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Going home for a visit - World War III might just erupt over the logistics. I need URGENT advice/help/valium/wine

(33 Posts)
PadmeHum Tue 14-Jun-11 00:17:12

My family (DH, 3 kids and I) will be flying from Australia to the UK at Christmastime. We have not seen my Dad since 2007 ? he doesn?t travel very well and is quite set in his ways, so it is unlikely that he will ever visit us in Australia (we have lived here and in South Africa since 2004).

Anyway, in order to get the cheapest fare possible at Christmas, we are flying on a multiple stop-over fare and stopping along the way. We will be flying into London on 23/12 where a dear friend has very kindly offered the use of her gorgeous flat in the centre of London (she is going overseas herself on 24/12). Mum and Dad live in Manchester and are expecting us to trek up from London on Xmas Eve. We have offered for them to drive down to London and stay with us but they point blank refuse ? on the grounds that Grandad won?t want to travel ? he is 83 but he is fit ? TBH I thought it would be a lovely outing for him and that they would have to find somebody to look after the dog.

Dad doesn?t really want us to stay with them ? they only have a tiny house and our 4,7 and 10 year old are quite noisy. However, they have acquiesced and agreed to us staying for 2 nights (Xmas Eve and Xmas Night, leaving Boxing Day). Mum has agreed that after that she will come down to London for a few days and she may come with us to France (our crazy routing has us flying back to Australia from Paris ? which suits us well as we want to spend a few days in Disneyland). She has offered to cook us a slap up meal for Xmas Day.

I am now left wondering what I should do:

1. Should I expect my parents to compromise a little and come down to London for Xmas? They could drive down with Grandad which would entail a lot less fuss than us trying to get three kids up there with all of our gear, Xmas gifts etc.
2. Should I hire a car and risk the M25/M6 traffic on Xmas Eve?
3. Should I get everybody on the train on Xmas eve? Are the ticket likely to be very expensive?

To be honest, I am feeling pretty pi$$ed off that my father in particular won?t make any effort at all and am quite tempted to tell them to stick it. I was brought up to respect my elders but this really rankles. DH is not very happy either.


Triphop Tue 14-Jun-11 00:40:07

Aaaargh. The family visits. I sympathise. Somehow, they never think, hey, you've just traveled 3,000 miles to visit us, we'll do the last 100 miles and come to you. No, they seem to think: you've already gone 3,000 miles, and now you won't go 100 more to see your own mother?? It's crazy-making!

Anyway, they're not going to come down to your lovely London flat (hereafter the LLF), so you could get an onward flight to Manchester, and not stop in London at all (until after Xmas with your parents). Then you can hire a car in Manchester and head down to London after Xmas (reckon carhire cheaper than train for all of you? Also easier with luggage).

Or you could spend Xmas day in the LLF and go up to theirs on Boxing Day (again, carhire). Stay one night, back down to London the next day.

Or, stay in the LLF, refuse to budge, tell all friends and relatives you will be there and recieving visitors from X date to Y date.

If you go to them for Xmas, make sure you send all the kiddies Xmas presents to them via Amazon, and make sure your parents gift-wrap them for you!! Order lots of stuff that requires pre-assembly, and tell them to do it.

Good luck. I admire your forward planning. (Realises needs to sort out Xmas journey...)

PadmeHum Tue 14-Jun-11 02:16:58

Thanks TH :-)

I would dearly love to take option three - but it will cause all manner of upset. My father is old school in the extreme. I am quite hurt that he is so disinterested in spending any time with his grand-children. He was never present when I was growing up, evidently, the years haven't changed him.

FWIW - I think we'll have to go for the last option and I am going to milk it for all it is worth, I am going to pre-send a GAZILLION presents so that they can wrap them all before we arrive. If we do this though, it will be under duress and I think we'll end up with some tension (DH is normally very placid but he is decidedly unhappy about this approach and I don't blame him).

Unfortunately we cannot bypass London. My dear friend is only in London for one night before she goes on her hols and I would feel terrible taking advantage of her LLF without spending at least one night with her.

Ho hum.....

shelscrape Tue 14-Jun-11 02:29:27

Oh crumbs! Family always make things complicated, I'm dreading our first visit back to the UK.

You will be knackered after the long journey and I think your parents would be unreasonable to expect you to go straight to them. Stay in London for a bit and then go to them for a few days whether it's boxing day or later. If they were that desperate to see you they'd compromise a bit surely?

Asking Tue 14-Jun-11 02:35:20

I think that you have to make the effort to go to your parents.

83 is old to be out of your own familiar environment, especially at Christmas. And likewise for your parents.

You've chosen to go and live overseas, I suspect that means you are much more adaptable than your parents, so I think you have to accept (and respect) that they like their own home and routine. I know my parents would absolutely hate to be in someone else's home - that they didn't know - at any time, let alone Christmas, and they are pretty well-travelled and easygoing.

Likewise, I'm quite conscious that our home visits are a real imposition on them. They are happy and contented in their life as it is - they don't want 'changes of scene'/trips to London/houseful of guests. They go along with it, and enjoy it for a few days, but then we clear off and give them a break!

I think that if you choose to go and live overseas, the consequence of that is that you have to make all the effort on home visits - people have quite settled lives and they don't really want to make big changes to that when you are back for a visit.

I know that's not entirely fair, and it can be quite hurtful, but that is the way it is.

And I don't think you should expect them to wrap your kids' presents, either, your parents will have enough to do with cleaning the house, shopping, changing beds etc in preparation for your arrival - pay for giftwrapping or prepare to stay up late on Xmas Eve! smile

PadmeHum Tue 14-Jun-11 03:54:22

Asking - thank you very much for such a lovely, well reasoned response smile

From what you are saying - you think that parents/family should not be obliged to make any effort at all when their children visit from overseas?

My parents are 61 and 63 years old, physically perfectly fit and not old in any sense of the word. My dad has not seen his grand-children for four years and is clearly not too fussed with ever seeing them. It leaves me wondering why I am bothering. He definitely is not fussed, which begs the question - is it really worthwhile trekking the family 9000 miles across the world if all it will do is upset my dad's routine? We wouldn't be travelling to the UK, other than to see my parents and granddad.

Ironically, Grandad, at 83 would be more than willing to travel to London. I am nearly certain that he is just an excuse.

Having read your post, I remain on the other side of the fence. I think that family should make exceptions for close family and that my parents are being contrary and uncaring. To not want your own grand-children to spend time in your home is suggestive that my parents really don't give a monkey's about us which really ticks me off. I suppose in our context you don't have the benefit of all the history blah...blah...blah....

Good to hear a different opinion, nonetheless. Helps put it into perspective smile

Asking Tue 14-Jun-11 04:32:37

It is a tricky one, that is for sure! But I think among those 'left at home', there can be a bit of fear of the unknown - which causes a disconnect with the overseas family - and a touch of resentment that the overseas family are off 'suiting themselves' for much of the time, that alongside being quite settled (set in their ways?) and set in a routine combines to cause these problems.

As always there's going to be room for a bit more flexibility on either side, but my view is that however irritating I find the inflexibility on my return home, it is better to just accept it and work round it rather than cast a shadow over some very rare time together. But I refuse to run myself ragged for distant family and friends - only parents and siblings get special consideration! wink

PadmeHum Tue 14-Jun-11 05:05:32

You make a fair point Asking.

Instead of asking is it worth it to visit at all. Perhaps I should be asking myself if 2 days of disruption for us, is worth the aggro of falling out.

... Nods Head Sagely ...

Triphop Tue 14-Jun-11 12:13:45

I know I have relatives on both sides of the divide (you come to us/ we'll come to you), and those that can't be asked do rather piss me off. I do see Asking's point: they just aren't the types to travel outside a 10-mile radius of their homes. But hey (breathes deeply), it's family and you just have to Zen out and try not to think about how DEEPLY ANNOYING their behaviour is.

My 78-year-old father regularly drives 4 hours to pick us up from the airport when we visit, just so the kids don't have to get on yet another plane, and so my Mum can drip feed them Pom Bears for the whole car journey. And I know that Padme is looking for that: a big gesture that they've been waiting ages for you to visit, and will go out of their way to see you and make your lives easier.

Bring something extra-special nice for your Grandad - he sound great to be up for the journey at 83. What a man.

Tell your long-suffering DH that you'll make it up to him, somehow!

Summersoon Tue 14-Jun-11 22:15:35

I would not do any of your three suggestions. I am sorry but I can't see that it is reasonable to expect your parents plus grandad to drive down to London in Christmas traffic and possibly bad weather. I think that if you attempt the drive yourself you will spend hours in traffic. You could try the train - but if you do, make sure you buy tickets and reservations well in advance and prepare for the trains to be extremely crowded and subject to cancellation if there are weather problems. (Hang on to those flat keys...) So, if it is essential to see your friend, then I would either brave the train or go to your family after Christmas. I have no way of telling how important your friend is to you, but it sounds from your posts that it is more important to you to see her than your family. Personally, given so little time and given how far away you live from your family, I would politely and very nicely decline her kind offer and catch a connecting flight to Manchester. If you can afford it, I would book a hotel or perhaps a self-catering hotel suite (e.g. something like Citadines)in Manchester - you might all be more comfortable and not so much under each other's feet that way. Not ideal, but probably the least bad of your options.

PadmeHum Wed 15-Jun-11 06:27:47

Thanks Summersoon,

It's not a matter of who is more important. It's a matter of courtesy - how can I expect my friend to offer her up our flat to us for our holiday and not even make the effort to see her on the one day she is in the country?

We cannot afforrd to pay for self catering accomodation if we don't have to. Considering that my parents cannot put us up for anything more than 2 nights, I don't think it's unreasonable for us to take advantage of the flat in London. My parents could have driven up to London - or halfway a few days earlier than our arrival and made a little bit of a trip out of it.

The fact remains that I am the only one making an effort here. My parents are not infirm, they could have at least put up a front of trying to slot in. As it stands, we have to fly half way around the world, we have to travel on Xmas Eve and then we have to trek all the way back to London 2 days later because my Dad cannot be spending any time with his Grandchildren (due to the noise or mess they might make).

I absolutely take your point about Xmas Eve travel and am considering travelling up on 26th / 27th instead of Xmas Eve.

I so wish I had present and caring parents. They show no interest in me or their grandchildren, this thread is making me wonder why I am bothering at all... <sigh>

Weta Wed 15-Jun-11 10:34:35

I can understand why you are hurt by your parents' attitude, it sounds really hard to handle.

At the same time, I think travel on Xmas Eve will be a nightmare for whoever does it, you or them, and I do understand why they might not want to be away from home for Christmas. And the disruption last year would be enough to put anyone off travelling if they didn't have to!

Personally I would consider travelling up a few days later, but how do you feel about having Xmas by yourselves in the LLF, and having to cook the dinner, buy Xmas food etc when you will have only just arrived? though maybe that would involve a lot less tension than having it with your parents?! That whole journey is sooo exhausting, especially with children, so a few days just getting over it and having a nice Xmas with your nuclear family might be quite good...

The other option would be to explain all this to your friend and hope she will be understanding and say you can use LLF and not to worry about seeing her.

As for the future, maybe you do need to have a think about it all and about whether/how often you are really prepared to make the journey. Perhaps another time you could do it at Easter or in the Australian winter (even if it means taking kids out of school for a week) so that the weather is not such an issue, and it would also take Christmas (and having to be there on one particular day) out of the equation.

5moreminutes Wed 15-Jun-11 11:00:52

In your position I would stay in London a few days and travel after Christmas, as it appears not to be especially important to your parents really (although they might say it is, actions speak louder etc.) I never take my family to the UK for Christmas and they never come to us - my parents have 2 other grandchildren and are very involved in their church, and I am not willing to travel with small children close to Christmas, and we have different ideas of how to spend Christmas anyway and are happier with the in-laws, who live closer and also have no other grandchildren!

My parents do make the effort to visit us (we are only in Germany), and do expect us to stay with them when we visit the UK (though it has been mentioned that it "looks bad" if we stay elsewhere (I mentioned spending some money my grandma left me renting a holiday cottage next time, we can't normally afford it either) so I think there is a big pinch of keeping up appearances in the invitation! but oh my goodness are the visits hard work, both when they come to us and when we go to them (not just logistics but we have never been close and my mother drives me nuts), and also they live at the opposite end of the country to the friends I would like to see - but that is really off topic! Just sympathising that the family in the UK so often not easy and the visits often motivated by some kind of sense of "duty" which makes their point questionable!

All the best - hope you get to enjoy some if not all of your trip!

Summersoon Wed 15-Jun-11 19:47:01

Hi Padme,

I wanted to add a point about food if you are going to remain at your friend's flat over Christmas (seems funny writing about food for Christmas in mid-June but, hey, you asked smile). If at all possible, you need to think about how you will organize this ahead of time - if your friend has an account with an online grocer, ask if she could place an order to be delivered Christmas Eve morning for you (this needs to be done weeks in advance - delivery slots fill up fast). If not, you or your DH may find yourself in the local supermarket with about 1,000 other people at 8am. Etc.

If you decide to travel after Christmas, I would go on the 27th, rather than the 26th if going by train as trains may not be fully operational on the 26th. If you are going by car, I am not sure that it matters.


Triphop Thu 16-Jun-11 00:12:11

If you do stay in the LLF for Christmas, I'm sure a nearby M&S or Waitrose will sort you quite nicely with yummy pre-prepared food, champagne and chocolates. Also, lots of restaurants do Xmas dinners in central London.

Go see them AFTER Christmas. London's fabulous on Xmas day - enjoy it. If it's really lack of interest rather than inability to travel that's holding your parents back, then the 26th or 27th should do nicely. Better your DH is happy than the parents you rarely see - he can complain at you for YEARS, every day, and they can't.

Now where am I going to stay...

Hedgerow7 Thu 16-Jun-11 01:08:32

I agree about visiting your folks after Christmas.

Arriving on the 23rd sounds horrific. You and the children's body clocks will be all over the place. Add further travelling, tricky Grandparents and then it being Christmas Eve. And having to put on a happy act for CHristmas Day. Awful. Recipe for disaster.

See your friend, have a quiet, sleepy Christmas and travel up on the 27th. Surely? smile

Keep us in touch with your thoughts.

differentnameforthis Thu 16-Jun-11 10:27:16

Dh's grandmother is 83, and fit, but there is no way that she would travel well all that distance.

Apart from a friend loaning you the flat, are there any other reason you have decided to stay so far from your family, especially as, I assume, you are visiting to see them?

PadmeHum Thu 16-Jun-11 11:57:23

Hi all,

Thanks for the ideas and comments. They all help.

@differentnameforthis - we are travelling to the UK, primarily to see my parents but as we are from London (or at that's at least where we lived when we were in the UK) we would also like to catchup with our friends and my God Daughter.

The other reason for staying in London is that Mum and Dad live miles from anywhere in a rather industrial estate. By their own admission, there is next to nothing for children to do locally. If we are in London the list of things to do is endless, with lots of options for indoor activities - considering how much the trip is costing us, we figure we might as well get a holiday out of it.

I have thought this through from every angle. I am reasonably sure that we will go up to Manchester and stay in a serviced apartment for 5 or 6 days after Xmas. There is no way we can stay with my parents for that length of time and it's totally impractical to go all that way for 2 nights with three kids in tow. This way I get to spend time with Mum and Grandad and Dad can dip in and out as and when he pleases.

I have decided to influence what I can and if he chooses not to take advantage of spending time with his grandchildren (by taking us up on what I thought to be a lovely offer of a trip to London for a week and then a trip to France for a week), then that's for him to decide.

I have spent years second guessing my parents' less than present parenting techniques, but I realise that at nearly 40 years of age, they are never going to change. I am going to go out of my way to make this a wonderful family holiday, I'll extend that to my parents and they can make their own choices. I am not going to bow down to their silly requests though and the prospect of travelling from London to Manchester for 2 days leaving on Xmas Eve is a very silly idea.

It was silly of me to expect that they would go out of their way for us. They have never ever gone out of their way for me, so there's no hope the habits of a lifetime will change overnight just because we are flying from Australia for a visit.

differentnameforthis Thu 16-Jun-11 12:45:17

That's fair enough....

But I know a little of what you mean. I have been here (also Australia) for 5 yrs & not one of my family even send emails, let alone think to visit, but as soon as they heard I was planning to go there in the next couple of years, all I have heard is 'you better come see us, if you stay in X place you can drive around & see everyone'

It's tiring, ins't it!

annh Fri 17-Jun-11 13:28:43

I was going to come in and second what Hedgerow said about the practicalities of travelling to Manchester one day after you have arrived from the other side of the world. Even if your husband and you could manage the jet lag, your children are going to be completely disoriented. I think expecting them to get into a car for several hours and drive to your parents to sleep in yet another strange room is impractical, to say the least. Your children will be miserable and over-excited by Christmas, you will all be over-crowded and everyone will have a rotten time!

Far better to go after Christmas when you will all have had a chance to settle in and your children will have calmed down from the excitement.

chloeb2002 Sat 18-Jun-11 06:09:16

blimey... 83 is really not that old these days! Im sure he is not the person stallinbg the trip south!
I too dread a return journey to europe.. and second different name for this.. so few people keep in touch with us ( we are in some houses evil do-ers for leaving the uk) and yet we seem to be endlessly sending stuff, emailing pictures and phoning etc...Hey ho,
I've said to DH allready when we eventually get together the funds to go back we will rent a cottage and then everyone can visit us!!! Tough if they don't.
Do whats right for you and your family!

Barmcake Sat 18-Jun-11 13:04:44

just want to second what everybody else is saying and to visit after Christmas as the trains are packed at that time of year and roads are manic too esp if the weather is bad!

I personally wouldn't send loads of presents to the UK you would only have to cart them around with you and then back to Oz, better to have 1 or 2 presents for the UK or a small souvenir from the countries you visit and then have your Christmas as a family when you get back home (if the children could cope with waiting that long!) when you will be more relaxed.

Families are a nightmare at any time of year, good luck with whatever you decide to do x

PadmeHum Mon 20-Jun-11 06:29:02

Wanted to update you on the situation.

After lots of thought, I have decided that we will not travel to Manchester for Xmas. It's too far and all we'll end up with is 3 unhappy kids, unhappy parents and a ruined Xmas for all.

We are going to have Xmas and Boxing day in the LLF (parents are welcome to join us but I doubt they will). We'll travel up to Manchster after Xmas (probably for New Year) for 4/5 days and stay in a hotel.

I have also invited the parents to travel with us to Paris (our return is from Paris) so that we can spend a week together as a family. Not holding my breath that they will even consider it, but at least I have made the effort to include them.

I am taking the tack that I have my own family's needs to look out for. Travelling with kids can be stressful, so we would like to keep that to a minimum by ensuring the kids have time to recuperate after the trip and also enjoy their own Xmas.

Thanks again for all of your input. Most appreciated.


Summersoon Mon 20-Jun-11 22:59:11

That seems like a very good plan to me. Good luck and I really hope that you enjoy your trip over here!

PadmeHum Wed 22-Jun-11 04:03:00

Sadly it's all ended badly.

Dad called me last night to tell me that they wouldn't be joining us in Paris, and to say that he couldn't think of doing anything worse than spending a week in Paris with us. He did not ask me how we were, he just launched into it and was aggressive, cold and horrible.

I am being pragmatic about it. Dad never really wanted us to visit in the first place (hence his refusal to offer us a place to stay). He felt totally backed into a corner when I offered the trip to Paris as he doesn't want to see me or the children (in my heart I know this to be true) and knew that he was going to show himself up when he refused. He behaved terribly last night and really showed his true colours.

So after all of that. We will be visiting the UK (at vast expense) and not even seeing my parents or grandfather after all.

What a debacle sad

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