BRENT STOLLER

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Advice for the Modern Man: It’s a Wonderful Life

Christmas Fireworks

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(Questions have been modified for space and clarity.)

I am one of three kids, and we all live at least five hours away from each other and our parents, who are retired. For the past several Christmases, we have rotated hosting duties among the siblings, as we all have small children, and my parents drive in for the celebration.

This past summer, my mother mentioned how she’d like us to visit her on Christmas once in a while, so she and my father wouldn’t have to drive so much. I discussed this with my husband, and we decided to go there this year. I told my mother we were coming, and while she thought it was great, she said I would need to make sure it was OK with my sister, since it’s my sister’s turn to host.

I thought it should be up to my mom to tell my sister of the change, but I decided to go ahead and do it. Sure enough, my sister was not happy, as this was “her year.” Honestly, I’m irritated by that response, as well as with my mother for putting me in that position. I feel like I’m trying to do my parents a favor, and yet I’m the one who’s now catching grief. 

At this point, I feel like skipping Christmas altogether and taking my kids to Harry Potter World.  

Are my parents/sister justified in their actions? Am I actually the unreasonable one here? Or should I just head south to get away from this family drama?
–Trying To Be Nice; Cary, NC

Joy and laughter. Eggnog and mistletoe. Sleigh bells jingling and ring-ting-tingling too. These are what the holidays are supposed to be about, yet sadly they too often get overrun by arguments and annoyance, (perceived) slights and hurt feelings.

While I believe your parents and sister are justified in their feelings, I don’t believe they’re justified in their actions.

I get why your sister is upset. There’s been a Christmas hosting rotation in place for some time, and she’s been looking forward to 2016’s celebration for almost three years. Now, out of nowhere, that plan is under threat.

And I get why your parents want a change. Driving (at minimum) 10 hours round-trip each year is a burden, especially as they get older. So it makes sense they’d be longing for a reprieve.

What I don’t get is how you ended up in the middle of this. Why isn’t this disagreement being sorted out by your mother (who requested the change) and sister (who’s opposing it)?

Regardless of the reason, you’ve unfairly become a corner of this family love triangle, which has pushed the fate of your holiday season to the brink.

We know where your mother and sister stand. But what about you? What do you want for Christmas?

As I see it, you have three choices…

Go to your parents’ house

This would be a nice gesture. For the past however many years, they have put you and your siblings’ needs/comforts above their own, and it probably is time to return the favor. That your mother felt compelled enough to mention it shows just how much it would mean to her. And it’s always wise to do nice things for your mother.

Of course, this would further divide the family — literally and figuratively. You’d earn your corner on that love triangle, as you’d be picking your parents over your sister. (At least that’s how your sister would interpret it.) What’s now just a minor tiff could devolve into something more, and that could lead to long(er)-term strain.

Go to your sister’s house

This is the safest, path-of-least-resistance option. Assuming you can get your parents to still make the drive, it’d be business as planned. Your sister would get to host, the family would get to celebrate together and you’d live to fight another day.

It also would give you leverage to create a compromise that could appease everyone going forward. While it’s been convenient to have your parents’ make these drives each year, it’s not unreasonable to add them to the hosting rotation. I understand it’s hard to travel with small kids, but those kids won’t be small forever.

Plus, you’d all be able to talk about and settle on whatever changes and arrangements you’d like to implement well before next year’s Christmas, so no one would get the rug pulled out from under them again.

Go to Harry Potter World

This feels like a last-resort option, despite the fact that the last thing you probably want to do now is be around your family. There’s discontent everywhere, and somehow it’s become your responsibility to alleviate it. Why wouldn’t you flee to an amusement park?

But while the pressure’s cranked up at the moment, it won’t stay that way. Tensions ease, hurt feelings heal and bridges get rebuilt.

The key is to get this issue resolved sooner than later, so the healing process can begin. Take care of things now, and by the time December rolls around, this drama will no longer be visible in anyone’s rearview mirror. You’ll all be too happy sitting around together, watching the kids open presents and making the most of each other’s company.

That said, if you can’t get everyone on the same page quickly, there’s no harm in looking into flights to Orlando.

What do you think? What advice would you give this reader? Have any holiday horror stories of your own? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

This article originally appeared on the Good Men Project.

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