Dear Ann Cannon • My son recently got married. When my kids were young, I was not good at traditions. Christmases were always fun, but for big things they usually spent time at their dad’s home. We were divorced and family events on his side of the family meant lots of family and lots of food. I don’t have a lot of family around and it was typically just me and my two kids and maybe my mom with small dinners and very little fanfare.
I have always worked and had little time to plan big birthdays and always gave my kids a choice of money and dinner out or a big birthday party. I knew if they chose the first one, I would save money in the end. They always chose the money.
Now my son is married. His wife is wonderful. Her parents are amazing and have embraced him as one of their own. I could not be happier for him. They have a tremendous amount of family in the area and holidays are celebrated big.
When he got married, I told him that his job was to make his wife happy, to do what she wants to do. I told him that I would never make him feel bad for choosing to spend holidays with her family. He could always come see me on another day or we could celebrate later.
When Easter came this year, I asked what his plans were. He said they were having a big family dinner on Saturday, so I planned a small dinner at my mom’s on Sunday and asked him and his wife to come. He agreed; plans were made. Saturday morning came and he told me that their plans had changed and that their family dinner was being moved to Sunday. I knew he and his wife really wanted to be there for their dinner. I told him it was fine to go with her family. I kept my promise — I wasn’t upset and didn’t make him feel bad. When I told my daughter they weren’t coming, however, she was irate and was upset with me because she really wanted them there.
In the end, I am still not hurt, not really. I empathize with my son and his wife. If I had a big family dinner with all of my cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents, that is where I would want to be, too. I just don’t know how to tell him (without guilting him or making him feel like he has to) that we’d like it if he just chose us sometimes because he wants to be with us. Choose us, I want to say, and make us feel like we are as important to you as the big giant group of people.
Sometimes we give our kids too much freedom, thinking they will ultimately make the right choice — but what if we just gave them an out and they never look back?
Dear Wondering • Your letter exhibits a great deal of kindness ... and maybe more pain than you’re willing to acknowledge. The fact is, you do want your son to share holidays with you, as well as with his in-laws. There’s nothing wrong or selfish about that desire. Because you’ve given him so much space, however, he may not be aware of your feelings.
Bottom line? Don’t wait around for him and his wife to figure things out on their own. It’s not really fair to expect them to read your mind. Tell them, instead, how you feel, i.e., that you want to spend time with them because you love them both and enjoy their company.