Ask Amy: 'Family' holiday is a sham

  • Article by: AMY DICKINSON
  • October 6, 2012 - 3:22 PM

Dear Amy: With the holidays approaching, I am once again wondering how to deal with an unwanted invitation. My sister-in-law lives four hours away. We don't communicate much with her during the year.

She visits her mother several times a year, but she doesn't contact us when she's in town. She's always very nice, but that's the extent of our contact.

She expects us to come to her house for Christmas and do the big family thing as if we're all warm and fuzzy. I think if we had a true family relationship, it would be different. But to want us to adjust our schedules so we can celebrate a "family" Christmas just doesn't sit well with me.

Additionally, we are on a tight budget and staying at a hotel is out of the question. Her mother, children and grandchildren stay at her house, so there's no room for my husband and me. According to my mother-in-law, she often says how much she loves us and how my husband is her favorite sibling. But to me it's just lip service.

Am I wrong to feel this way? How should I handle this?

Amy says: One way to build a closer tie to a family member is to spend time together during the holidays. This is how traditions are made. You seem stung by a lack of attention from your sister-in-law, but you don't note making any effort to get to know her. When she visits your mother-in-law, you could ask her to dinner with you and your husband, too.

You need only to respond to a generous and enthusiastic holiday invitation by saying, "We really appreciate the invitation but won't be able to make it this year." You don't need to make excuses or supply details, but sincerity would be nice -- even if you have to fake it.

Separation anxiety

Dear Amy: My son just started kindergarten. Although he is happy and engaged most of the day, he often cries when we drop him off in the morning. His teacher assures us this is normal and that he'll get over it. But it has been a few weeks, and it's getting harder to leave him. Any suggestions for making the transition easier?

Amy says: Ideally, he should be greeted by a teacher who can give him a "job" to do. This will help him enter the daily routine more smoothly. Perhaps there is a more confident buddy he can be paired with.

Also examine your behavior. You might be conveying anxiety by asking leading questions ("Do you think you'll be OK today?") or lingering too long at the door.

Send questions via e-mail to Amy Dickinson at or by mail to Ask Amy, Chicago Tribune, TT500, 435 N. Michigan Av., Chicago, IL 60611.

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