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Young Children at Christmas - should older / pushy relatives come to their home?

(26 Posts)
KathrynK73 Mon 03-Oct-16 17:34:56

Interested in people's thoughts on this.

On Christmas day do families with young children (mine are aged 5 & 8) sit tight and if (pushy) extended family want to see them then they need to travel where the kids are?

My quandry is described below!
I have pushy, teflon coated in-laws (mother and sister in law. Sis in law is married but chosen not to have children). My dafault view on christmas day is for families with young children extended family should ideally travel to where the children are (my parent's approach except when my grandparents became old/we had left home/gone to uni). I understand all families are different, and will be flexible, but am feeling a bit nervous about the predicament I now find myself in as it potentially could set a precedent.

My pushy sister in law has invited us over on Christmas day (children aged 5 & 8) should I bite her hand off as she will have all the work catering?! My mother in law simply does not have the stamina to host so is dependent (and probably emotionally blackmail my sis in law to do this but I don''t get too involved in this!). Sounds great BUT....

My SIL has pitched her offer to host as follows: she wants the children (and us) to come to hers for a first 'special' christmas in new 'show home no kids' house and for her in-laws and my pushy mother in law to be entertained by our hopefully cute young children. On probing there are no spare beds (the 70 & 80 year olds will have these) so my husband and I will be on the floor.

My sister in law is an utter stress head/ control freak so will spend hours in the kitchen prepping christmas dinner and NOT playing with her nephews (our experience 3 years ago was she had only 20 mins free as her catering standards are so high).

I have visions of a stressed out sis in law, older generations (70's & mid 80's) not used to over excited young children combined with trying to get the kids (and us) all sitting around a lunchtime dinner table together. It feels me with horror. (Personally I would not choose to spend christmas day with my SIL hosting her in law's for the first time but recognise it is just one day in the grand scheme of things & it is the time of goodwill to all men and women after all?!)

At the moment my view is to opt out of Xmas dinner and say we are turning up mid afternoon for leftovers? However mindful that this would mean just over a 2 hour return journey on Xmas day for the children, mean our family christmas is squeezed (as I will do a simple roast for lunch before heading off for our 1+hr drive) and potentially set a precedent for future years (ie it's reasonable to expect us to travel if they want to see the kids on christmas day). There's no recognition from my SIL that she just left her mother for the last 2 christmas' for us to do the running around either (more about this later).

For a quiet life (and to be reasonable) I think this may be the best course but am interested in suggestions as how not to get in the situation again. What message do I need to be sending to my push sister and mother in law about the next 5 years?!!! My husband is assertive but is erring on a quiet life / easy option for this year but I think a conversation does need to be had (by him or me) and would life some help please!

I am a flexible person but it's a balance between the children and older generation. I also don't want to set a precedent for future years (i.e. every alternate years the kids are just expected to travel to where my MIL and SIL think is reasonable).

Historically, I have tried to alternate christmas between my family and the in-laws. For the last 2 years my sister in law 'dumped' her mother on us and my husband has been expected to be a taxi service. My sister in law has married a Austrian who historically has flown home to spend the 24 & 25 with his family. (SIL reasons are (i) first christmas with her fiancee in mainland europe following their engagement (as hubby always spends Xmas with his family) and (ii) their first christmas as a married couple with his family again.

Thoughts please!

ImperialBlether Mon 03-Oct-16 17:38:52

So your sister in law is now married but isn't spending Christmas with her new husband? Why not?

Where would you rather be? Her idea of Christmas sounds horrific. I would think your kids would prefer to be in their own home, wouldn't they?

Randytortoise Mon 03-Oct-16 17:45:34

When ds1 was born I decided that if any one wanted to see us at Christmas they had to come to us. I am more than happy to cater for anyone who wants to come but I won't drag the DC around on Christmas day visiting. Fil alternates around his 3 grown up children and my parents generally alternate between hosting my sister and everyone coming to me .

shouldwestayorshouldwego Mon 03-Oct-16 17:46:56

I would politely decline but say that they are welcome through gritted teeth to come to you on boxing day.

KathrynK73 Mon 03-Oct-16 18:04:54

My sister in law is spending christmas with her husband. Change is this year that his parents are travelling over to their new home in London. Hence this negates the need for him (or them as a married couple) to travel to Austria. I do not intend to enquire as to their thoughts as to how they juggle their christmas between two aging sets of parents going forward! However for this year they have decided, as a couple, to host all the oldies!

First year after having DD, we did the travelling around thing. Not happening again. We get the guilt trip from MIL and FIL (both fairly young and totally capable of driving to us) and SIL and BIL (who don't have children but that's a whole different thread), but they can easily drive to us and visit us. I'm not dragging a 2-year-old on a 2 hour car journey on Christmas day.

Put your foot down and say no. It sounds miserable.

Whatsername17 Mon 03-Oct-16 18:15:08

I'd decline the invite and spend Christmas at home. Christmas is about making it special for your kids. They are very young and are at the perfect age for it to magical. You have had your dhs mum for the last two years, it's your turn now. Arrange to go up on boxing day to visit everyone, take a turkey pie. But don't drag your kids from their home on Christmas day. And don't feel bad at all.

SaladDressing Mon 03-Oct-16 18:20:01

When DC was born I also said no travelling. Anyone is welcome to come and visit or stay but I wasn't hauling a baby 200 miles around the country.

We've had some lovely Christmases at home with grandparents, aunties and uncles all staying for varying lengths of time and it's been fairly relaxed.

This year a few things have changed (new baby elsewhere etc) and we are on our own for Christmas but that's fine although it'll be different and we'll see family either before or after. What you can't do is refuse to visit and then moan if you are 'home alone'.

In your shoes I would probably suggest that you travel over on Boxing Day or the 27th, maybe stay one night, and even suggest a pub lunch or similar so that SIL doesn't have to get stressed out in the kitchen.

DelphiniumBlue Mon 03-Oct-16 18:27:07

I suspect that Christmas dinner with 4 oldies, house-proud SIL, and 2 over-excited boys in a show home will end in tears! Unless they are the sort of children to happily play board games/cards/do something arty but non-messy from craft kits and the oldies are the sort to do it with them. Possibly lego kits?
If there's little chance that the oldies will willingly help entertain the |DC, then they are likely to be bouncing off the walls and spilling things, you will be hot and embarrassed, and SIL will be doing her nut.
It might be possible to do the afternoon trip, especially if there is a park or walk on the way,( near SIL's house) so that they have a chance to run off steam after the car journey, AND you limit the time you spend there ( you have to get home for DC's bedtime), but as you say, this could set up a precedent.
I think on balance I'd go for the afternoon trip, and if it's too stressful or interferes with your enjoyment of xmas day, then next year you could just say that it didn't work for you. I think something has to happen at least twice before it becomes a precedent!
FWIW, I don't think it does children any harm to have accommodate oldies for a short amount of time, it's just the all day thing that is likely to be very trying, for you more than anyone.

DelphiniumBlue Mon 03-Oct-16 18:28:18

Sorry, I assumed boys, but on re-reading I don't think you said that they were.

Whatsername17 Mon 03-Oct-16 18:31:29

And for parity, my inlaws and parents live 15-20 minutes away from us. We always used to go to my ils for the morning (arriving at 6am as per their request so we could do Christmas the way dh and his siblings did as kids) and my parents for dinner. After having dd we did this for two years and then I had enough because we never got to relax. The following year we got guilt tripped into going to the ils for breakfast still but we hosted my parents. They made it difficult for us to leave (emotional blackmail) so my first attempt at cooking Christmas lunch for my family was almost ruined and I was late serving. Last year we hosted the ils for dinner and one of dhs sisters was most unhappy as she did not want to break with tradition. She reluctantly agreed to come but it was a stress. My parents popped up in the morning so it took the pressure off because we had the morning at home and there was plenty of time in between visitors to play with dd. Id found out that I'd lost my baby two days before and was waiting to miscarry, so Christmas was horrendous anyway, but because everyone came to us it was much less stressful as a day. From now on we are doing as follows: dinner with one set of parents - either we will go to them or they can come to us. If the other set want to see us they can pop in during the morning. That way we get plenty of family time and dd will get to play at home for a good portion of the day. This year we are going to my parents as I'll be heavily pregnant and in the mood to be waited on by my parents! grin The ils have reluctantly agreed to this but sil2 is going to be upset with the break from tradition. Luckily sil1 wants to spend the morning just her, her dh and kids too so we have a bit of support there. Families are a nightmare!

Nerris Mon 03-Oct-16 18:35:13

Don't do it. It's not fair to drag children around on Christmas day, there's plenty of other opportunities for that during the xmas holidays.
Just say thanks but no thanks.

AnnieOnnieMouse Mon 03-Oct-16 18:36:41

Stay home! The alternative sounds like disaster in the making.

KathrynK73 Mon 03-Oct-16 18:46:28

DelphiniumBlue - Thanks for your contribution. Your onbservation was my default, and my husbands preference. Erring on this approach for a quiet life as taking time out on Xmas day would then mean no obligation for us to host (on boxing day) or visit SIL or MOL for the rest of the christmas hols. Also thinking that if our offer, for just popping in for a few hours and doing a 'eat the leftovers' in Xmas evening is not good enough for SIL we can then offer to host her on Boxing day.

Thinking from Xmas 2017 sticking to our guns and not travelling at all on the basis that the only reason we did it this year was because is was SIL first Xmas in new house will all 'her' extended family oldies. But how would you tackle SIL behaviour in so far as she deems it OK to disappear to Austria with her hubby for the last 2 Xmas and leave us to entertain/host her mother (my MIL)? I just thinking she is a classic 'Princess/Prima donna' and what the kindest approach is for my husband/me?

DelphiniumBlue Mon 03-Oct-16 19:21:10

Entertaining MIL over Xmas every year might be a harder issue to resolve.

Once this Christmas has passed, it might be best to have a chat with SIl and her Dh asking how they envisage undertake their share of the responsibility of looking after MIL. In some families I know, parents in law are sometimes invited by the other PIL - that can work if they get on. Otherwise, put it to her that you'll be seeing your own family every other year, so she'll have to come up with a plan for MIL as you can't do it every year.
When it's your turn to host MIL, think about how it could best work for you. If you and DH don't want to be ferrying MIL about, can you have her to stay with you for a few days/ sort taxis and explain that DH needs a break too?
I know my own Mum ( who is usually lovely) can be really' frugal' over stuff like ordering taxis on Xmas day. I've had to get quite strict, I think it's a generational thing. I had to spell it out that it's not fair on the driver, and that taxis are part of the expense of Xmas and can be ordered well in advance.
I never used to be so tough, it took my very forthright SIL to show me how to do it! It can be quite refreshing when people are upfront about what they can and can't do, and how far they are prepared to compromise. I do recommend working out with DH what your bottom line is, before you enter into discussions with anyone else. It actually makes negotiations easier if you can take the plunge and be honest, so that no-one is in any doubt about what's possible. Don't say "maybe" if you actually mean "no".

So my bottom line for years has been that I will be flexible with most things, but I want an hour for a walk on Christmas day, and that is planned into my schedule. When the DC were little, my bottom line was eating by a certain time otherwise they would get whingey. These days, we are prepared to pick people up ( if not too far away) but not drive them home as DH and I both want to be able to drink. These are non-negotiable.

In your shoes I'd be telling MIL that she can stay over or get a cab; my compromise might be making sure she has a comfy bed for the night, asking her has she any special requests,making sure there's somewhere she can go for a nap if she needs to.
Families are tricky, especially at Xmas - you want to spread goodwill etc, which means involving MIL even if she's difficult sometimes, but you also want to ensure your DC have a good time, and that you and DH are not completely worn out and actually get to enjoy at least some of Christmas!

girlywhirly Mon 03-Oct-16 19:29:24

I would be inclined to say that as there is nowhere for you to sleep and no sort of beds, you will not be coming to SILS on Christmas Day. Even if you go after lunch, one of you won't be able to have even one glass of wine with the meal or at SILS if you drive back home.

There is so much that old go wrong and I think it's a big ask expecting your DC to entertain the older people for the duration. Sil will be engrossed as you have seen before in her cooking, and if not that will be stressing about mess and dirt in her perfect home.

You don't really want to go and why should you? See them another day when you aren't tied to a meal time.

teaorwine Mon 03-Oct-16 21:27:32

We stay at home at Christmas, if people want to see us they come to us, rest of the year we travel to visit our families a lot more than they visit us.
At 5 and 8 they'll want to be playing with their toys, not being told not to touch things, be quiet, talk to strangers they'll have little interest in... I would suggest to your sill that you're not going to intrude on what should be a lovely day for the parents to get to know each other some more and you'll come over on the 26th...

Chillywhippet Mon 03-Oct-16 22:17:59

After a couple of years of alternating between parents' houses, we announced that we were staying put in future, that anyone was welcome at ours but we weren't driving the kids about on Christmas Day. I said that the lead up is so busy for us that we just want to be AT HOME.

MIL was upset, whined about it being easier for me if she did the cooking blah blah. She told me about her friend whose grown up, married son went to his Mum's for Christmas dinner whilst his wife and child went to his wife's mum, "Because it is wrong to split up families at Christmas." fconfused

We all got through it. When the kids were really small most of the dinner came from M&S. My mum and Mil love to come to us now. Good luck.

SpringerS Tue 04-Oct-16 10:13:36

Is it really less work to stay home and have people visit you? Our Christmas day goes like this. At 7ish we get up with DS to see what Santa has left. Once he's finished with that initial excitement we have some sort of fancy but very easy breakfast like waffles with fruit and cream and coffee/hot chocolate. Then we do a quick wash up and that's pretty much it for kitchen work, so we play/watch Christmas cartoons/skype relatives we won't see that day. In the late morning/noonish, my parents pop in and DS shows them his toys. Then we all drive to the river and walk our dogs together.

After that, I drop our dogs home and drive to my parents' house which is just a few minutes drive away. DS gets his gift from my parents which keeps him occupied while we do what needs to be done in the kitchen (which isn't much at this point). We have dinner, exchange gifts, fill the dishwasher and chill out, maybe Skype a few more people. Then around 5 we go to my grandmother's house where we have tea, lots of relatives pile in, more gifts are exchanged and we all have a good laugh. It's all super chilled out for me and extremely exciting for DS. Afterwards we might go back to my parents' house for a cup of tea before going home in the hope that DS will chill out a bit and I'll pop on his PJs in the hope that he'll fall asleep in the car on the way home.

I can't honestly see how having to cook and clean up would be easier and more chilled out. If guests came for dinner it would be more work. But if nobody came it would be super boring for DS. Going visiting seems like the lazy option.

BorpBorpBorp Tue 04-Oct-16 10:51:44

If you do go and stay overnight, would it make it easier to not be cooped up in the house all day with everyone else? Take the dc to the park in the morning while the meal prep madness is happening?

KathrynK73 Tue 04-Oct-16 13:46:35

Thank you ladies for your contributions. Have made the decision to make christmas special for the children this year and diplomatically thank Sil for her kind invitation however it just won't work mixing oldies and youngsters. It's more important she is able to deliver the christmas she wants and for the grandparent's to get to each other better without the interruption of children. In addition our Dc will want to spend quality time with their Auntie and that won't be an option as she will be do busy hosting the 'perfect' adult christmas. Like the idea of travelling over with turkey pie on boxing day whatername17 too! Or volunteering to host the inlaws on 26th or 27th at ours. Meanhile my focus is creating a lovely child centric christmas! Thank you for sharing your family dilema's too as it's made me feel as through I am not alone or being really unreasonable. Family relationships can be challenging and my job is to put my kids and Dh first. x P.s. Dh has agreed to Christmas spent together at home is the way forward and will be easier/less stressful!

Buttercupsandaisies Tue 04-Oct-16 15:00:34

Not read all thread but unless a mile or two away I wouldn't be travelling anywhere from Xmas eve to the day after Boxing Day. I travel to both ps on alternate Xmas and I'm happy to eat at theirs (the time taken to go over to there's etc is less than the time taken up cooking imo). But our family all live within 5 mile radius. There's no way I'd be willing to drive over 15-20 mins for anyone on any of those days

StubbleTurnips Tue 04-Oct-16 15:09:09

The only time I've ever seen DH stand up to my parents and his) is in regards to Christmas, first year with new DD he told them that Christmas is now about children and that means staying home for us. They're all welcome at ours for the day but we won't be schlepping round the houses entertaining everyone! It's worked a treat for 4 years now, even the year we had 16 for Christmas lunch shock grin

Humidseptember Tue 04-Oct-16 16:23:25

For the last 2 years my sister in law 'dumped' her mother on us and my husband has been expected to be a taxi service


It's more important she is able to deliver the christmas she wants and for the grandparent's to get to each other better without the interruption of children

smile Perfect!!! Well done, so heartening to hear people are able to stick up for themselves .

Dh has agreed to Christmas spent together at home is the way forward and will be easier/less stressful!


I hope you have a lovely xmas and enjoy it with your small dc, not nice for hours driving on the day.

In future make sure you take same approach to sil and that she doesn't use your dc to make things livelier etc....

Humidseptember Tue 04-Oct-16 16:24:47

stubble I am dreading this year too. I wish DH would stand up to his DP, last year we were run ragged between two sets of oldies ferrying the dc around. I feel like telling them all we have nasty case of novirus this year

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