Adapted from an online discussion.
Dear Carolyn: My children and grandchildren have all moved far away. We were very close when they were near — Sunday dinners, etc. — so when they left, I went through a grieving period. Now I have a very full life, including running our little farm, keeping a boarder, many pets (some geriatric), and volunteering at a museum and a hospital.
My middle child has just informed me that she's rented a place for me to spend a couple months this winter in a sunny clime, all expenses already paid.
She should have talked all this over with me, because I really don't want to leave our home for so long. I know she's doing this because she loves me and wants me to be safe from snow and ice, but I simply cannot dump everything for weeks at a time.
She's not one to take "no" for an answer. How do I go about refusing her beautiful offer without antagonizing her?
Carolyn says: I am so sorry she put you in this position, which was not "beautiful" but seriously presumptuous.
Meanwhile, her trying to secure your compliance under threat of not taking "no" for an answer is by-the-book controlling behavior. To say no is not the same as to antagonize, yikes.
The only way to go about refusing her offer is to just refuse the offer. That's it. Prepare yourself to ride out the drama storm that ensues.
Now, all this having been said: You do note that "I really don't want to leave ... for so long." Is there a period you would be eager to spend in this sunny clime? If so, then you can also say, "I'm sorry, I cannot accept two months. A week, however, would be lovely. Let me know if that's possible." Say this only if you trust yourself to hold that line. Otherwise don't even suggest it — just stick to the "no."
And remain calm: "This is not up for negotiation. Let's either change the subject now or talk another day." Be ready to hang up as needed.
I know this probably looks/sounds terrible, but it's not unkind. It's letting an emotional trespasser know she needs to get back on her side of the fence.
We have only one side of this story. My grandmother refuses to leave her house, and recent winters have been emotional torture for our family, worrying about power outages, clearing snow, her limited driving skills, devastating falls, etc. She stubbornly refuses to see these as "problems." I sense this firm, all-expenses-paid "vacation" could be a desperate move by a family member.
Carolyn says: This did cross my mind — but there was no evidence between the lines, just the rental without asking first. Which I wouldn't recommend even to someone with your exact plight.
E-mail Carolyn Hax at email@example.com.