to getting our own way.

 

I do feel like it is distasteful to require adults to attend church.

 

But it wasn’t only that Dd was serving. It is an issue for me going forward.

 

I feel my heart just shutting her out. I feel this familiar feeling of the straw that broke the camels back. I feel like I am just done with her, which I know isn’t rational.

Well, I think you have to ask yourself, is this what I want? Do you want your life without her in it, or with her relegated so far out of the picture that years will go by without seeing one another? I mean, I think that is a choice one can make, but be sure that is what you do want.

 

I have been on the receiving end of what I think was someone’s heart just shutting me out. Even though a good bit of the dissolution of friendship was mutual, it still hurts me sometimes. And IMe, this is exactly how one arrives at closing the door of friendship: interpreting things as more hostile than they were meant, feeling as though the other person doesn’t bring enough to the table, putting ultimatims on how the relationship has to look. If ending relationship is what you want, you seem to be on the correct road for that to happen

 

Very sorry

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I really love you guys.

 

Everyone has such helpful insight.

 

The good news is I had a very good Christmas in spite of all of this.

Edited by amy g.
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This is a really good reality check for me.

 

I agree that I am not clear comminicating my expectations. My son said, “Oh, I didn’t know we were going to church. I didn’t bring dressy clothes.†Now I realize that he had a broken elbow and couldn’t come last Christmas, but for the 20 years before that, he went to church with us on Sundays and Christmas Eve.

 

I did let my older kids skip church Christmas Eve morning so they didn’t need to go twice in one day like the rest of us did, so I can see how I’m not consistent and it is confusing for other people even though I see the expectation as obvious.

 

This is my 26th year hosting Christmas for the same family members. Christmas Eve services have been a part of every single one. No one was staying home to watch Netflix

 

Why it is important

 

I really didn’t know how important it was until the thread about food. Other posters were saying that I shouldn’t be expected to do all of the work and pay for everything year after year.

 

At that point, I realized that all of the effort and expense would be worth it in that one moment of seeing and hearing my family together in the pew next to me. I feel like that is my only payoff. It isn’t like I get presents I didn’t buy myself or get a nice meal I didn’t cook.

 

A lot of other things happened. We loaned her a car to use while she was visiting. She was mad that it wasn’t the car she wanted to drive. That one needs an oil change. She was mad that my oldest wouldn’t let her sing and play the piano Christmas morning so everyone would wake up when she wanted them up. She was mad that everything wasn’t exactly her way all of the time. She was mad that another daughter shut her down when she tried to get my youngest away from me to guilt her into doing something my daughter didn’t want to do.

 

There are a thousand things that I know were completely inappropriate. But that is how she acts. I expected all of that. None of that pushes me over the edge the way that not being willing to go to church did.

 

I remember when I had a kidney infection and was running a fever, but I still went to my little neighbor’s Kindergarten graduation because I’m the only guest she really cared about being there. I feel like we all do things we don’t love because of how important it is to someone else.

 

During church, my sister’s partner was smiling and singing and taking pictures of Dd during the service. It was such a stark contrast.

 

I do think I handled things very poorly. I’m just conflicted about what I want to do moving forward.

If this relationship matters to you at all then you might seek counseling to come up with ways to possibly turn this relationship onto a healthier path (no guarantee that it can but getting an outside neutral perspective with someone you can share all the details may help).  I think there are some serious functionality issues on both sides.  It is hard from little snippet internet posts to get the full picture but it sounds like you have kind of built up a lot of resentment over this 25 years of gathering at your house for Christmas.  I would not be maintaining the status quo for another 25 years.

 

:grouphug:

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P.S. I expect that the way she phrased not being into church was probably her trying to be honest with you and not give you some dumb and completely untrue excuse about being tired or sick or whatever. She might have been seeing if she could share some of her thoughts on church/the faith, but you basically showed her that no, she can’t do that with you.

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P.S. I expect that the way she phrased not being into church was probably her trying to be honest with you and not give you some dumb and completely untrue excuse about being tired or sick or whatever. She might have been seeing if she could share some of her thoughts on church/the faith, but you basically showed her that no, she can’t do that with you.

This is a really good point.

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A lot of my women friends in their forties and fifties, and I'm also in this group, managed to hit upon our last straw during the 2017 holidays. (Thanksgiving to Christmas.) In 100% of cases, some woman decided she was tired of the smiling, nodding, and accommodating of selfish, thoughtless, or actually abusive behavior.

 

The fireworks came because we had allowed these people to treat us that way for decades, trying to be "nice" because "family." They had no way of knowing we were on the edge until they pushed us over...leaving them (and us, a little), wondering if WE had hurt THEM!

 

It's all very confusing. I think it's a combination of reactions - first, to national politics, but also a reaction to everything we've learned as we raised children to adulthood. We have loved, long suffered, accepted, accommodated, sacrificed for, and truly loved these children. It's kind of shocking to realize that family didn't do that for us, and that even now they think they're doing us a favor by being (mostly) polite to us on holidays! Sorry, now we know what familial love is, because we BUILT it. Rise to the occasion or at least stop hurting me, KWIM?

 

I don't think you should apologize to your sister (and what do you mean, you don't even get presents?), but a lot of us are at a stage where we need to decide what matters...and put ourselves, and our own family's comfort and happiness, a little higher on the list, but hopefully keep most of our other people, too. If the troublesome people are to stay on the list, we'll need a new way to interact that doesn't hurt.

 

When I figure out how to do that, I'll let you know.

Edited by Tibbie Dunbar
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I think the reason why it was important to Amy that her guests attend the service was because her dd was participating in it. Any G, I understand.

:I agree:

 

And the more Amy posts about her sister, the more I understand why she is upset with her. It’s not just the Christmas Eve thing, but a general attitude of entitlement that seems to be an issue as well. I mean, who asks to borrow someone’s car and then gets snotty because it’s not the car she wanted??? That is so rude and unappreciative!

 

Amy does all of the work and seems to be receiving nothing in return — no gifts, no help... nothing. That’s not right.

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You are being so gracious about different viewpoints, and I hope you don’t feel we are piling on.

 

I did notice two things. First, you want all the people you love to be there. I totally relate to how nice that can feel. But your sister was in your home, with you, being a messy, annoying, complicated human (because all of us are). Having her sitting in church with the crew was the big moment you wanted, but you actually had her in your home! And you are ready to not host again because she wasn’t at church. It reminds me of having toddlers - how sometimes it was such a pure pleasure to watch them sleep, and then I would think, “I had them awake and in their toddler glory all day, and I didn’t really embrace it. Why is watching them sleep the big draw? Do I not enjoy the part where they are fully themselves?â€

 

Secondly, I am sure you don’t mean it and didn’t lay this in your sister, but she can’t be responsible for your “one happy moment†of the year.

 

Resentment is a problem for me at the holidays. I definitely have those, “Why do I have to do all the work?†moments. But truthfully I have a lot of power to change that. It helps me to reframe everything I “have to do†as a, “want to do.†I want to make the meals. I want to wrap the presents. I want to keep things tidy. Most of those things I could just let go. The McDonalds drive through is open on Christmas Eve. Figuring out why I want to do things helps me feel less resentful.

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Thank you.

 

I don’t feel piled on at all. I really needed some perspective which is why I posted.

 

There are so many good points.

 

My sister has a difficult personality for me. That is just how it has always been.

 

I know I am difficult in my own ways.

 

I have a lot to think about.

 

I’m so thankful for every person who responded.

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You are being so gracious about different viewpoints, and I hope you don’t feel we are piling on.

 

I did notice two things. First, you want all the people you love to be there. I totally relate to how nice that can feel. But your sister was in your home, with you, being a messy, annoying, complicated human (because all of us are). Having her sitting in church with the crew was the big moment you wanted, but you actually had her in your home! And you are ready to not host again because she wasn’t at church. It reminds me of having toddlers - how sometimes it was such a pure pleasure to watch them sleep, and then I would think, “I had them awake and in their toddler glory all day, and I didn’t really embrace it. Why is watching them sleep the big draw? Do I not enjoy the part where they are fully themselves?â€

 

Secondly, I am sure you don’t mean it and didn’t lay this in your sister, but she can’t be responsible for your “one happy moment†of the year.

 

Resentment is a problem for me at the holidays. I definitely have those, “Why do I have to do all the work?†moments. But truthfully I have a lot of power to change that. It helps me to reframe everything I “have to do†as a, “want to do.†I want to make the meals. I want to wrap the presents. I want to keep things tidy. Most of those things I could just let go. The McDonalds drive through is open on Christmas Eve. Figuring out why I want to do things helps me feel less resentful.

I really like the way you put this.

 

Amy you are so very good at looking at all sides and trying to locate your own blind spots amidst deep feelings of feeling uncared for. Quite honestly, that is what it sounds like. Not that you are being a diva, but that you resign to serve your family with all your might each year because that moment when everyone comes together in the place you hold most dear, shows they love and care about you. That they must know through how they see you commit yourself to that area of life that it is precious to you and by attending, they are showing that you are precious to them.

 

I think a follow up conversation with your sister where you lay it out is in order. She may be so self focused that she just doesn't get it. Sometimes I fall into the place of "well if I have to explain and beg then it defeats the point because I want them to notice and care" but she clearly has blind spots too.

 

Tell her that you are at the "straw that broke the camel's back" place. That you give of yourself each year because that hour is so important to you. Explain it the way you have here. She may truly not understand how much it means to you.

 

I am sorry. I can see how much this hurts and exasperates you. Not everyone gives of themselves in the same way. Going some place with a kidney infection made my jaw drop ;) I like to keep commitments but I am not sure I could do that! It sounds like your spiritual giftings are very different than other members of your family. Communication is in order I think.

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I'm not someone who buys into the, "If it's important to someone else, then I'm obligated to do it" myth.  Sorry folks, people are in no way obligated to re-calibrate what they value just because you care about it a lot. Sure, sometimes they should go along for the sake of the group, but this idea that because Amy G. regularly fantasizes about all her family sitting next to her on the pew every Christmas Eve they're all obligated to do it is frankly, unreasonable.  No one is obligated to make her fantasies come true, even if she insists on handling all the hostessing duties.  Handling all the hostessing duties is unreasonable too.

I'm wondering where all this comes from?  Normal Rockwell paintings?  Lifetime for Women movies? I'm not being snarky here, I genuinely wonder how it is people have such extensive ideas about how other adults should spend the hours of their DAYS long visits.  How is that people expect the exact same thing to happen for decades hence for, for ever and ever, until the end of time, or until Jesus returns bodily and no one else gets to have a say or a different idea?  Why on earth is the sister considered selfish for daring to decide to not do the same thing again this time when it's been the OP's way for decades?  Its selfish for the host to demand the guests do it her way every year.

Things change.  People change.  Traditions change.  Budgets change.  Ideas change.  Opportunities change.  Energy levels change. Personalities can change.  Tastes change.  Values change.  Preferences change.

Honestly, Amy G., I think you owe your sister an apology.  It should be something along the lines of, "I'm sorry I snapped at you when you tried to bow out of the Christmas service.  I should've just invited you and been perfectly content whether you answered yes or no.  I have no right to expect other adults to celebrate a certain way or to make my dreams come true. I shouldn't control all the holiday celebrations, instead others should contribute their ideas and handle parts of the preparations their own way." 

And she should apologize to you along the lines of, "I'm sorry I was so pissy about which car you loaned me.  It was very generous of you to loan we one at all, as I'm never entitled to anyone else providing me with transportation.  I'm sorry I tired to wake people up on my schedule.  I should only make decisions about wake up time for myself and my minor aged children. I'm sorry I tried a sneaky way to manipulate your child.  I'm sorry I haven't contributed to the holiday preparations with funds and/or effort."

I don't think you two should be stay with each other because you both seem controlling of other people which makes for bad hostess/house-guest dynamics. 
Next time: 
1. divide up the planning and preparations more evenly, if people want to do less, then be content with less.
2. invite them to join you for the service and be prepared to accept no without any resentment
3. have a meal together for part of ONE day. Enjoy the shorter visit, and then everyone should go their separate ways.
4. ask your sister to prepare a song or two for after the meal or at a time that makes sense.

5. invite people to your kid's performance, but understand their attendance is not symbolic of the relationship. And no, if you have a kidney infection and a fever, it's unreasonable to attend anyway.  It's perfectly valid and reasonable to explain that you have medical problem and stay home.

6. prepare for the possibly that at some point not everyone will choose to attend every year, and they're not obligated to.  They can do other things during the Christmas season and that's not an attack on you.

7. Read 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and focus on the chapter about not making other people's actions the source of your emotional state.

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Honestly I attend church services with relatives who host me and I see it as a normal, expected thing to do.

 

I go with my ILs when we visit them. If they’re going, we’re going.

 

I find it childish to not do it.

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I'm wondering where all this comes from? Normal Rockwell paintings? Lifetime for Women movies? I'm not being snarky here, I genuinely wonder how it is people have such extensive ideas about how other adults should spend the hours of their DAYS long visits. How is that people expect the exact same thing to happen for decades hence for, for ever and ever, until the end of time, or until Jesus returns bodily and no one else gets to have a say or a different idea? Why on earth is the sister considered selfish for daring to decide to not do the same thing again this time when it's been the OP's way for decades? Its selfish for the host to demand the guests do it her way every year.

 

Things change. People change. Traditions change. Budgets change. Ideas change. Opportunities change. Energy levels change. Personalities can change. Tastes change. Values change. Preferences change.

This is, in fact, something we on the Hive are always telling our members, especially surrounding holiday obligations. That, for example, AnonymousPoster does not have to make her mother happy by FaceTiming on Christmas morning at 7:00am sharp. Or doesn’t have to make her MIL happy by baking five pounds of fruit cake, which nobody likes, because it’s a “tradition.†Or doesn’t have to hand sew five new Christmas Pyjamas for the kids every year just because, in year’s past, she did.

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I agree about apologizing. I intend to do that, probably in a written letter so she isn’t on the spot to respond.

 

As far as that moment, Christmas is a ton of work for me. I have myself in push mode. That moment is when I breathe and the work is done and Christmas is here.

 

Another think I realized-this was the first semester when my middle daughter was away at school. When she got back, my 11 year old said, “When I hear you singing, it feels like home again.â€

 

When we were at church and heard my sister singing, I felt the feeling of home. Dang, I’m feeling my heart melt a little towards her just typing that out.

 

So much of what Tibbie posted was spot on. I have to think on it a little more before responding.

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You cannot dictate that another adult goes to church. That's crossing a line. You know she doesn't like to go. You are expecting her to do something she dislikes simply to please you. You know, you absolutely know, that she does not want to go. Yet you expect her to do it anyway just because you want her to do it. While you're sitting there in the glow of happiness of the church service, you are 100% fully aware that she's enduring and wishing she could just leave.  Why would you want someone there who doesn't want to be there? 

 

Now, I see your point, that you want her to want to be there as a support to you and your dd.  You wish she could see that instead of thinking of herself and how much she doesn't want to be in church, she could instead fill her thoughts with, "My actions are making my sister and niece happy. It's so nice to see them so happy."  

 

Perhaps if you'd have told her well ahead of time, "Sis, I know you don't like church for church's sake, but I get such a happy feeling sitting in church with my family surrounding me, and it means even more to me this year because dd is serving.  I hope you can understand that it's not about you partaking in the service, but it's about us being together.  What a gift it is to me for you to be there," she'd have understood that this wasn't about you wanting her to endure through a meaningless, to her, ritual, but that her presence was a gift to you.

 

She might not be mature enough to understand that, I don't know.  But just silently expecting her to be there and then blowing up at her about it, and then considering saying she cannot have Christmas with you anymore, unless she takes part in religious rituals that leave her feeling spiritually empty...that's super controlling. I can't imagine trying to force an adult to attend church with me, just so I can have a warm fuzzy feeling.  If you don't feel like God is telling you to get her to church for some special spiritual encounter with Him, then you need to leave off the "must go to church" requirement for Christmas.

 

You can contact her now or next year and explain that her presence is important to you, but come at it understanding that forcing people to partake in spiritual events isn't what God requires and it's all about you.

 

After saying all that, the most important thing is this: I don't think God wants to be used as some sort of power-play between the two of you.  Personally, I believe you are in spiritual error by trying to force her to go to church to make you feel happy.  Church is about worshiping God.  Full stop. 

Edited by Garga
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Amy g,

 

I fully understand how you feel.  I've come to that point in some of my own relationships and it's a difficult place to be.  I never imagined that I could even consider distancing myself from those that I love in order to save myself from being hurt in the future.  Your sister sounds like a handful; don't we all have people like that in our lives?  Both of you could have handled things better and if you're in a place where you are able to, could you consider talking to her about it?  

 

Unless you decide that your sister is toxic, consider how you could still have the Christmas you want your children to have with less sister drama.  Maybe you could shorten the time and explicitly request that your sister attend services with you if it's very important to you.   Your sister might find the shortened stay better for her as well.  

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I totally get it.  I've had to let go of expectations and just scale WAY back on interactions with my only sibling for various reasons. 

 

I think relationships SHOULD be 2 ways.  Does she ever host your family or offer to cover groceries or meals or speak to your love language?  I've come around to the idea that if I'm the only one giving, then why am I doing it?  For years I was the only one in my family who would plan anything and I'd still get whining and complaints about it.    I've just scaled back.  I love my family and I do have a relationship with them but it's not my birth duty to plan elaborate events to keep them happy.  I told my mom if she wants us all to get together more, plan it!  It can be as simple as a dinner reservation and an agreed upon date!   I just need the events to be on more neutral grounds.  I'm sick of my kids and me being disappointed.

 

And I don't disagree you couldn't have handled better but I totally get the idea of stuff stacking and this was the last straw.   Her timing was horrible to throw that on you and I don't think your reaction was that unwarranted given her previous behavior and the circumstances.   If you are going to continue to host her, I think laying out expectations and schedule before she gets to your house is a good idea.  My brother can't even meet minimal expectations with his family (show up to a family event in a reasonably good mood on time with your whole family - or at least let us know WHO to expect ahead of time). 

 

ETA - the church thing parallel to me in my situation is inviting my brother and family to an event my child is performing in.  And then him bailing at the last minute and/or not showing up.  Or some configuration of his family shows up late and crabby.  That has happened.  It is horribly disappointing to my kids.  Less so now that they're teens, but I know even if they act cool they do like people they know there.  It would totally enhance their relationship 10X and make my kids think that my brother's family is cool and worth knowing.   My kids have very little relationship with them.

 

So I'm not thinking about that in a spiritual context. I do think expecting someone to partake in a religious thing that means nothing to them isn't the best.  But if your kid was involved, it seems like a bigger deal to me.

Edited by WoolySocks
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Also, I hate to go all the way to Horrible, but ask yourself how you would feel if she died suddenly. If you really think you don’t want her around, think about how it would be if she could not be around ever again. I’m not talking outta my hat, either. I had not seen my sister for over two years when she died very suddenly one night in June 2008. Literally just a couple weeks before, I was at a baby shower she was invited to but was unable to attend and when I heard my cousin reading her card, I said to myself, “wow. It’s been like two years since I have seen her face.†And then there was no more possibility of seeing her.

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Also, I hate to go all the way to Horrible, but ask yourself how you would feel if she died suddenly. If you really think you don’t want her around, think about how it would be if she could not be around ever again. I’m not talking outta my hat, either. I had not seen my sister for over two years when she died very suddenly one night in June 2008. Literally just a couple weeks before, I was at a baby shower she was invited to but was unable to attend and when I heard my cousin reading her card, I said to myself, “wow. It’s been like two years since I have seen her face.†And then there was no more possibility of seeing her.

 

Oh, that's so sad.  I'm so sorry to hear that.

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Please excuse my ignorance, but I am not sure that I understand why her missing church was such a big deal?

Same here. I love God, but for many reasons I hate church. One reason, is the number of people that are there to make someone else happy or to look like a good person and have no desire to be there. I'm not sure why people do that or why others want people there that dont want to be there.

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I agree about spiritual error.

 

I don’t think my sister is toxic. If she was I would have no problem limiting the relationship. She is just very self centered. But no one thinks that is new. My kids think I’m the one acting different so I’m sure they are right.

 

I have to decide what I’m willing to do going forward.

 

Things do change and celebrations can change and maybe it is time for my family to only have our kids and their friends at Christmas.

 

Just a meal together would be awesome, but we are across the country from each other so I’m not sure how to make that work.

 

I do feel more clarity to look at options where everyone can have what they enjoy.

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After saying all that, the most important thing is this: I don't think God wants to be used as some sort of power-play between the two of you.  Personally, I believe you are in spiritual error by trying to force her to go to church to make you feel happy.  Church is about worshiping God.  Full stop. 

 

I agree!  I think it's grossly offensive to God when people are only at church out of tradition or duty to someone else, or when someone is creating some sort of manipulative pressure to get someone there who doesn't want to be. If someone is not there out of sincerity it's better for that person, that congregation, and the Body of Christ in general if they stay away. I wish church leadership would address that more explicitly.  Yes, invite people along.  No, don't have any negativity in your heart about them if they decline.  Don't lie to yourself and think you're doing them a favor if show up to please you. And no, "Then they need to show up and have a good attitude about it when I pressure them" is not appropriate either.

 

 

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See, I think everybody gets it when my husband’s grandmother wants all her church friends to get to see her grandkids. It’s not our usual denomination but it’s very special to my husband’s grandmother and we do it.

 

Same with my husband’s aunt. She likes people to get to see her relatives, the ones she talks about, when we visit.

 

It’s a community type event where we meet their community. It isn’t only a religious service.

 

We are in it as a religious event, too, but it’s a lot more than “just†the religious aspect to them.

 

I have had to have this discussion with my husband and now he is the one to tell his younger (adult) cousins that it means a lot to their mom/grandma and they need to go.

 

At the same time — I think it sounds childish and the kind of thing where... sometimes people are childish or immature in my opinion. But it’s not really bad to me, I think it’s minor in the scheme of things.

Edited by Lecka
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I get it. For some of us the pinnacle Christmas moment is the Christmas Mass service at church. That IS Christmas for us. Having the whole family together, at that moment, makes the whole season for us. Sounds like the OP feels that way, but her sister didn't. Definitely time for some communication there. 

 

Hugs. I get it. 

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Also, I hate to go all the way to Horrible, but ask yourself how you would feel if she died suddenly. If you really think you don’t want her around, think about how it would be if she could not be around ever again. I’m not talking outta my hat, either. I had not seen my sister for over two years when she died very suddenly one night in June 2008. Literally just a couple weeks before, I was at a baby shower she was invited to but was unable to attend and when I heard my cousin reading her card, I said to myself, “wow. It’s been like two years since I have seen her face.†And then there was no more possibility of seeing her.

[emoji173]
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I get it. For some of us the pinnacle Christmas moment is the Christmas Mass service at church. That IS Christmas for us. Having the whole family together, at that moment, makes the whole season for us. Sounds like the OP feels that way, but her sister didn't. Definitely time for some communication there.

 

Hugs. I get it.

Yes. This is exactly it.

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