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Caraway

Holiday Drama

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I have always hosted holidays.  Partly this is because I have kids, but I think a lot of it is that I am the eldest female child and so when my mom stopped it was just assumed that I would rise to the occasion.  Often the holidays include everyone staying with us, and Christmas in particular is a week long event that requires a TON of work.

Until recently my brother has lived out of state.  He has never been married, has no kids, has a lot of disposable income and very few responsibilities. Everyone is thrilled with whatever time he chooses to spend with the group because he is "the fun one".  He has recently moved back into the state and moved in with his GF.  So now he is "here" but that hasn't changed the dynamic with our parents where I am the one who does everything and he is the one that should be catered to at all times.

I invited him, his GF, and her family to Thanksgiving, which he has not previously attended.  I was trying to be inclusive and nice.  I am already hosting my parents, my in laws, my local relatives.  He said no and that he would be traveling with GF.  Fine.  Now he says that travel plans have fallen through and all of them will be attending Thanksgiving at my house.  He has told me this as though he is doing me a giant favor.  Also that Christmas time will be limited since GF doesn't want to spend that much time with us.  

I'm furious.  This addition doubles (triples?) my workload and that's before I get to the fact that they have different dietary restrictions than us and I don't own enough plates and forks.  My people pleasing self is trying to rise to the occasion, but I cannot get over how much my feelings are hurt.  An acknowledgement of the amount of work, or an offer to help, or any display of appreciation at being included, would have gone a long way.  Now I'm just stuck doing a ton of work for a bunch of people who don't want to be there???  He said that her family was willing to come because they didn't really care about the holiday in the first place.  And the reduction at Christmas means that he is reducing HIS obligation to our parents but not mine.

I feel like I can't confront him in a productive way.  Any time I stand up for myself everyone acts like I am a giant b**** and can't understand why I can't just be flexible.  This occurs as they are eating food I've cooked, drinking wine I've bought, and are staying in my house.  I'm considering complaining to my mother but I don't know that I can handle whatever her response is.  The last "situation" occurred for a smaller holiday when my brother announced at *9 pm the night before* that he and GF would be attending and that she couldn't eat the thing we were serving.  I am too much of a perfectionist to handle this dynamic.  I told my mother that if she wanted to see him she could host, which she did, but not until she had lectured me on how we all need to rise to the occasion to accommodate him.  

I would be happy to leave the country for the holidays but my husband and kids don't want to give up traditions.  

How would you handle this???

 

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He can only step on you if you lie down! I too, have relatives with some dietary restrictions. I make what I make, taking those restrictions into account for some things, but have drawn the line at others. Sorry sil, but I refuse to wreck Yorkshire pudding making it gluten free! He knows this. 😉 I do make his favorite pies. He brings his own gluten free stuff for part of it, and he always calls me from the grocery store to find out what else I may have forgotten on my last run when he stops for his stuff. I do my best for ds's fiancee, but some stuff I simply can't change, such as our well water. I make a spot in the kitchen for her to store her bottled water, but I don't provide it. 😉 Make your menu; let everyone know what it is, and state, "If you require something else, City Market is just five miles down the road!" 

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Do you feel comfortable telling him you are glad he can attend and you would like him to contribute this, this, and that?

As far as matching plates and etc, I’m of the mind more people and I don’t care about the matching stuff, especially since you have this much notice.  I’m at the point I prefer to use cute holiday PAPER plates and colorful solo cups that be marked with permanent marker.

If you will be short silverware, I’d ask your mom to bring some sets with her.

Edited by school17777
Forgot to specify paper
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Hosting is a thankless job.  Hosting brothers is a particularly thankless job.  I can't help noticing, brother,  that you require me to cater to your specific "needs" yet will eat out anything anywhere at any restaurant and don't have them cater to that.  Hurrumph. 

My vote is do what you need to do to remove the resentment.  Buy disposable plates, cups, utensils.  Tell everyone it is potluck.  You are providing a turkey.  They can bring a side or a dessert or wine in a disposable dish.  (or plan on washing their own dish).

Seriously.  Take back your holiday for you.  You still get the family time, but you can enjoy it too.

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5 minutes ago, school17777 said:

Do you feel comfortable telling him you are glad he can attend and you would like him to contribute this, this, and that?

 

This has backfired previously.  😒

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I get the same treatment with my family - of course Pattie will take care of it all. No big deal! Ugh,

I think there's no point in complaining to your mom, but instead, you need to figure out what you need to make this easier and even enjoyable for you. Tell your brother that it's a potluck this time, and ask him to find out what they can bring. Even if they only bring 20% of the food, it will help your attitude and make your company feel more vested in the event. Ask your mom to bring dishes and silverware. 

 

eta: even if it has backfired, you need to take care of you and your immediate family first. Tell them it's a potluck.

Edited by PeppermintPattie
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Just now, perkybunch said:

Hosting is a thankless job.  Hosting brothers is a particularly thankless job.  I can't help noticing, brother,  that you require me to cater to your specific "needs" yet will eat out anything anywhere at any restaurant and don't have them cater to that.  Hurrumph. 

My vote is do what you need to do to remove the resentment.  Buy disposable plates, cups, utensils.  Tell everyone it is potluck.  You are providing a turkey.  They can bring a side or a dessert or wine in a disposable dish.  (or plan on washing their own dish).

Seriously.  Take back your holiday for you.  You still get the family time, but you can enjoy it too.

 

They are "unable" to do this successfully with a gluten free restriction.  The result is that they often arrive with super desirable items that my kids cannot eat or something that will cross contaminate my kitchen.  The only good part of the holiday is my kids being excited about all the holiday food.  I don't want to spend the day saying "nope you can't eat that, no not that either..."

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2 minutes ago, PeppermintPattie said:

I get the same treatment with my family - of course Pattie will take care of it all. No big deal! Ugh,

I think there's no point in complaining to your mom, but instead, you need to figure out what you need to make this easier and even enjoyable for you. Tell your brother that it's a potluck this time, and ask him to find out what they can bring. Even if they only bring 20% of the food, it will help your attitude and make your company feel more vested in the event. Ask your mom to bring dishes and silverware. 

 

eta: even if it has backfired, you need to take care of you and your immediate family first. Tell them it's a potluck.

 Potluck won't work because they will bring foods we can't eat and can't have in the kitchen.  I'm not going to set my kids up to feel disappointed in their own home.

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I don't understand being furious because you don't have enough plates etc.or because they have dietary restrictions.  Surely you knew how many plates you had when you first invited them?  I understand that they said no and then yes, but they still did that within a time frame that is acceptable in most families I know.  It sounds like you resent him in general and didn't want to invite them to begin with.  But you did. 

Edited by Jean in Newcastle
typo
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I didn't realize you were gluten free.  That certainly complicates things.  Potluck is out.  Hoping others chime in with better suggestions!

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I would have never invited the GF's family.  That was nice of you.

My mom complains when her mother wants my mom to cook for her brother's family of 3 (his wife doesn't cook or help cleanup).  But my mom expects me to host my brother's family with 5 adult appetites.  My brother's wife does help cook and cleanup.  I'm ok with it and am glad to maintain a good relationship with family.

If your brother is the fun one, does that mean he buys cool gifts for your kids and takes them fun places? 

I guess, I would deal with it for one day and make it fun and not care if things don't match.  Ask your brother to bring something.   That might clue him in that he needs to contribute.  Ask him to bring wine if he doesn't cook.  Or whatever would make your life easier.

I would not provide accommodations for their diet.  They can pick and choose from what you provide or bring what they need to eat.   If they don't like the selection, they won't stay as long😁

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I am a little unclear on why you are so angry.  You invited them and they at first did not accept but now are accepting?  When you say the girlfriend’s family how many more does that add?  I think it was overboard inviting her parents even.....maybe a separate dinner with brother/girlfriend/her parents would have been. Water.

nonetheless, you did invite them.  Is it really more of his attitude toward you? No appreciation and dismissive of your efforts?

 

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If he invited additional people whom you did not specifically invite, I'd simply tell him you can't do it. That's totally your right. 

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In this case you did extend the invitation. Changing his no to a yes feels frustrating I know but as it is not last minute and your brother is close family I don't think it is, in and of itself, unreasonable.

The larger dynamic--his sense of entitlement and the way everyone caters to him--is an issue and a frustrating one. I am sorry you have to deal with that.

For Thanksgiving, I would get disposable dishes (my family always uses disposables for family gatherings), make sure there is something that meets dietary restrictions (not everything), and try to enjoy whatever is good in the holiday. Order sides or desserts pre-made if that helps.

For the future, think carefully about what you do and do not want to do and set your own boundaries. People do not have to stay at your house--they can get a hotel. Christmas stuff with family does not have to be a week, it can be one day.

Making everyone's holiday perfect is certainly not your job.

Edited by maize
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It does sound like you didn’t really want him to come i the first place and we’re reli fed when they didn’t accept at first.  I get that.  I have been in my current house for 7 years and my brother has never been here.  I doubt he ever will be.  My mother isnt pressuring me to invite him though. 

I too would ask for a financial contribution or to contribute non food items.  Wine, ice, paper goods, etc.  

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8 minutes ago, Jean in Newcastle said:

I don't understand being furious because you don't have enough plates etc.or because they have dietary restrictions.  Surely you knew how many plates you had when you first invited them?  I understand that they said no and then yes, but they still did that within a time frame that is acceptable in most families I know.  It sounds like you resent him in general and didn't want to invite them to begin with.  But you did. 


I’m not furious about plates and restrictions. I guess I mentioned that to mean that the changing dynamic wasn’t just going from a 12 lb turkey to a 20. I’m furious that he is acting like he is doing me a favor by gracing is with his presence while totally not acknowledging that it’s more work for me. I’m also irritated that he’s bring others who have started by stating that they are coming because “they don’t care”. 

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I had to get tough with a relative of a relative a few years ago. I had made a birthday dinner for 20+ people, then the next day hosted Thanksgiving, and then hosted a wedding dinner. The following day, the relative of the relative asked why I wasn't cooking I gestured toward the table and stated, "There are 47 plates of food on the table. Dig in!" and handed her a plastic fork and a paper plate. I have no idea if she ate or not. Frankly, I didn't care. 

Make what you make. Tell everyone what you are making. And that's that. They can always go down the road to the taco stand, right?

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13 minutes ago, Scarlett said:

I am a little unclear on why you are so angry.  You invited them and they at first did not accept but now are accepting?  When you say the girlfriend’s family how many more does that add?  I think it was overboard inviting her parents even.....maybe a separate dinner with brother/girlfriend/her parents would have been. Water.

nonetheless, you did invite them.  Is it really more of his attitude toward you? No appreciation and dismissive of your efforts?

 


If he had come at me with “I’m so excited we get to join you -thanks!” It would have been fine. Instead it’s been “I guess I have to do this since I can’t do what I want”. 

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3 minutes ago, Caraway said:


I’m not furious about plates and restrictions. I guess I mentioned that to mean that the changing dynamic wasn’t just going from a 12 lb turkey to a 20. I’m furious that he is acting like he is doing me a favor by gracing is with his presence while totally not acknowledging that it’s more work for me. I’m also irritated that he’s bring others who have started by stating that they are coming because “they don’t care”. 

So, choose NOT to be furious. Choose to not have the joy of the day to be taken away. You can't control THEIR mood, but you CAN control yours. Make a joke about it, and then mentally flip them off. And turn up the music and have a good time! Vent here, but don't let them make you sweat. 

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3 minutes ago, Caraway said:


I’m not furious about plates and restrictions. I guess I mentioned that to mean that the changing dynamic wasn’t just going from a 12 lb turkey to a 20. I’m furious that he is acting like he is doing me a favor by gracing is with his presence while totally not acknowledging that it’s more work for me. I’m also irritated that he’s bring others who have started by stating that they are coming because “they don’t care”. 

Yes, this is what I thought.....you might want to practice responses to that kind of treatment for future interactions. 

‘Oh, I understand brother.  Since none of you want to come it is fine with us if you don’t.  Maybe we can get together for dinner another time, ‘.

 

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8 minutes ago, Caraway said:

I’m furious that he is acting like he is doing me a favor by gracing is with his presence while totally not acknowledging that it’s more work for me. I’m also irritated that he’s bring others who have started by stating that they are coming because “they don’t care”. 

I get why you're furious with your brother. I have a brother like this, so I totally feel your pain. I would probably host dinner and tell him off the next day.

I would, however, be careful taking what he said about gf's family as truth. You never know how he worded the invitation to them or what their response actually was. I imagine I'll need to be really careful with things like this with my son. He is so good at twisting words intentionally and unintentionally.

Kelly

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4 minutes ago, Caraway said:


I’m not furious about plates and restrictions. I guess I mentioned that to mean that the changing dynamic wasn’t just going from a 12 lb turkey to a 20. I’m furious that he is acting like he is doing me a favor by gracing is with his presence while totally not acknowledging that it’s more work for me. I’m also irritated that he’s bring others who have started by stating that they are coming because “they don’t care”. 

I'm guessing he has never hosted or cooked a big meal so has no idea about the workload.  He probably thinks there are leftovers every year, so a couple more people won't matter. 

He probably thinks you wanted him (and extras) to come since you invited them.  He likely thinks that you were disappointed  he couldn't make it and you're now happy to have the family together.  My guess is he has no idea you are angry or the reasons behind it.  I don't think you should complain about it.  I would tell him he needs to bring food or drink for the meal.

You have over a month to figure it out and make the best of it.

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6 minutes ago, Caraway said:


I’m not furious about plates and restrictions. I guess I mentioned that to mean that the changing dynamic wasn’t just going from a 12 lb turkey to a 20. I’m furious that he is acting like he is doing me a favor by gracing is with his presence while totally not acknowledging that it’s more work for me. I’m also irritated that he’s bring others who have started by stating that they are coming because “they don’t care”. 

 

Now you know that your brother, his girlfriend, and girlfriend's family are not appreciative and gracious guests.

Your choices are to not invite them in the future or to invite them knowing what their attitude will likely be.

Yes it is frustrating. 

Yes your efforts ought to be appreciated and valued.

Fuming over it won't change things though. Complaining to your mother won't change things. Other people's attitudes are just not a thing you can control.

Don't waste your own time and energy being upset over the difference between the way things should be and the way things are. Figure out how you personally want to work around the way things are, what boundaries you want to establish for the future, and move forward.

Easier said than done I know but it is what you need to do because your own attitudes and actions are the only things you actually have control over.

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4 minutes ago, SquirrellyMama said:

I get why you're furious with your brother. I have a brother like this, so I totally feel your pain. I would probably host dinner and tell him off the next day.

I would, however, be careful taking what he said about gf's family as truth. You never know how he worded the invitation to them or what their response actually was. I imagine I'll need to be really careful with things like this with my son. He is so good at twisting words intentionally and unintentionally.

Kelly

 

This is good to remember.

I know some families who fight over having grown kids and their significant others/families come to their home for the holidays and get upset if they go to the in-laws instead. GF's parents may have meant only that they weren't the sort to insist the holidays be spent in their home.

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I think it's unclear about who has the dietary restrictions. Are you saying that YOUR family has dietary restrictions?

FWIW, when my kids were very little, and all *four* were diagnosed with celiac disease, I angered off a lot of people by declaring or home gluten free. I did it for two reasons:

1. The transition was hard for my kids. They remembered special holiday foods. I am a decent cook and I've been able to create new traditions over time, but it would not have helped for them to sit there and watch everyone else eat their favorite foods, especially at first.

2. Cross contamination is a serious issue, for a family with children who have celiac disease or true allergies. The rest of the eating world is a minefield. Home should be safe.

So when I was backed into a corner about hosting holidays, I said that I would be happy to host but if I did, I would need to do all the cooking. It would be a gluten free Thanksgiving, and they were very welcome to come and share the meal. This went over just fine with one set of grandparents and one other family, but the rest threw an absolute fit. They "needed" their favorite foods, and they didn't want their children restricted from walking all over the house, trailing wheat cooky crumbs, or "it won't feel like a holiday." (Which is fine! I don't question that people should have the holiday they want. I just thought they should have it at THEIR house, if they were not interested in accepting my hospitality. Although...I did have cookies, including delicious, crumbly ones, and I did have all categories of beverages, meats, vegetables, condiments and sauces, appetizers, cheeses, fruits, desserts, breads, so I was hoping that if I was almost commanded to host, they might be willing to try new things for one meal, just once...)

The conflict continued to be a problem in the extended family for years. They resented that my children couldn't just eat everything. We started gravitating toward events where everyone just brought their own food - camping trips, for example, or an outing where there were restaurant or picnic options. A few times, I managed to bring a large cooler and ice, and my own cooking gear, to someone's house (with their total permission and welcome), and I just sneaked into the kitchen to prepare my children's food. Of course, that's not practical, and there's only one relative that I would have even asked to allow it. But at those times, it was the simplest solution because she was hosting the family in a different state, in a very rural location. Her tiny local grocery store didn't even have safe foods, so I had to bring food all the way from home. She could trust me to work quickly, and clean up promptly.

The large family reunions were even worse, because nobody wanted to allow "special diet" foods on the collaborative menu. Even though there were multiple families dealing with dairy or soy allergies, or wheat allergies, or celiac disease, the people organizing wanted the dinner to be "easy" and "traditional," and they wanted to assign or approve what everyone brought. So all the families that were excluded, just brought their own picnic hampers and coolers. I'll tell you when this strategy fell apart: As my kids got older, and began to be invited to friends' homes for everyday dinners and holidays, their friends' parents were SO easygoing about food restrictions! A quick text or phone call, happy to accommodate, thrilled that I do always have easy solutions. Many people have a relative who eats gluten free or dairy free or whatever, so they'd say something like, "Aunt Susie always brings XYZ dishes, I'll tell her to make a little extra!" Or they'd ask what they could pick up from the store that would be ready made and safe, or tell me that I was welcome to send along favorite foods. What a contrast to all the grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins who made life so hard. I noticed that the other families with allergies also stopped attending the reunions, eventually.

All this to say, I don't know what to tell you about the family dynamics. You'll decide when you've had enough. But if you are trying to camp out on the boundary of keeping your own home gluten free for your children, that is your RIGHT. You are a hospitable person and you have invited friends and family to share in your hospitality. It's a kindness to share your home, your food, your wine...you don't have to allow others to contribute to your dinner menu. And likewise, any invited guests have the RIGHT to politely refuse an invitation, if they don't care for the hospitality offered. The conflict comes when a hostess is not clear and confident about what exactly she is offering, or when a guest tries to dictate to a hostess.

 

Edited by Lang Syne Boardie
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You don’t have to participate in any drama if you don’t want to. If your family has dietary restrictions, you send an email or group text or whatever to everyone invited stating what you will be serving. The invitees can then come or not. They can complain all they want, call you names, say you’re not flexible, whatever. You don’t have to defend, argue, protest, or even say anything except to restate your boundary. 

You obviously can’t control your guests; you can control you and how you choose to respond to boundary pushers. Don’t complain to your mother. Decide what you’re willing and able to do and let everyone know. 

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Ok the thought of having my parents, my in-laws, brother, GF, GF's family and potentially others over for a single holiday gives me stress hives.   The food restrictions adds another level of complexity there.  There would have been NO way that offer would have been made.  We've had to lay out some boundaries over the years and yes, we've annoyed familiy.  But I just won't listen to guilt over it any more.  This is what works for us this year?  Don't like it?  Oh well - maybe we can get together later.  My brother and his family is challenging and unreliable.  So get togethers that include them are typically on neutral ground - bowling alleys, restaurants, etc.  Never on an actual holiday.  

I think the biggest issue is you need to have a boundary in mind up front on what you are willing to do and you need to enforce it.  I guess I don't see a clean way to uninvite someone 6+ weeks before the event.  I assume you regret the invite?  Don't extend it to so many next time.  If family wants a larger get together, maybe snacks and a football game or board games later in the weekend or whatever.  ETA - and that includes standing up to your DH if he enjoys these larger get togethers but you are doing the lion's share of the work and food prep.

I wouldn't assume the GF stated that she didn't want to spend much time with your family either.  She may be more sensitive to pressure from her family than he perceives from yours.  Sometimes early years as a couple can be challenging trying to keep everyone happy while trying to build some new "couple" traditions.  

 

Edited by FuzzyCatz
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I just want to say I commiserate because my SIL always seems to do something similar. Not exactly this, but she tries to push my buttons, and do to misplaced loyalty to his Mom and a complex situation, dh usually doesn't help a ton on setting the boundaries. I've had to learn to do that myself (and am still learning which is why I generally have a thread here for holiday grievances, LOL. Guess I should get that up soon!).

Last year she proclaimed for the entire 6 months leading to Thanksgiving that she and her family were going out of town and would NOT be attending Thanksgiving with the rest of us. Fine, whatever (we were secretly thrilled.) I always host anyway, so I bought all the stuff for us and MIL, my family etc. and I think it was just two or three days before Thanksgiving she proclaimed not only was she not going out of town, she was hosting it herself and sent a text to everyone of what time we should be there. 

I think had she not pulled this stuff so many years in a row I'd have gotten really pissed. But that time, we just laughed. I mean, seriously I cracked up. That was so typical of her, and it was so nice to not let her get to me. Finally. I was proud I could laugh at the situation. I  texted back "well enjoy, because i already bought everything for us, and we didn't plan for y'all anyway, so this works out great! Happy Thanksgiving! Hope you have a great day!"

The only person left devastated was MIL, because she felt like whatever she did was the wrong choice. We told her we didn't really mind if she didn't come to our house- we understood if she needed to go to SIL (long story and lot of guilt SIL pulls on MIL that helps her control MIL). Basically MIL felt like if she came to our house SIL would never let her hear the end of it, but if she went to SIL she would be betraying us or something (we didn't feel it was that way) and we would be upset. I think she's so used to SIL manipulations she couldn't believe we wouldn't be upset, no matter how we tried to assure her....... But anyway, she chose to stay at home by herself. That part stunk a little, but I just am past a point of letting people like SIL steal my joy, on what should be a day of gratefulness, and not a day of me downing a bottle of wine in the kitchen and biting back bitterness all day just waiting for it to be over. 

All that to say, I am really sorry you are going through this, but you do at this point of your life get to own the choice and your happiness. You own it. Not your brother. I love all of Margaret's advice in this thread. He can only take over if you let him. You can still be "the gracious hostess" with boundaries I think using Margaret's tips. And if they decide to go elsewhere, well that's on them. Not on you. Anyone who tells you differently in your family that it's your fault or tries to blame you for his decisions, can frankly suck it. Please don't let them ruin your day. (And you are't the only one who dreams of leaving for the holidays.) 

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I am sorry you are going through this, but I am seriously confused. Why on Earth did you invite him if you resent it so much that he is actually accepting your invitation? Guests should not have to acknowledge that they are a burden; guests should feel like the host considers it a JOY to have them.

If you know having him won't work for you, you shouldn't have issued the insincere invitation in the hopes that he will decline.

ETA: We have hosted all kinds of dietary restrictions by offering modular meals where  everybody can choose which components they wish to eat. If your house needs to be gluten free, you can prepare a variety of gluten free dishes for people to pick from. I cannot think of a dietary restriction that makes gluten free foods forbidden - you can feed anybody from carnivores and vegans without having gluten in the foods.

Edited by regentrude
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I get it.  It's good to be generous with family.  This often involves hosting events for large groups: although an extended family gathering enhances the holidays, it also can be a burden at the same time.  This especially seems so when the host/hostess is taken for granted without, often, any acknowledgement of the amount of work, or an offer to help, or any display of appreciation from the family.  I did this for years because family was family.  But when I said I couldn't do it alone anymore, the rest of the family just dropped me and went off and did their own individual celebrations. It hurt that no one cared enough to step up to continue the traditions if they had to share in the work. However, I could no longer be the sole provider of traditions; I had to let the idea go completely when it seemed like I was the only one that valued the gatherings enough to host, organize, etc.  So our new tradition is just our "nuclear" family for the holidays - it's different, a little sad, but it is what it is. 

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You already knew what kind of a person he was, so, his reaction that he is doing you a favor should not be a surprise to you.

If you issued the original invitation because you thought that your mom would be upset if he were left out, then, insist that your mom make up for his lack of contribution! Let her bring in extra dishes to cater to his GF and let her bring plates and silverware. If your mom has been in denial about your brother's non-cooperation, this brings the issue out into the open. Also ask your mom to help clean up because the GF, brother and his guests will not help. Other than that, cook whatever you were going to cook before this happened, just make more of the same dishes and let your mother deal with any special diet requests from your brother's guests.

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It sounds like your brother has no manners.

That is not your problem unless you let it be. 

It sounds like your parents might enjoy or cater to or maybe even like him more than you.

That plays into it, and makes his lack of manners rankle even worse.

That is also not your problem unless you let it be.

To be clear:  He is a jerk, and your parents are being unkind/taking you for granted/insensitive at best.  Those are nasty things.  I totally get that, and you have my sympathy.

So what are you going to do about them?  My suggestion would be to take the wind out of everyone's sails by rising above it all as if you didn't even notice all the weirdness.  You could say, "Glad you can come!  If you'd like to bring some wine, I'd be delighted, but if not, no problem."  That way you're steering them to something you can use then or later, and away from anything that you can't consume in your household.  Also, you get to take satisfaction in being the gracious host.  (BTW, don't count on them bringing wine.  Have what you want to serve.  You can always use it later.)

You have over a month to figure out how to accommodate the crowd.  If people bring food as a 'hostess gift' you can stash it in the basement and toss it later or give it to a neighbor.  You have no obligation to serve it.  If they criticize you to your face, which is unlikely but possible, you can say, "Yes, it was so nice of you to bring us that gift.  I'm sure we will enjoy having it later in the week." and then either change the subject or walk away.  You are, after all, the host.  

I encourage you to take pride and satisfaction in being the hostess with the mostest, which you clearly are; bearing in mind that your celebrations are going to be memorable for your kids for the rest of their lives.  Put your focus there, not on the idiot with no manners.  The fact that your brother is spoiled and rude does not give him the right to space in your head.

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I just want to give an option...don't cook a 20 lb turkey instead of a 12 lb turkey bc of the increased number of people. Cook your 12 lb turkey the day/night before, slice it up and put in a roaster with broth and cover it good with tin foil. Then on Thanksgiving cook a big turkey breast (6-8lbs) and put your roaster in the oven the last 30-45 minutes or so. 

And best wishes. Holidays are so intense. 

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In my family it would go something like this,  "Uhhh, excuse me!  Did you seriously just announce you invited your GIRLFRIEND'S FAMILY to MY house for Thanksgiving without asking me first, after you already told me you could not come?  I cannot believe you just did that.  Have them over to YOUR house, YOU do thanksgiving with all the foods I don't allow in my house, and maybe in 6 months when I've forgotten what a selfish jerk you are being now we'll talk about the rules of basic civility adults generally follow for holiday invitations.  In the mean time, get lost!"

 

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19 minutes ago, Katy said:

In my family it would go something like this,  "Uhhh, excuse me!  Did you seriously just announce you invited your GIRLFRIEND'S FAMILY to MY house for Thanksgiving without asking me first, after you already told me you could not come?  I cannot believe you just did that.  Have them over to YOUR house, YOU do thanksgiving with all the foods I don't allow in my house, and maybe in 6 months when I've forgotten what a selfish jerk you are being now we'll talk about the rules of basic civility adults generally follow for holiday invitations.  In the mean time, get lost!"

 

OP says in the first post that she invited the GF's family.

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1 hour ago, regentrude said:

I am sorry you are going through this, but I am seriously confused. Why on Earth did you invite him if you resent it so much that he is actually accepting your invitation? Guests should not have to acknowledge that they are a burden; guests should feel like the host considers it a JOY to have them.

If you know having him won't work for you, you shouldn't have issued the insincere invitation in the hopes that he will decline.

 

 

I didn't hope he would decline when I invited him.  It was a sincere invitation and I was excited about the possibility of all being together for a holiday where we normally aren't.  I did not get resentful until his "I don't want to come but I am" acceptance.  I don't need anyone to grovel around acknowledging a burden - but I do think its rude to accept an invitation while making it clear that you don't want to come.  

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56 minutes ago, Carol in Cal. said:



I encourage you to take pride and satisfaction in being the hostess with the mostest, which you clearly are; bearing in mind that your celebrations are going to be memorable for your kids for the rest of their lives.  Put your focus there, not on the idiot with no manners.  The fact that your brother is spoiled and rude does not give him the right to space in your head.

 

I appreciate the sentiment, and I promise that in the moment I will be lovely.  However I think that this behavior is causing my problem.  Because if I always do it, and do it well, then nobody else ever has to contribute.  They know that I will rise to the occasion, play nice, and have everything done at a high standard.  If I were the unreliable one nobody would expect anything from me.

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3 hours ago, SquirrellyMama said:

I get why you're furious with your brother. I have a brother like this, so I totally feel your pain. I would probably host dinner and tell him off the next day.

I would, however, be careful taking what he said about gf's family as truth. You never know how he worded the invitation to them or what their response actually was. I imagine I'll need to be really careful with things like this with my son. He is so good at twisting words intentionally and unintentionally.

Kelly


I could see this too. I have very serious expectations for how Christmas will go. But while I enjoy spending Thanksgiving with family, I don't have any strong traditions around it, and can "go with the flow" pretty easily. I can see someone who is tactless saying I would come because "I don't care" about Thanksgiving. 

OP, I *completely* understand why you are so upset. But I do agree with many that (after this year at least) you have to do something to change it. If there truly is no way to get him to bring safe foods, then I would only provide Thanksgiving for my own immediate family, citing the fact that it is just too much work. 

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1 hour ago, Caraway said:

 

I appreciate the sentiment, and I promise that in the moment I will be lovely.  However I think that this behavior is causing my problem.  Because if I always do it, and do it well, then nobody else ever has to contribute.  They know that I will rise to the occasion, play nice, and have everything done at a high standard.  If I were the unreliable one nobody would expect anything from me.

You don't have to choose between perfect hostess and unreliable.

You can choose to establish boundaries, decide for yourself what you will do and what you will not do and stick to it.

I think you are feeling like you are being walked on like a doormat. People of course should not take advantage of you or take your efforts for granted, feeling frustrated when they do so is entirely understandable. You can't control them though, only yourself.

This time, you probably need to just suck it up and host everybody you invited.

Next time, including Christmas this year, choose yourself what things you actually want to contribute or participate in. Choose the things that are important enough to you personally that you want to do them even if your efforts are not acknowledged or appreciated by others.

You have the right to say no to any demands or requests. You do not have to give in to pressure to do what you have always done or what someone else wants.

It may cause stress on some family relationships, but then feeling like your family are using you as a doormat causes stress on family relationships. 

Edited by maize
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1 hour ago, Caraway said:

 

I didn't hope he would decline when I invited him.  It was a sincere invitation and I was excited about the possibility of all being together for a holiday where we normally aren't.  I did not get resentful until his "I don't want to come but I am" acceptance.  I don't need anyone to grovel around acknowledging a burden - but I do think its rude to accept an invitation while making it clear that you don't want to come.  

 

Why don't you just tell him how you feel, and let him know that if he would rather stay home, that’s exactly what he should do — and he can host his GF and her family at his own house, where they will undoubtedly have a much better time? Be sure he knows he has no obligation to spend the holiday at your house when you know he doesn’t want to be there. 

Of course, you would phrase it like you were doing him a big favor by telling him he shouldn’t come. 😉

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5 hours ago, Caraway said:

I have always hosted holidays. 

 

Until recently my brother has lived out of state.  He has never been married, has no kids, has a lot of disposable income and very few responsibilities. Everyone is thrilled with whatever time he chooses to spend with the group because he is "the fun one".  He has recently moved back into the state and moved in with his GF.  So now he is "here" but that hasn't changed the dynamic with our parents where I am the one who does everything and he is the one that should be catered to at all times.

I invited him, his GF, and her family to Thanksgiving, which he has not previously attended.  I was trying to be inclusive and nice.   Now he says that travel plans have fallen through and all of them will be attending Thanksgiving at my house.  He has told me this as though he is doing me a giant favor.  Also that Christmas time will be limited since GF doesn't want to spend that much time with us.  

I'm furious.  This addition doubles (triples?) my workload and that's before I get to the fact that they have different dietary restrictions than us and I don't own enough plates and forks.  My people pleasing self is trying to rise to the occasion, but I cannot get over how much my feelings are hurt.  An acknowledgement of the amount of work, or an offer to help, or any display of appreciation at being included, would have gone a long way.  Now I'm just stuck doing a ton of work for a bunch of people who don't want to be there???  He said that her family was willing to come because they didn't really care about the holiday in the first place.  And the reduction at Christmas means that he is reducing HIS obligation to our parents but not mine.

I feel like I can't confront him in a productive way.  Any time I stand up for myself everyone acts like I am a giant b**** and can't understand why I can't just be flexible.  This occurs as they are eating food I've cooked, drinking wine I've bought, and are staying in my house.  I'm considering complaining to my mother but I don't know that I can handle whatever her response is.  The last "situation" occurred for a smaller holiday when my brother announced at *9 pm the night before* that he and GF would be attending and that she couldn't eat the thing we were serving.  I am too much of a perfectionist to handle this dynamic.  I told my mother that if she wanted to see him she could host, which she did, but not until she had lectured me on how we all need to rise to the occasion to accommodate him.  

I would be happy to leave the country for the holidays but my husband and kids don't want to give up traditions.  

How would you handle this???

 

you're my sister?  

I'd suggest  a: reading up on boundaries, and b: how to handle a narcissist.

I suggest a new tradition - start assigning people to bring things. put together a menu, send it out, as who wants to bring what?  (incl. what YOU will do, and let them know htat is ALL you are doing.  they must bring their own serving dish as they will have a better idea of what will fit their item and you can't guarantee you'll have enough dishes.) 

my sil would do paper plates.  I balked one year - and my mil went out and bought paper plates and plastic utensils so my sil could host. . . .. .at my house, it was china, silver, crystal.  did I mention my sil's house is easily 1/3 bigger than mine?

If I'm understanding correctly, you did invite him, he declined, then changed his mind.  You could tell him since he hadn't been able to come, you've made new plans and you're so sorry, but it will no longer work for them to come to your house.  I understand if you already have family (parents) coming, you might not be able to get away it.  

are the food issues legit  (i'd be more sympathetic), preference, or going with whatever is currently popular?

if this is just gf's "preferences" I'd firmly state- that you're so sorry, but since you can't guarantee the food will be free of the contaminants that gf can't eat, she should bring her own food.  You'd hate for her to be ill because she ate something she couldn't have.  (if it's just preferences, and they try to weasel out of bringing food for her - insist upon her brining her own food because you just wouldn't be able to live with yourself if she got ill eating something at your house that she wasn't supposed to have._.  be firm.)  you're very sorry (try not to choke on that), but you are just so concerned for her welfare.  - -- if the food issues are legit, I'd say something similar, but I'd be more sympathetic.  (that she actually came out and said she "doesn't want to spend time with his family for Christmas" doesn't reflect well on her.)

my brother did something similar last year -  I refuse to invite him for a holiday (our mother is deceased), so I invited him to dinner a week before Christmas.  He not only didn't bring his new wife, he brought his "brother from another mother" instead.  with no notice. and was his usual jerky self while I was trying to make polite conversation with his friend.

does your mother actually entertain him, is she in the same room as him - the whole time, when she's "hosting" - or does she spend so much time in the kitchen/etc. she doesn't really see how rude he is to other people?  or is she one of those "old fashioned" women who think men can do know wrong, and women must put up with it?   (dh was like this with one of his relatives.  who is a "sparkly" - and many people think she is "fun".  when he was forced to be in the same room as that person, he changed his tune from "we all have to get along" to, not wanting to spend holidays with them.  finally, he saw what we'd been complaining about for years.)

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If he truly said he doesn’t want to come but he is anyway, I would have no problem telling him that the holiday is a lot of work for you but that you do it because you enjoy being around family. So if he doesn’t want to come, don’t come!  If he got snippy I might go as far as actually I uninviting him.  

But if he is coming, it’s also ok to tell him that your house is GF and that’s non-negotiable. If he wants to bring food it has to be GF.   But you have your hands full w your menu so if they have their own dietary issues they need to bring their own. GF. 

What might they want that your kids can’t have but that you’d be sad to tell your kids no? I would assume you have to monitor your kids’ food everywhere so they are probably used to hearing they can’t have things served at a birthday party, etc. 

As for plates, I’d probably ask someone to bring some of their plates and silverware. 

‘Hope it works out and you can enjoy the holiday.

Edit: Ignore my gluten free comments. It’s been a long day and I read GF enough that in my mind I switched it from girlfriend to GF.  

Edited by Annie G

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18 minutes ago, Catwoman said:

 

Why don't you just tell him how you feel, and let him know that if he would rather stay home, that’s exactly what he should do — and he can host his GF and her family at his own house, where they will undoubtedly have a much better time? Be sure he knows he has no obligation to spend the holiday at your house when you know he doesn’t want to be there. 

Of course, you would phrase it like you were doing him a big favor by telling him he shouldn’t come. 😉

I had a relative invite three more people, because they had no where else to go.  I was bursting at the seams at that point, and flat out said - we don't have room, and can't accommodate them.  they threatened to not come if they couldn't bring their friends'.   "fine, have a nice time."   - they dropped the friends, and came without them.

maybe suggest a restaurant that is doing thanksgiving/Christmas and that they'd be happier there with just gf's family.

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Even I, suffering as I am from family alienation due to politics and church disenchantment and 40-something "over-it-ness", cannot see rescinding an invitation to a family holiday meal. Even if he was ungracious, think what will happen if the golden child is turned away...I got a definite sense from the original post that pleasing Mom is about half the battle here. I envision dominoes falling. Don't do it like this. Get through the Thanksgiving* but then scale THIS Christmas all the way back to what you actually want. They'll all have plenty of time to make alternate plans. And don't get sucked in, next year.

*The suggestion upthread to accept off-the-menu foods as hostess gifts was good. If they insist that, "No, that's our favorite thing your family can't eat, we thought we'd just consume it right in front of you, at your dinner, table" tell them that you couldn't allow menu changes at this point so they may store it in the pantry until after the party.

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So what would happen if you did rescind the invitations?  For everyone outside of your obvious, living-in-your-house or on-your-payroll-nuclear-family. As in if you said something like "I'm so sorry to do this, but it looks like we will be unable to host for everyone after all! I apologize, but hopefully as it's six weeks away it's not too much of an inconvenience." and just leave it at that. What would happen then? Obviously GF's family isn't going to quiz you and I doubt your brother will. He seems too self absorbed to bother to ask why. Which I'm guessing leaves your Mom? But what if you told her it was simply too overwhelming? Would that make you feel like a weight was lifted or would you feel bad for not hosting? 

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35 minutes ago, Æthelthryth the Texan said:

So what would happen if you did rescind the invitations?  For everyone outside of your obvious, living-in-your-house or on-your-payroll-nuclear-family. As in if you said something like "I'm so sorry to do this, but it looks like we will be unable to host for everyone after all! I apologize, but hopefully as it's six weeks away it's not too much of an inconvenience." and just leave it at that. What would happen then? Obviously GF's family isn't going to quiz you and I doubt your brother will. He seems too self absorbed to bother to ask why. Which I'm guessing leaves your Mom? But what if you told her it was simply too overwhelming? Would that make you feel like a weight was lifted or would you feel bad for not hosting? 

Even Miss Manners, whom I have consulted on the topic of family dinners and holidays, would be OK with this. Nobody is singled out; it's about you and your needs.  In six weeks' time, anyone could host a Thanksgiving dinner, or there are a million restaurant and takeaway options, if nobody but you can cook.

This is a good point, that there is no real reason to wait until next time to stop this tradition, if you are down to your last nerve about it. 

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I don’t see where anyone is not wanting to spend thanksgiving with you.  I think you may be reading something more into your brothers words.

  I’m envisioning the girlfriends parents meant something along the lines of ‘it’s not a holiday where we have strong family traditions, so sure we’d like to go meet your family.’   Thanksgiving for me is definitely a holiday where I don’t mind switching things up since I’m not tied to any particular traditions or sentiment (unlike Christmas).

And girlfriend thinks Christmas is this week long event, and her family has strong Christmas traditions, I could see her expressing some doubts to your brother as to how long she’d want to hang out with his family vs hers. Or she may be envisioning new traditions just the two of them, and putting a foot down early.

I also didn’t see him request any special food for thanksgiving.  I think you sound more overwhelmed with hosting every year and the whole family, not just him. This is just what broke the camels back.

i would say great, glad you can make it.  

Keep to your menu.  If anyone asks for something else, just say this is our menu.  I’m pretty overwhelmed as it is and my kids have allergies I need to be very careful of.  That’s why I host. 

And then rethink Christmas.  Be honest with your family.  They may think the current traditions are important to you because of your kids.  Say- I’m overwhelmed.  Families have grown.  This is getting too expensive and time consuming and so much work.  I can’t host anyone anymore Christmas week, though I’m happy to have Christmas dinner here (or pick something you’d still like to do that week).  How far apart does everyone live?  It seems in the past you wanted everyone to do Christmas at your house because of the kids?    Maybe they’d be glad to stay home and have their own traditions.  Suggest you all start new family traditions and take turns that week hosting dinner.  Or maybe just get together that one day.  Start with honesty and maybe everyone can talk about what’s important to them.  They really may have no clue how you feel.  And if they don’t host, have no clue how much work goes on behind the scenes.

i hope you enjoy the holidays 🙂

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Thanks for all of the comments. It has actually helped a lot to just think about why I’m mad.

I think at the root of all of it I feel a lot of obligation (reinforced by guilt). My childhood was a long lesson in the need to be high achieving, preferably without ever asking for help or inconveniencing anyone else. Over the years when I have asked for help or asked someone else to do something I am always let down, which reinforces my belief that I have to do it all myself.

I want approval and love and to feel like I matter. And apparently the only way I can get that is by killing myself to provide everyone’s holiday fantasy. When my brother managed to increase the workload while simultaneously devaluing the work – 38 years of resentment slammed to the forefront.

I love him, and genuinely want him around. I am also profoundly jealous of him and his life and his ability to be so self absorbed. I don’t necessarily want to BE him, but I never get to make a decision that doesn’t involve other people. My life is very much lived in the margins of what is left over and his is not.

I guess my bratty inner child is also really angry that I was told that I had to be “good” and “play by the rules” in order to be rewarded with a good life. It is hard to see a sibling ignore all the rules and be living a life of freedom. And that his teflon-like ability to avoid responsibility means that all family issues fall in my lap. For years we have operated under the farce that if only he were local he would help with our parents. Now it is clear that he doesn’t help because he doesn’t want to, which leaves me and my highly developed sense of obligation to navigate aging parents by myself.  Plus when I do push back on his behavior with them they tell me that I need to try harder.  Because apparently everyone involved is clear on the fact that he can't be changed but I can be guilted.

 I start thinking of how all of the other people involved are retired, childless, obligation free, and how I’m doing all the things for all the people and I get really angry.

And then a child sidles up and says “I’m really glad you’re doing Thanksgiving because you make all the foods I like!” and I feel like I don’t want to disappoint my kids, but I’m also not teaching great lessons about self worth, and I don’t know where the boundary is. Clearly when my parents are dead I am going to wish that I hosted all of the Thanksgivings for everyone always – but right now I just want someone else to deal with it all.

Thank you all for the ideas, suggestions, and sympathy.

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18 minutes ago, matrips said:

I don’t see where anyone is not wanting to spend thanksgiving with you.  I think you may be reading something more into your brothers words.

  I’m envisioning the girlfriends parents meant something along the lines of ‘it’s not a holiday where we have strong family traditions, so sure we’d like to go meet your family.’   Thanksgiving for me is definitely a holiday where I don’t mind switching things up since I’m not tied to any particular traditions or sentiment (unlike Christmas).

And girlfriend thinks Christmas is this week long event, and her family has strong Christmas traditions, I could see her expressing some doubts to your brother as to how long she’d want to hang out with his family vs hers. Or she may be envisioning new traditions just the two of them, and putting a foot down early.

I also didn’t see him request any special food for thanksgiving.  I think you sound more overwhelmed with hosting every year and the whole family, not just him. This is just what broke the camels back.

i would say great, glad you can make it.  

Keep to your menu.  If anyone asks for something else, just say this is our menu.  I’m pretty overwhelmed as it is and my kids have allergies I need to be very careful of.  That’s why I host. 

And then rethink Christmas.  Be honest with your family.  They may think the current traditions are important to you because of your kids.  Say- I’m overwhelmed.  Families have grown.  This is getting too expensive and time consuming and so much work.  I can’t host anyone anymore Christmas week, though I’m happy to have Christmas dinner here (or pick something you’d still like to do that week).  How far apart does everyone live?  It seems in the past you wanted everyone to do Christmas at your house because of the kids?    Maybe they’d be glad to stay home and have their own traditions.  Suggest you all start new family traditions and take turns that week hosting dinner.  Or maybe just get together that one day.  Start with honesty and maybe everyone can talk about what’s important to them.  They really may have no clue how you feel.  And if they don’t host, have no clue how much work goes on behind the scenes.

i hope you enjoy the holidays 🙂

This. Maybe at some point during the meal bring up how happy you are that brother now lives in the state and everyone gets to see him and his GF more, and you are looking forward to him taking a turn hosting family holiday celebrations. And ask him which one he would like next year? He probably needs to take on the responsibility in order to understand all of the work involved. Although he sounds like the type who might just try and get his GF to do most of the work.

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