Dear Robin: My Divorced Parents Make the Holidays Hell
Monday, November 10, 2014
My parents divorced 3 years ago and both are once again driving me crazy regarding the holidays. I am married with one child and my husband and I are hosting Thanksgiving this year which is great, except both my parents have told me they want to come but only if I can promise not to invite the other.
I'm sick of being put in the middle but I also hate the idea of one or both of them being lonely on a holiday. I'd like some good advice on how to deal with them this holiday season and for all the future ones as well. I'm sure things like this get easier over time, but how do I solve my holiday dilemma now?
Used to Love the Holidays
My condolences for the divorce of your parents, because they seem like equally terrible people who deserve one another.
Sigh. I'm trying to be more empathetic so let me try that again:
My condolences for the state of your parents' post-dissolution relationship and your position within their ongoing battle. They are acting like spoiled children and using you to wage their petty war on National Binge Eating Day is reprehensible.
As for empathy, I've got plenty for you. As a child of divorced parents I can tell you that the holiday season is the absolute most difficult time of the year for me, and I don't even have a lousy group of crybabies giving me ultimatums as you do.
What I do have are several family factions to juggle and it always seems that someone (including me) feels left out, hurt, ignored, and forgotten. How can we get through the 30 days of gluttony and irresponsible spending as unscathed as possible?
I'm not sure. I'm still working on that.
However, you came to me for advice and advice you shall receive. I've come up with a clever little ditty you should email to your parents. Please copy and paste what I've written below into an email with the subject line "Please Stop Hurting Each Other, and in Turn, Me"
"Dear Mom and Dad:
"You've been divorced for 3 years and it is time to move on from all the strife and unhappiness that you caused each other when you ended your marriage. Your refusal to attend family holiday events unless the other person is not invited is selfish and frankly, against several of Emily Post's rules.
"Please consider this email a 'cease and desist' order from your daughter who holds the jurisdiction to issue such orders because your behavior is extremely distressing to me and counterproductive to you both moving past the past and into a happy future.
"I love you both and this year I will invite you both (and a companion, if you like) to Thanksgiving. I will not tell either of you who is or is not attending, as that is my God given right as a fabulous hostess. I hope you can both find it in your hearts to forgive each other, remember why you married in the first place, and dig up a little good will from those memories to ensure we can all survive the holidays intact.
"I know you love me but I don't believe you have the slightest inkling how hurtful this situation has become for me and my family. Please get together and have a talk about how you can be civil in each other's company from now on, or you will find yourselves both without an invite from me in the future.
Your Daughter Who Used to Love the Holidays"
I see three possibilities here:
1. If you are lucky, both will respond positively and you can start building new traditions with your reorganized family. Mazel tov! You are now cleared for holiday takeoff. Please stow your emotional baggage underneath the seat in front of you, because luckily from now on it will be just that tiny!
2. If your luck falls more on the average side, one will agree and the other will demur and issue a list of reasons why the other parent sucks and they wouldn't cross the street to urinate on them in the event of an unfortunate spontaneous combustion incident. If this is the case, I see no reason why you need to invite them to family functions any longer if you want your other parent present.
This type of bitter intractability is especially troubling when the other person is extending an olive branch and saying "hey, can't we all just get along?" That parent cares more about nursing their grudges with a Florence Nightingale-like fervor and as such no longer deserves an invitation until he or she can drop a few pounds of resentment and self-centeredness.
3. If you are unlucky, they will both respond in a negative manner and have similar reservations towards extinguishing their ex-spouse’s bodily conflagration. In this case (and you do have my sympathies), find yourself a nice older couple to stand in for your parents each year. I think you can find them on craigslist, but please get references before you let New Grandpa hold the baby.
All joking aside, if both refuse to come to the table then both should lose their place at the table. And you should consider going out of town once in a while during the holidays, because I have found that this type of stuff does not get easier over the years, it gets harder. You may as well be depressed somewhere sunny.
I wish you all the best and if your parents aren’t coming for Thanksgiving, please invite me. I’m quite charming and I'll bring the pie.
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