Unexpected TEENAGE guest for the holidays?
December 16, 2013 3:56 PM   Subscribe

Both my niece (16 yrs old) and her father (my brother - 37 yrs old) conveniently "forgot" to tell me that her 18 year old boyfriend would be coming to our family Christmas. They will be staying in MY house and did not ask for permission for the boyfriend to stay, nor did they ask myself or my mother (Grandma) permission for an outsider to come to the family Christmas. The kid already has a plane ticket and I honestly don't believe it's his fault - I 100% blame my brother and my niece. So, it's sort of too late - he's coming. But what do I say to them to let them know that I am FURIOUS but it's the holidays so I'll do my bloody best to be HOSPITABLE and FUN and CHEERY but that this is seriously NOT OKAY with me?

Additionally, I really want to say something to my niece about it because I feel like this was her manipulative doing more than my brother's ... but I don't want to ruin my relationship with her, as can so easily happen with a teenager "in love." Last year she managed to talk Grandma into allowing the boyfriend to come to our family reunion for two days ... but then, oops, we accidentally bought a ticket for seven days! And forgot to tell anyone until he showed up! Our bad! My mother was so hurt by that - here she had gone out of her way to try to seem cool to a moody teenage girl, only to get totally taken advantage of. I never talked to her about her behavior at that reunion as it wasn't my house and I NEVER would have given her permission to bring a teenage boyfriend to a family event ... probably why they didn't ask for permission this time.

Also: I only have a two bedroom house - one for myself and my husband, one for Grandma ... and was expecting my brother to have the couch and my niece to have the blow up air mattress. What do I do about sleeping arrangements?

Finally: I think I'm hip. I'm early 30s! I listen to the Foals and Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings and drink craft beer and am an atheist and lived with numerous boyfriends before getting married and have tattoos and all the rest ... but am I just getting old? Do kids do this nowadays? Am I unreasonably bothered by this?

Thanks in advance!
posted by athena2255 to Human Relations (113 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
 
I don't know your family, but can you talk to your brother, and see if there is a cheap motel/hotel that the three of them can stay at? Logistically speaking alone, how many bathrooms do you have? If it is only one, that may be a nightmare for showers/getting dressed. Maybe brother & BF stay at the remote location, niece stays with you?
posted by kellyblah at 4:02 PM on December 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


You seem to be a little more bothered by it then I would be. You are being inconvenienced though and that is inconsiderate of them.

Not now, but in January, have a conversation with them. Tell them what happened was not OK and you don't want it to happen again. Be calm, listen to them.

Some of this depends on the manners of the boyfriend too.

Where is the blow up bed going to be? In the living room with Dad on the sofa? If so, let them - the love birds - share it.
posted by royalsong at 4:03 PM on December 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


Do kids do this nowadays? Am I unreasonably bothered by this?

Which 'this' are you upset about- that she didn't ask and just invited him anyway? That a non-spouse is coming to Christmas and wrecking 'family time,' and/or that you don't want a non-family member staying with you? That a teenager is (possibly) having sex? Because when you say "I NEVER would have given her permission to bring a teenage boyfriend to a family event" I'm not sure what the reason is. My sister's boyfriends were always welcome to events like that if they wanted to come (I never dated until I was much older), and I never saw anything odd about that. I'm not saying you're wrong, but could you articulate what it is about him coming that upsets you?
posted by showbiz_liz at 4:03 PM on December 16, 2013 [23 favorites]


It's your house, you make the rules. So no, you're not "getting old".
posted by eq21 at 4:03 PM on December 16, 2013 [4 favorites]


It's only unreasonable if you're working yourself up so much that you're unable to shake the irritation.

What's done is done. Life is full of inconsiderate people that won't change just because you want them to.

Maybe the boyfriend will be out of the house pretty much all day and a considerate guest. No use worrying about it or doing anything special for him.
posted by discopolo at 4:04 PM on December 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think it would be totally reasonable to insist that your brother get a couple of motel rooms, one for him and the boyfriend, and one for your niece.

Beyond that it's hard to know why your niece is so insensitive. Does she live with your brother? Her mom? Does the boyfriend have a family? There's too much we don't know.
posted by mareli at 4:05 PM on December 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


Sorry, but I'd love to have my niece's boyfriend stay over for the holidays. For me that would be an amazing show of love and trust.

That said, I remember once my cousin had her friend with her for the holidays and he turned out to be a crazy weapon enthusiast, running around with knives and guns all over the place. And while my grandparents in general welcomed everyone, this guy had to be sent home. If this boyfriend is anything like that young man, I can understand you.
posted by mumimor at 4:07 PM on December 16, 2013 [11 favorites]


I agree with showbiz_liz -- which part of this are you upset by? Because for me, 16-year-old bringing boyfriend to family reunion or to family Christmas is not only no big deal, it's expected and encouraged.

On the other hand, people bringing surprise overnight guest to my house under any circumstance is absofuckinglutely not okay.

Can you elaborate on what part of this upsets you? That might help with how to phrase your upset to them.
posted by brainmouse at 4:09 PM on December 16, 2013 [23 favorites]


You're allowed to be bothered about it if it bothers you. You don't have to be "right". Try to separate the "should this boyfriend be here in an absolute sense" issue from the "should brother have asked you first before bringing him along" issue.

This first issue is debatable by reasonable people, the second one isn't. He should have asked.
posted by the jam at 4:09 PM on December 16, 2013 [8 favorites]


Considering that she's done this "oops" thing before, I think she's manipulating the situation. I'd expect better behavior from a 16- and 18-year old. She's still a minor though -- let this be her father's problem to solve. He's the parent in charge. You were not expecting the boyfriend, he's welcome to dinner but there's no bedroom for him, so how would he (your brother) like to handle this?
posted by Houstonian at 4:12 PM on December 16, 2013 [15 favorites]


I NEVER would have given her permission to bring a teenage boyfriend to a family event

Yeah, in my experience, this is not the norm. My teenage boyfriends were always welcome at my family events and I was always welcome at their events. This was the experience of my friends as well. Our family Christmas events always have a few randoms (and discussing previous years' randoms is one of the most enjoyable parts of the holidays).

It's not unreasonable to say that it's too many people to physically sleep at your house, but c'mon, where's your Christmas spirit?
posted by melissasaurus at 4:13 PM on December 16, 2013 [17 favorites]


I'm in my 30's as well, and would absolutely not allow a random 18 year old boy in my home, even if he was dating my niece. Sorry.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 4:13 PM on December 16, 2013 [13 favorites]


There are two separate issues here:

1. 16 year old niece has 18 year old boyfriend coming for sleepovers. Apparently dad is OK with this and it probably happens at home as well. You say you are young and hip and have no specific religious or moral objections cited. Therefore, this isn't your business. You might talk to your brother about whether there are any rules about the sleeping arrangements that you should be aware of but otherwise I would avoid this topic or you will come off like you are critiquing his parenting. Why does this 18 year old boy not spend the holidays with his own family? I wonder if there is a sad story behind all this (maybe not but just a thought).

2. Guests invited along a +1 guest without asking you. This is rude. This is a separate issue that has nothing to do with his age. You don't bring extra guests to someone else's house without their permission, family or not. For now, I would just say, "I understand Billy is coming to Christmas and staying at my house. It will be fun to have him with us for the holidays, but I would have appreciated a polite heads up before you invited him to stay at my house." Then drop it unless it happens again.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 4:13 PM on December 16, 2013 [30 favorites]


Breaking it down,

1) It's never okay to invite a stranger to stay at a relative's house without first getting permission. It's okay to rail at your brother for that bit of inconsiderateness and to ask them to make other arrangements.

2) It would have been nice for them to ask your mom if they could bring a friend to Christmas dinner out of respect and for the sake of logistics, but it's a shared family holiday and everyone should feel comfortable that they can bring a close guest. I feel the same goes for the family reunion - ask permission out of respect, but she should expect an affirmative response unless there are extenuating circumstances like he has a history of being a jerk to the family, etc.

3) Given that she has a history of this I can see why this situation would be even more frustrating for you than it might appear from the outside.
posted by cecic at 4:14 PM on December 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


I would find it extremely annoying. You don't even have to articulate why- you are annoyed! Because you are! I would be too.

So yeah, explain to bro that you only have couch and single blow up mattress for them and you aren't sure what to do about that. See what he says. Do not give up bedrooms, let them either have cosy dad, daughter and boyfriend in living room together, or let them make alternate arrangements.

I would totally hate this and then it would turn out not to be as bad as I was expecting. So, maybe you will have same end result.
posted by bquarters at 4:15 PM on December 16, 2013 [13 favorites]


I really want to say something to my niece about it because I feel like this was her manipulative doing more than my brother's

Are you more upset that you're inconvenienced or that you feel you're being manipulated? It sounds like you're suspicious of your niece, and this confirms your worst fears. Is it a big deal to have another person in the house, or are you afraid that they'll take as much as they can from you without asking?

I think you have two options. One is to say "The agreement was for niece, her father, and grandma. I do not have room for more, so it's up to you to find a new place for the boyfriend." You would be unpopular and might have to field distressed phone calls from a bunch of relatives and help them find a hotel. That sounds like a lot of work.

Option two is to say "Okay, we have extra floor, boyfriend can sleep there." This also depends if you like your niece and her boyfriend in a vacuum; if you can find things you like about them, it probably won't be too bad.

In short, it's rude and you should definitely talk about this (and ask very specific questions in the future). But it sounds like you may be more upset by principle than by the actual people involved.
posted by Turkey Glue at 4:15 PM on December 16, 2013


Sharon Jones was born in 1956. Your niece was born in 1997. The basic idea of 'family' is changing, and inclusion is the kind and expected thing nowadays.

Nothing in your question gives evidence for why you are 'furious' or why your mother was 'hurt' by any of this. It seems that your niece wants to integrate her partner into her family; for her this means inviting him to important family events. It's reasonable to be upset by uninvited overnight guests, but the tone of your question suggests your aversion to his stay has more to do with his basic presence at a family gathering. Is there a reason, or is it just that your idea of 'family' has boundaries, and your niece's does not?
posted by Sfving at 4:15 PM on December 16, 2013 [5 favorites]


I would not even invite along an extra guest to another person's house for a casual get-together without asking their permission, much less a special holiday event, and an overnight stay, at that. It's completely inappropriate. But, teenagers are completely wrapped up in themselves and she probably has no idea this is bothering anyone.

I think you should say something to her (as noted above) in a nice way to make her aware of the issue. There's no use getting angry about this as if she's doing it to "take advantage of you" - I doubt that she is. I think she just thinks that having her boyfriend along for Christmas will be really cool, and isn't thinking any further than that - which is the problem.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 4:19 PM on December 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


I certainly think your brother and niece were far out of line to invite him along without asking you first, but I really think that it's important to dial down this INTENSE level of fury and upset that you're evincing here. At the very least, holding on to this level of anger is going to make you pretty unhappy through the holidays, which I assume you don't want.

I would take both your niece and brother aside and something along the lines of "Boyfriend is welcome at our house, but I really would have preferred to have been asked ahead of time, rather than being told that he was coming after the fact. This is because sleeping arrangements will be tighter than I had planned, but also because it's unfair to inform any host that they will be accommodating more people than expected. In the future, please confirm with me any additional guests before you make your final plans." Leave your opinion about niece being manipulative, etc. out of it. Model the behavior you expect to be treated with in the future -- by being both cordial and direct.
posted by scody at 4:19 PM on December 16, 2013 [44 favorites]


Mareli has it. Very politely, but unequivocally, email both your brother and niece that unfortunately you do not have room in your already small home for another guest and send them a list of 2 or 3 hotels close by. They'll get it without you having to have a confrontation over it.

I wouldn't be happy in your place either. I don't generally mind making room for one more IF I'm asked, but can't stand when someone just invites people without asking first. Let alone when there are cramped quarters involved. Also a small family holiday where you are staying at someone's home is not the the appropriate occasion for your teenage niece to bring a date. If they lived locally and he wanted to come over for dinner I would probably be a little more forgiving, but that isn't what is going on here.
posted by whoaali at 4:19 PM on December 16, 2013 [9 favorites]


Agreed with Houstonian: she knows exactly what she is doing and how she is manipulating everyone.

There is no need to be rude yourself, but there is also no need to let her walk all over you: tell them you don't have room for him --- totally true! --- and then offer Boyfriend room to pitch (his own) tent in your backyard or the location of a nearby motel (which You are NOT responsible for paying for!)
posted by easily confused at 4:19 PM on December 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


It wouldn't really bother me (to be honest, I would be happy if a teenager had a serious relationship and wanted to share it with the family, but whatever, everyone has different standards). But if it bothers you - and your brother is too chickenshit/ignorant to manage his own daughter - then make it his problem, and tell him you don't have room for everyone (with no notice!), so someone needs to get (and pay for) a hotel (preferably your niece).

I think you need to be clear about your goals here. Do you want to:

1. Express your resentment and unhappiness with this?
2. Ensure that it never happens again?
3. Have the kind of christmas you want, with the people you want?
4. Express displeasure with the minimum amount of stress/fuss?

Obviously, your actions will be shaped by your goals. As I say, I wouldn't be bothered, but make it your brother's problem (your niece is 16 after all), and put the onus on him.
posted by smoke at 4:19 PM on December 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


And for perspective from the other side, this thread is the top on Reddit's /r/twoxchromosomes right now: My boyfriend's family uninvited me from Christmas
posted by melissasaurus at 4:21 PM on December 16, 2013


Oh, and to chime in again: I don't think this is necessarily a "teenagers today" sort of thing; I think it's just a teenager thing. In high school I invited along my boyfriend to an out-of-town Thanksgiving vacation at my sister's boyfriend's parents' house two time zones away simply because I was an oblivious 17-year-old who couldn't conceive of spending the holiday without him. Luckily my parents put the kibosh on my idiocy, but really, it was just the dippy narcissism of a lovestruck teenager.
posted by scody at 4:24 PM on December 16, 2013 [6 favorites]


And for perspective from the other side, this thread is the top on Reddit's /r/twoxchromosomes right now: My boyfriend's family uninvited me from Christmas

OP and boyfriend on the reddit thread are adults and live together.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 4:24 PM on December 16, 2013 [7 favorites]


Additionally, I really want to say something to my niece about it because I feel like this was her manipulative doing more than my brother's

Sorry, but she is 16 and your brother is 37. Teenagers are indeed master manipulators, but the buck here ends with your brother, who permitted his daughter to do this. It is not fair to place this much of the blame on your niece; your brother is the one who let this rudeness happen.

What do I do about sleeping arrangements?

If they must stay at your home (and I agree with the posters above who suggested a hotel), ask your brother what he's comfortable with. Niece and BF sharing a mattress? What works for him?

but am I just getting old? Do kids do this nowadays? Am I unreasonably bothered by this?

I can't speak to whether or not kids just do "this" nowadays, but I do think you are unreasonably bothered by this. I would also be very annoyed, but certainly not "FURIOUS" as you describe yourself. I have a bad temper and I do HATE rude/presumptuous behavior...but I think you are getting extremely worked up over this. In the spirit of the holidays, could you try to just roll with it? Tell niece and brother you aren't thrilled with the arrangements, and then get over it and put on your festive face?
posted by schroedingersgirl at 4:24 PM on December 16, 2013 [8 favorites]


Yeah, I was about to say: What if the boyfriend doesn't have family? This might be an opportunity to let him be part of that. Although, really, the kids should sleep on the floor in sleeping bags. Kids are resilient.
posted by mochapickle at 4:25 PM on December 16, 2013 [6 favorites]


"...inclusion is the kind and expected thing nowadays."

Not in my world. Family is family, and guests are welcome - but not the unexpected, unknown adult teenager of my underaged niece for an overnight visit that could include some slap-n-tickle. That's got legal issues written all over it, and it doesn't matter if it's legal in your state. It's just a bad idea. How does your niece's mom feel about this little trip?

However, maybe the 18 year old comes from a difficult background and could really benefit from the hospitality he finds in your home.

I'd just tell your brother it's great that he's coming, but where is he gonna sleep? You're obviously not comfortable with the potential sleeping conditions, much less use of the bathroom, showers, etc for so many people. It's your house - so just be honest.
posted by matty at 4:25 PM on December 16, 2013 [6 favorites]


It sounds like your niece has her Dad wrapped around her finger and your brother isn't doing a good job of teaching his daughter basic manners. It is absolutely rude to announce an extra guest or extend a visit without giving the host any notice or ability to accept or decline. She and your brother are 0 for 2 now. Talk to your brother about it. He's the adult and he's not managing basics.

It may well be that boyfriend has a terrible family situation and being included in your family's celebrations may mean the world to him. If there's even a hint of that happening, please don't expose him to your very legitimate beef with your brother and, but extension, your niece.

I'd have them all (Dad, niece, boyfriend) all sleep in the living room together. Having Dad next to the kids will cut down on any hanky-panky. I don't think that putting a temporary chill on an otherwise accepted sexual relationship between niece and boyfriend is a tragedy. I would not set up a situation with enough privacy to allow the kids any sexual messing around with their grandmother in the next room. They clearly don't have manners and I'd go the extra mile to make sure they behaved respectfully even if they're not inclined.
posted by quince at 4:27 PM on December 16, 2013 [9 favorites]


This is not a thing to be all-caps furious about. This is a teaching opportunity, and really nothing more. Call up your niece, tell her that her boyfriend is welcome to come if he brings his own air mattress and sheets, but that space is limited and in the future she really should ask the host first to make sure extra guests are welcome.

The reason you make him welcome, by the way, isn't only inclusion (though I think that's a good thing and in the spirit of Christmas and family)--but because otherwise you're going to have a sixteen-year-old feeling all like a martyr and whining that her boyfriend isn't included and you guys suck and must not really love her, and then she'll never, ever learn. Sixteen year olds are both clueless and dramatic. Be the bigger person here.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 4:29 PM on December 16, 2013 [58 favorites]


Your brother and your niece are rude. And, since this has happened before, I think your niece has established an MO. I would expect her to continue this until someone stops it. This is a good conversation to have with your brother after Christmas has passed.

Anything that happens under your roof is your business, so you don't have to facilitate any overnight shenanigans. (what your brother is comfortable with rules at his house, not yours) If I were you, I would welcome the young man to any family events such as dinner but tell your brother that you have no room for them to sleep but there are several reasonably priced hotels nearby.

An issue that I haven't seen discussed yet is how presents are going to be handled. I have been to Christmases were some unexpected person appeared and it is awkward for them to be sitting around while the family is all opening their presents. I think you definitely need to address that with your brother now to manage expectations.

Don't do your best to be happy and cheery. *Be* happy and cheery, especially towards this young man. Your brother and niece are the rude ones and I am confident the boyfriend is oblivious to any underlying drama.
posted by Tanizaki at 4:47 PM on December 16, 2013 [5 favorites]


Yep, PhoBWanKenobi has it. Pretty much exactly what I was going to say, except that I'd probably just borrow an extra air mattress from a friend for the kid to sleep on.
posted by desuetude at 4:47 PM on December 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


PhoB gives, as always, excellent advice. The only thing I'd do is to tell her father, not her directly.

That's a personal choice, though. I'd do it that way because I'd feel more comfortable expressing my displeasure to my brother than to my niece, and I'd want to make it very clear that this uninvited guest business would not be happening again.
posted by winna at 4:48 PM on December 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


The best Christmas I ever had was one where a lot of unexpected and uninvited people came. I'm not very religious, but opening my home during the holidays is certainly one of the aspects of religion I cannot refuse.
Anyway, that particular Christmas, there were rather suddenly three teenagers, very similar in age and attitude to your niece and the boyfriend, but there was also a veteran - father of one of the teens, and a friend of ours who had no family. Then later on, others arrived. Our unexpected guests had suggested to their friends we might be open to strangers. There were no presents, the food was simple and the decorations were minimalistic. But I've never felt closer to the Christmas spirit.
There's a reason I haven't done this every year. I won't pretend to be a saint. But looking back, I keep returning to that memory.

My grandmother's second-last New Years Eve, when she was 89, she and I spent alone in her apartment. At about 12:30, some of our relatives called to say happy new year, and we realized they were right nearby. I invited them up for a glass of bubbles, and for my Gran, it was the most amazing evening ever and she kept on talking about it till she died. She really loved having these "young" (30-something) people visit her, and make her evening special and not least: it made her feel young. If I'd suggested this in advance, she would have hated it.
posted by mumimor at 4:50 PM on December 16, 2013 [18 favorites]


I wonder if you are more the "family is family" type and so see this as a violation of the tight familial bonds.

I am of the "more the merrier" type especially at holidays, so I don't see the fury. As long as he is a good house guest and she attends all family whatevers (dinner, church?, walks etc.) then this is a good opportunity to keep an eye on him & her & their relationship. Could be a teaching moment. And hey it keeps her from being bored/sulking as PhoB mentioned.

It sounds like they've been together for well over a year, so it is perfectly reasonable to bring the bf to family functions. In fact, I'd be glad. If she were in her 20s and this was her college relationship, would you still be so mad?
posted by St. Peepsburg at 4:52 PM on December 16, 2013


(Yeah but for sure give her father & your niece shit for not giving you the heads up. Be gracious to the kid tho, it's not his fault.)
posted by St. Peepsburg at 4:53 PM on December 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


Nthing that it's totally understandable to be angry about presumptuous/rude behavior, which this is, and that part of your outsized fury might have to do basically with this being your home, and not liking to lose control over your home and its occupants.

HOWEVER.

nor did they ask myself or my mother (Grandma) permission for an outsider to come to the family Christmas.

Boldface mine.

From your post, we know that you are, yourself, married. Was your husband welcome at events before he became your husband? Or was he an "outsider," inspiring fits of rage among your relatives? How long does that last? How many hoops do "outsiders" have to jump through before your family will welcome them?

It might behoove you to consider under what circumstances this young man would EVER be welcome in your holiday presence. If those circumstances are "none," or "not until he is 28 and they are engaged," or similar, then your brother and niece are screwed either way and might as well try to gain forgiveness later rather than permission beforehand.
posted by like_a_friend at 4:54 PM on December 16, 2013 [9 favorites]


Again, not that they SHOULD actually just let the BF crash and hope you forgive them; just suggesting circumstances under which they might feel like it's the best of a bunch of bad options.

Oh and for the love of pete, do not make the boyfriend sleep in a goddamn tent in December (unless you are in Australia I suppose).
posted by like_a_friend at 4:58 PM on December 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


There is a lot of anger in this question.

Stepping back for a second, here are the facts of the situation. You and your mother (your niece's grandmother) are collectively hosting people for Christmas. Your brother and niece are coming to stay with you, and it now turns out they are also bringing an extra person along. This is a "plane tickets" level visit, at least for that extra person, so not a casual thing where it doesn't really matter who sleeps where.

I just... what exactly is the problem, on this? Is it that you guys don't have room to house the extra person? Is it that they didn't tell you earlier? Do you personally dislike the boyfriend?

Make the boyfriend a pallet on the floor. With Niece and Dad sharing a room, I doubt the teenagers will get up to anything, if that's what angers you about this.

Have a glass of wine and relax. Everything is going to be fine. It's Christmas. It's supposed to be fun.

I agree that you should have a very sane and civil conversation about boundaries and inviting other people along after the holidays when the visit is over and everyone is back home. When I was around your niece's age I had a habit of impulsively inviting people along to things, and I really needed to be told that it wasn't OK. I honestly had no idea that this stuff put people out. While I agree that this is really on her dad, you're all family, and if you need to be the one to set limits about inviting extra people to your house, then by all means don't be afraid to do so.

I certainly don't think it's fair at all to cast your niece as some kind of manipulative little bitch deliberately trying to take advantage (which, I have to admit, sounds pretty cold coming from close family -- I would hope that if I descended on my aunt at short notice, she wouldn't grouse about me "taking advantage"!). She's a child, and this is likely the first she's had to deal with complicated social and logistical situations like this. If anything, be angry with her father, who apparently isn't setting any limits or communicating who all is coming for Christmas, or whatever the actual issue is.
posted by Sara C. at 4:59 PM on December 16, 2013 [10 favorites]


First, it sounds as if you are little angry they are pulling the same sort of stunt they pulled with the family reunion. Also, you probably don't think that the BF is a "value added" to the celebration. This is where I would be in agreement with you. This is a bs stunt pulled by your brother and nience although we don't know which one bears more responsibility. So what to do about it?

Well, he is coming. There seems to be no doubt about that. I think your beef is with your brother and he should be talked with at some point during the visit to say that y'all see through the bs stunts and want to be treated a little better with at least an ask next time.

I would recommend you not make this the hill you die on. I would make it clear that you and your husband have your room, your mother has the other room and the three of them can figure out where to sleep with the caveat that if they stay in your living room, the boy and the niece do not stay in the same bed/air mattress (if that is an issue for you). Explain that with one bathroom this is going to be difficult and there are other options such as the Motel down the road.

Then, I would find a small present to give to bff and make him part of the holiday.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 5:00 PM on December 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


In response to questions asked: no, the boyfriend has a very nice home life. Only child of two very doting parents who give him anything and everything.

In my family growing up, significant others were not invited to Christmases or Thanksgivings or family reunions, especially in other states that required significant travel, unless those relationships were "serious". My first boyfriend that I brought to a significant event was someone I lived with. A 16 yr olds relationship, as much as she wants it to be, is not "serious". We're she 22, I wouldn't care - but she's not even an adult yet!

What am I most upset by? I guess that I feel like I was snubbed on purpose. I am upset that no one asked my mother, whom as matriarch of the family should've been asked, or asked me when it's my house. I've had other guests to Christmas dinner before (my roommate, for instance, when I was renting out a room) but it was my house, I could invite who I wanted, and I cleared it with Grandma first. I find it terrifically rude that no one asked me, my husband or my mother. And I find it embarrassing and worrisome that I am starting to expect this kind of behavior from my niece.
posted by athena2255 at 5:05 PM on December 16, 2013 [9 favorites]


OP, you are entitled to have anger in your question. Go ahead and vent here so you can be cordial at Christmas, because I hear you.

This girl is a 16-year-old child. @matty is right - It is appalling that a MINOR is allowed to bring her eff buddy to family Christmas without your permission and her father just expects you all to handle it while statutory rape goes on under your roof? Hell to the no!

I understand why this makes you furious. It is galling that your brother lets his child walk all over him, you, and your mother. It's your house.

My vote is to rage like crazy privately, and get all of this negative energy out of your system over the next 8 days. Then at Christmas, be the sweetest, most gracious hostess in the history of ever. Give an Oscar-worthy performance. Be gracious if it kills you. Give your niece's young beau, who apparently has no loving family of his own, the best Christmas ever.

Make your brother stay in the hotel.
posted by hush at 5:05 PM on December 16, 2013 [10 favorites]


I just can't get over that a teenage "outsider" would want to spend so much time with someone else's family. A family reunion and Christmas? I understand your annoyance, but I think your whole clan should feel flattered rather than resentful.
posted by ndg at 5:12 PM on December 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


While having to accommodate an unexpected guest is infuriating and places a burden upon you, I don't understand the vehement distaste you have for the boyfriend simply being present at your holiday functions. I know the holidays are time for -family-, but bringing along a partner/boyfriend/girlfriend doesn't seem out of the ordinary.

My older sisters also always brought home their boyfriends for major holidays. Most of the time my sisters and their boyfriends would spend the morning/afternoon at the boyfriends' parents' and then they'd spend the late afternoon/evening at our parents'. This wasn't seen as abnormal by anyone---though my mother had slight resentment over having to 'share' my siblings/holiday with another family. Nonetheless, everyone had a good time.

But I digress, I'm glad you don't fault the boyfriend in this. He may not have a family with which to have holidays. He may have been invited last minute himself. He may have been under the impression his presence was already cleared with the rest of the family. It doesn't sound like he had anything to do with what's transpired. So my advice is to roll with it. If you can accommodate him, try to. He could be a great addition to your holiday festivities and will keep niece occupied (and less grumpy?). If you can't accommodate him, then speak directly with your brother about it. Let him know you can happily accommodate 2 people--but you just don't have the space/means to handle a 3rd guest and that checking first would've helped. Personally, though, I think the teens can share an air mattress while dad takes the couch.
posted by stubbehtail at 5:12 PM on December 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


In broad strokes, I agree with you, but I could not understand why you were "furious" until I read further down about how your niece had pulled this off before and took advantage of your mother. You're furious because now you are the one being taken advantage of, just like your mother was, and you are being treated as a person to be exploited and manipulated by your niece.

I realize that hospitality is a priority for most of us, but hospitality is something for the host to provide at her choosing. The niece is attempting to "give away" something (hospitality) to her boyfriend that she herself does not own.

I'm on the side of "family holidays are family holidays", and holidays like Christmas have a place of "sacred space" as far as family gatherings go.

The buck stops with your brother here. Some people might grit their teeth and be silently furious while the niece and the boyfriend come over. Don't be that person. Call your brother and explain to him that he needs to find a nearby motel.
posted by deanc at 5:15 PM on December 16, 2013 [7 favorites]


And I find it embarrassing and worrisome that I am starting to expect this kind of behavior from my niece.

Well, this is catastrophizing, and it doesn't get you anywhere. Yes, she (and your brother) have established a pattern here, and it's one that certainly needs some nipping in the bud. So the non-crazymaking option for you is simply to state your boundaries clearly (but without animosity), so that everyone is on the same page for all future visits. Again, you say some variation of this: "Boyfriend is welcome. However, in the future please confirm with me ahead of time if you would like to invite any additional guests, and I will let you know if we are able to accommodate them or not."

As far as getting through this particular holiday, though, I think you should ask yourself: do you want to be happy, or do you want to be right? Because I think you can have one or the other, but not both.
posted by scody at 5:18 PM on December 16, 2013 [18 favorites]


I don't see why you're angry at your niece about this and not upset with your brother. Parents are responsible for who their minor children bring to family gatherings, certainly when it involves purchasing plane tickets. 16-year-olds don't fly their boyfriends out to events without parental involvement. It's perfectly reasonable to be upset that someone would abuse your hospitality by bringing along another house-guest without even talking to you. I can totally get your niece wanting him to come, and I can see her being moody about the situation and wanting her father to let the boyfriend come, but the obligation is totally on the adult in this situation, your brother, to consider how the decision impacts the family and to, if the boyfriend is going to be invited at all, to discuss it with you, the host, first.

But it's done and you're committed to being a good cheery host for the holidays now. So call up your brother and tell him that you're really hurt he would invite someone to your home without even discussing it with you and your mom first. You can reiterate that he's welcome now, but that you're not sure about logistics and sleeping arrangements. Ask your brother what he was thinking in terms of sleeping arrangements. If appropriate, request that he get a hotel room to house whoever won't be staying at your house.
posted by zachlipton at 5:20 PM on December 16, 2013 [8 favorites]


[Don't call other people trolls, just answer the question or move on.]
posted by jessamyn at 5:20 PM on December 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


A 16 yr olds relationship, as much as she wants it to be, is not "serious".

16-year-olds have absolutely no perspective about this. You can't expect her to know if her relationship is serious or not. You can expect her to freak-out if you guys suggest otherwise, because that's what teenagers do. It's developmentally appropriate, so to speak.

I've had other guests to Christmas dinner before (my roommate, for instance, when I was renting out a room) but it was my house, I could invite who I wanted, and I cleared it with Grandma first. I find it terrifically rude that no one asked me, my husband or my mother.

This is not the norm in every family; I would never even think to ask the family matriarch permission to bring a guest someplace if they were not hosting. Perhaps your family is very traditional, but again, this is not the norm--and I speak as someone who accompanied my best friends' family on big family vacations, including a reunion, during high school. This is not an expectation across the board, even if it is one within your family. In my experience, it's actually quite unusual.

More to the point, I agree with scody. You and your mother really should quit stewing in silence and learn to communicate your needs and desires clearly and firmly. The whole "stewing inside but happy outside but also making it clear that I'm furious" sounds really unhealthy for all involved as well as a recipe for a Christmas spent screaming at one another.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 5:22 PM on December 16, 2013 [44 favorites]


I find it embarrassing and worrisome that I am starting to expect this kind of behavior from my niece.

It should be her father who is embarrassed - it is not your fault she is behaving this way.

As for worrisome, possibly. But I think a lot of people here can attest that doing stupid and inappropriate things as a 16 year old in no way guarantees future stupidity/inappropriateness. Don't despair.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 5:23 PM on December 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


her father just expects you all to handle it while statutory rape goes on under your roof?

In fairness, a 16-year-old can consent to sex with with an 18-year-old in many states and it's certainly not uncommon. Furthermore, we don't know what kind of relationship they have and whether they are sleeping together, nor is it really any of our business (or the OP's business). Leave parenting your niece to her father and focus on setting the rule that uninvited houseguests without even asking is unacceptable.
posted by zachlipton at 5:25 PM on December 16, 2013 [9 favorites]


[Keep the statutory rape discussion out of this thread please - it's way off topic and totally inflammatory]
posted by jessamyn at 5:26 PM on December 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


It is appalling that a MINOR is allowed to bring her eff buddy to family Christmas

"Eff buddy", seriously? According to the OP, they've been together since at least last year, when "she managed to talk Grandma into allowing the boyfriend to come to our family reunion."

That's a serious relationship in my book, and in my family it was/is totally acceptable to bring such SOs to family events.

That may not be acceptable in the OP's family, and that's fine. But, OP, it's on you to express your boundaries to your brother and/or your niece. I'm honestly confounded by your rage towards the boyfriend and their relationship.
posted by lalex at 5:29 PM on December 16, 2013 [16 favorites]


You should have a small, undramatic but firm conversation with your brother and his niece that inviting someone along for an event without checking with the hosts is not great, and expecting to stay overnight is extremely not great. And it's not going to happen again.

Then, because you want to keep good contact with your niece, you welcome boyfriend for Xmas dinner and stuff. But they have to sleep elsewhere if you don't have space or if you have rules about who sleeps together in your house.

You get to have your feelings, but for what it's worth, your rage seems over the top to me. I'm in my 40s, also fwiw.
posted by rtha at 5:31 PM on December 16, 2013 [5 favorites]


In my family growing up, significant others were not invited to Christmases or Thanksgivings or family reunions, especially in other states that required significant travel, unless those relationships were "serious".

OK, so this is your perspective and it is totally justifiable. However, your niece did not grow up in your family in the 1980s, she was not alive then; and she does not live near you now, so she is not witnessing these rules as they continue.

Family rules and traditions seem instinctive only when we grow up in a bath of them. For everyone else, they must be taught and learned. Your niece has no way of knowing her BF is unwelcome until she is an adult on a marriage path, if nobody has ever actually said those things to her. Just saying "only serious" is unclear: everyone thinks their relationship is serious until it breaks up!

Your brother may not have felt nearly as bound to the significant-other rulings. Maybe it never came up for him! He may have utterly forgotten them. He may have remembered and decided they were dumb. We can't know. But if you want these rules to remain fully operational for all parties you're gonna have to teach them to the people who won't drink them in from the air.

So just keep re-reading everything PhoB has posted. Use this as a chance to teach your niece by example, and your brother by explicitly saying, what is expected of family members.
posted by like_a_friend at 5:33 PM on December 16, 2013 [11 favorites]


Considering that LAST YEAR (i.e. 2012) she invited the SAME boyfriend to another family event, I'd be hesitant to think of this relationship as a typical teenager fling. By no means do I think it'll last forever, but it's clear this girl is trying to make the dude a part of family gatherings (either that or the two of them can't stand to be apart for even a few days).

My parents divorced when I was 18 months old. I am 33 now and my mother is STILL invited to family gatherings, every year, and my paternal grandmother's house. Your family might not be like this but I think the fact that your niice wants her boyfriend to be invited to family gathers in not something to get bent out of shape over.

The fact that they didn't ask permission about staying in your house is a whole other story though.
posted by Brittanie at 5:36 PM on December 16, 2013 [4 favorites]


Oh - presumably your brother grew up with these same traditions, right? But he's teaching her something different. (Whether he intends to or not is a different question.) That's maybe another conversation to have, just with him. Ask him questions in a non-accusatory way, and listen to what he says. If nothing else you'll have more information and perhaps fewer future surprises.
posted by rtha at 5:41 PM on December 16, 2013


athena2255: "What do I do about sleeping arrangements?"

I'd provide floor space and as much bedding as I could and or was reasonable. 16/18 year olds can sleep right on the floor on a blanket if the air mattress isn't large enough for two. I certainly did on numerous occasions. Or they can buy another air mattress if that's what they want; I bought a double this summer for less than $50.

melissasaurus: "Our family Christmas events always have a few randoms"

Mine too to the point that we always had a few generic gifts under the tree for unknown guests of both sexes (soap, socks, disposable razors, deodorant, decks of cards, maybe a board game, puzzle, or generic toy like a yo-yo in case the unexpected person was a child) because we always had additional people show up to any event. I remember one memorable year where the unexpected guest was my Aunt's RCMP boyfriend and the generic gift he ended up with was soap-on-a-rope in the shape of a pig.

athena2255: "In my family growing up, significant others were not invited to Christmases or Thanksgivings or family reunions, especially in other states that required significant travel, unless those relationships were "serious"."

This is something that varies wildly and it sounds like your brother and his family (maybe under the influence of his spouse's traditions) aren't adhering to as strongly. You are going to want to have this out with them for future events but I'd suggest bringing it up outside the planning for any particular event. And maybe make sure future invitations are more explicit in listing who can come. For a contrasting viewpoint my family would be pretty flabbergasted if I hadn't brought even a semi serious girlfriend along to family events; some of the reason for having the events in the first place was to show off partners. And on the other hand my spouse's mother was quite put off that we lived together before getting married. Having living together as the bar for them would have been a complete non starter.
posted by Mitheral at 5:41 PM on December 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


I actually think you should have a conversation with your brother and niece before they arrive to clear the air. Trying to put a nice face on it for the duration of their visit, when you will be tripping over each other in what will be rather crowded quarters, sounds like a recipe for an emotional blow-out if it's not dealt with pre-emptively.

It's perfectly fine to have a sharp-tongued laying-down-of-the-law with brother and niece. Who cares if their feelings get a little hurt or they're taken aback? They sure as hell didn't give your feelings much thought.

Show these people how to treat you...you are within your rights here to put a little tooth and fang into it, since they're your relatives. (Keep the boyfriend out of the discussion, of course.)

I too would be irked to bits over this, so no, it's not just you being a fuddy-duddy.
posted by nacho fries at 5:43 PM on December 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think your brother and his daughter are allowed to decide how the boyfriend fits into their household, and if they've decided that he's more "family" than "non-family," I really think the rest of you should accommodate that, at least in spirit, at least on Christmas. There's some kind of connection there if this kid is spending time this way rather than with his own family. One could argue that you should have expected the boyfriend anyway, since his inclusion at family events was established at the reunion.

If there's no room, there's no room, but I think it's unkind to designate an "outsider" who threw everything off. Could you/would you accommodate a hypothetical partner of your brother's?
posted by ndg at 5:49 PM on December 16, 2013 [5 favorites]


One anecdote and then I'll shut the hell up.

I dated a woman for a while whose parents had a "no unmarried dating people share a bed in our house" rule. If we'd announced a date for a commitment ceremony, then okay, but otherwise...

Anyway. They laid out the rules and expectations (via my girlfriend, mostly) and it was fine if new for me. In all other ways they made me feel welcome and included, and not in a smile-nailed-on way, but genuinely. I still think of them fondly although their daughter and I broke up more than a decade ago. So, yeah, it's okay to be mad, because what they did was really inconsiderate. But it's not all you have to be, either.
posted by rtha at 5:51 PM on December 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


Honestly, I get that you think this girl is a pain in the ass, but...

This is Christmas, and the "imposition" you're talking about is two kids on an air mattress instead of one. Are you really going to put your foot down with "there's no room at the inn"?
posted by rue72 at 6:11 PM on December 16, 2013 [5 favorites]


When I was 18 and in my first semester of college, I was 1200 miles from home and had never been away from my family for Thanksgiving before. My good male friend (not quite a boyfriend, yet) insisted that his family would love to have me at the family gathering and that it was no problem at all for me to go. Against my better judgment as I'm extremely shy, I went. Later we found out that it was apparently extremely inappropriate of him to bring me to a family event and he was told in no uncertain terms not to do it again, oh and that he shouldn't dress like a grubby teenager at family functions.

We're now 35, married for 12 years, with 2 kids. We haven't gone back to offend them with our presence since, nor have either of our kids met any of the people on that side of the family. Teenagers grow into adults. Think about what kind of relationship you are looking to have with your family when they grow up.
posted by pekala at 7:00 PM on December 16, 2013 [39 favorites]


My family is definitely a "more the merrier" family when it comes to the Holidays, but that's just for meals and celebrations, not staying at our house.

I agree with others that you are totally justified in your anger and annoyance. I also agree that you need to channel that into a constructive conversation with your brother and niece to let them know you don't appreciate their games. (Yeah, they are playing games.) Your mother needs to have that conversation with them on her own. Her issues are not your issues and vise versa.

I also think it wouldn't be the end of the world if you told them to get a hotel, but then again 6 (near) adults in a 2br house sounds like a lot, and I probably wouldn't put up with it under such short notice unless I had 2 bathrooms. It's a reasonable response to the situation. Especially if you explain in the conversation that the issue how they went about it. Don't make it about the boyfriend, but the fact they didn't tell you he'd be coming and didn't give you the time to plan.

And yeah... I'm a 31 y/o prude who thinks it's weird an 18 y/o kid would rather fly somewhere for Christmas to sleep on the floor of his 16 y/o girlfriend's aunt's living room, but some people are OK with that. I didn't tell my family about my SO (no husband) for almost a year, and we only finally spent Christmas together when I wanted to go on a vacation right after the holiday. I accept that kids are kids and not all are like me when I was their age (though many still are).

But definitely talk to your brother and niece. She's old enough to have an mature conversation about how that's not a good way to operate.
posted by kendrak at 7:07 PM on December 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


I just wanted to say that this guy, to your niece, is not some random 18 year old dude. He's her boyfriend. The boyfriend I drug to all my family gatherings when I was 16 (without it even occurring to me to ask anyone for permission!) has been my husband now for twelve years. This guy is only an outsider if you treat him like one, and it's really, really not fair to him or to your niece or to anyone else to behave angrily about his presence in your family's holidays and gatherings.

Now: Having a 2 bedroom house and everyone assuming you will host more people than can fit into your beds - that's a different issue and one you have every right to take a stand on. Tell them next year that you need some people to stay in a hotel to maintain your sanity. But don't take this out on a teenaged boy because he doesn't share your blood.
posted by something something at 7:21 PM on December 16, 2013 [5 favorites]


I think the fact that you weren't asked in advance about having people stay at your house is pretty rude, and you can mention to your brother and niece that of course you are happy to see her boyfriend again, but in the future you need to be asked before they invite someone to stay at your house. And then HOLD TO IT. Make the motel reservation for them if need be.

That said, "parents who give him anything" doesn't always translate to nice home life.
posted by jeather at 7:36 PM on December 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


It's interesting to read these comments and reflect on "why am I so mad" and what's with this "intense fury", and I think I'd like to change my answer from before.

Further background: Christmas celebration with mom is a 3 day, 2 night affair. After which, my mother heads home and the rest of us (me, husband, brother, niece and, now, boyfriend) drive 3 hours to my dad's house for his 3 night, 3 day Christmas affair. This one is bigger with extended family (approx 30 ppl). My mom's family is quite large too, but they live all over the US whilst my dad's is pretty local.

Niece asked my dad if it's okay if boyfriend comes. She did not ask me or my mother in regards to our other, smaller, Christmas.

Upon reflection, that's the real reason why I'm mad. I feel like they take advantage of my mom, that they don't treat her respectfully, that they're starting to treat me the same ... My brother still expects mom to clean up his messes (financially, household cleanliness, etc) and I have very little respect for him. My niece makes disparaging remarks about my mom behind her back. That's it: I'm angry on behalf of my mother.

This is really interesting and cheaper than a therapist!
posted by athena2255 at 5:44 AM on December 17, 2013 [17 favorites]


I'd leave your neice out of it. Technically she's a child and it's your brother's responsibility to teach her. You can model good behavior, but any correction needs to be done by him.

You can address this with your brother after the holiday. "Clem, I am really angry that you've put me in such an awkward position. While I'm always happy to open our very small home to family, your inviting Jordan along, without asking me or Mom, is just inconsiderate. As it is, accomodating you and Missy is a stretch for us, but we gladly do it because you're family. Jordan is a nice boy, and if I had a huge house, it wouldn't be a problem. I'm also hurt because Missy specifically asked Dad if it was okay to bring Jordan, but we didn't even get the courtesy of a heads up about his coming, let alone asked if it would be okay. I feel very taken for granted and put upon. I know Missy says mean things about Mom and this is just exascerbating the situation for me. I rather expect Missy to be disrespectful, she's a teenager and you've allowed her to get away with some pretty shady things in the past, but what I am having a problem with is your behavior. Do not EVER do this to me or Mom again. And share this with Missy, because if she tries this shit again, you all will be looking for a hotel room so fast it will make your head spin."

You'll be tempted to say this before the holiday, but wait, you don't need that kind of drama.

Leave them all to their own devices in the living room. They've literally made their beds, now they can lie in them.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:02 AM on December 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


my nieces and nephews have all at one time or another shown themselves to be master manipulators and spoiled acting and behaving rudely to their elders. i have mostly bit my tongue, or approached the topic as "isn't it interesting how we see this differently." I have very rarely taken on a stern parental type of style. as such, my nieces and nephews have told me a lot of the big and little dramas that teenagers get into. they trust me to love them and to not judge them (even when they act a fool). i'm not angling to be the "cool" aunt - but rather, the one they can talk to. as they reach adulthood, our bond is strong and they've mostly grown out of those childhood behaviors.

i have aunts who critiqued me (and my boyfriends and my choices) at seemingly every chance they got - sometimes in a laying down the law way, sometimes in snide passive aggressive comments - and i am not close to them. i answer politely when spoken to and we exchange recipes on facebook, but otherwise we're strangers. i have other aunts and uncles who let time smooth over any of my youthful rudeness and we're very close.

you can be mad on behalf of your mother and make sure this never happens again - but the cost of doing that might be higher than you'd like to pay. approaching your brother seems totally appropriate - he's a big boy, he can take some of your ire - but you're too upset (about too many things) to try to untangle this with the 16 year old.

i will say that with my nieces, their boyfriends were invited everywhere. they were as much a part of the family as the nieces wanted them to be. sometimes it would be at family events that one of them would decide her boyfriend was a real drip and they'd break up a few days later. it gave her a safe space to playact an adult relationship and see if he fit. my nephew on the other side of the family was discouraged from ever thinking of his girlfriends as family and he was subtly insulted with "she's just some random 16 year old to me!" so he started hanging out with the girlfriends' families on holidays, fighting to be left home, pulling away from his extended family. and one of these times when everyone was at a christmas dinner that his girlfriend wasn't invited to (so he didn't come) they made a baby.
posted by nadawi at 6:45 AM on December 17, 2013 [17 favorites]


I'm seeing unspoken class issues written all over this situation. It sounds like OP and her brother are of different social classes - despite having been raised in the exact same family. My parents' families-of-origin are like that, too, where some siblings are living with professional class values, and others not - and it is at the same time terribly awkward AND wonderful whenever they all get together under one roof!

Therein lies the conflict. OP and her brother have vastly different sets of unspoken social rules at play here.

I'm noting the particular class markers here of a 37-year-old man (he's my age) who started raising his baby at age 21, taken together with the unspoken ways he devalues what he may think of as "women's work." Of course that drives you crazy, OP. Of course he's not going to see any sort of problem with the idea of bringing along his child's paramour without getting permission from the matriarch and the hostess in his life first. One rule he might be living by is "Women in the family serve, so I don't need to ask their permission." Different strokes.

I'm not at all convinced even the best post-Christmas conversation will change him, but you can try. It's probably going to be easier for you to set tighter boundaries next time, and preemptively say "here's the hotel info."

As for talking to your niece, in my social class, one big unspoken rule is we never discipline other people's children when the actual parents are present but YMMV. However, this rule is often trumped by the notion of "My house, my rules." You have every right to tell your niece it hurts your feelings to hear anyone speak ill of your dear mother, and that you will not be having that kind of talk under your own roof! Handle your niece exactly like you would handle a gossipy-coworker - set the polite boundary, but maintain a cordial relationship. Good luck, OP!
posted by hush at 7:42 AM on December 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


" A 16 yr olds relationship, as much as she wants it to be, is not "serious"."

I met my (now) husband when I was 18. We've now been together for more than 20 years. During the first 6 years of our relationship (until we got engaged) his family treated me as an 'outsider' at family events. I was excluded from group activities and photos. I was made to feel like a second-class citizen. I still occasionally feel sad and resentful about the way they treated me.

I totally understand how you feel put out by hosting an unexpected visitor at a family gathering but please don't assume that this person is not a "serious" relationship... you never know where this relationship is going and if you treat this person like an outsider now, years down the line when they have kids together they will be more reluctant to go to family events on your side of the family because of the way they were treated in the past.
posted by LittleMy at 7:42 AM on December 17, 2013 [4 favorites]


I had started posting some further thoughts on the situation last night right as AskMe crashed, and now I see from your update that they were somewhat accurate. I really have a hard time wrapping my head around the idea that these two are conniving, scheming grifters who just want to get one over on you and your mom.

More likely, they are simply a little bit dense and self-absorbed (and yes, presumptuous). Niece loves her boyfriend. Your brother likes his daughter's boyfriend (or anyway, does not want to alienate his daughter by rejecting him). So let's all be a happy family and go to Christmas together.

They live a plane ride away from the rest of you. It has not occurred to them that really, you don't like or respect either of them very much at all, and in fact have been nursing a huge raging resentment for years.

After all, your dad's family seems to welcome them with open arms, why would grandma's family be different? They are wrong, of course, in this assumption, but it's a reasonable assumption to make if you're not good at detecting hidden fury under a fake cheerful smile.
posted by like_a_friend at 8:27 AM on December 17, 2013 [4 favorites]


This is not the norm in every family; I would never even think to ask the family matriarch permission to bring a guest someplace if they were not hosting.

This could be cultural - in my own family, the family matriarch got to make these decisions, even if she wasn't the one technically hosting, she was considered to be hosting any event she deigned to attend, as it were.

However, you are completely justified and not an old-fogey to be upset. I'd be furious. You don't invite other people to stay at someone else's house without asking. This is no-holds barred, completely and totally rude, and you would be well within your rights to refuse all of them the door.

What I, personally, would do in this situation would be to say, "Oh, what a pity you didn't ask me sooner, I would have said that it won't be possible. I have neither the room nor the inclination to host a stranger in my house. If you'd like to get a hotel for X's boyfriend, I suppose it's alright if he comes to Y celebration and Z part of Christmas, but I certainly hope he won't be underfoot the entire time. I was really hoping this would be just a nice, private, family celebration, especially since Dad's is such a big gathering."
posted by corb at 8:47 AM on December 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


athena2255: "I find it terrifically rude that no one asked me, my husband or my mother. And I find it embarrassing and worrisome that I am starting to expect this kind of behavior from my niece."

The terrible behavior is from her father. Your niece asked her dad, the grownup in charge of her, who said yes. Why would she pursue it farther? She's not going to magically acquire behaviors which demonstrate respect for you or your mother if her dad doesn't bother.
posted by desuetude at 8:52 AM on December 17, 2013 [6 favorites]


This could be cultural - in my own family, the family matriarch got to make these decisions, even if she wasn't the one technically hosting, she was considered to be hosting any event she deigned to attend, as it were.

This is so terrifically bizarre to me that my mind is mildly blown over it--and I have experiences both with very ask-culture and very guess-culture families. It seems, at the very least, as if OP's brother missed the memo on that count.

OP, I do think it's understandable that you feel defensive of your mother. However, she needs to fight her own battles and learn to put down boundaries with her son. It sounds like she enables his lazy or burdensome behavior to a certain extent; some of this might be because of differently-gendered expectations within certain cultures (boys are allowed more coddling, whereas girls are expected both to do more work and to police social behaviors). But as hard as that can be to watch, it's not your job to police their relationship or your mother's relationship with her grandchild. It's one thing if your niece says something nasty about your mom, in which case, feel free to say, "Hey, we don't talk that way about Grandma in my house," but generally I think a lot more open communication is necessary here. There is an awful lot of attributing maliciousness to your niece when everything described sounds like completely typical teenaged behavior (mixed in with a bit of shock that, maybe, your niece might be doing it--which is also pretty typical teenaged behavior). Generally, I think it would be emotionally healthier for you not to be so directly involved in the strife between your brother and your mother. I know it's hard--I've been there--but this dynamic can poison your relationship with your brother and your niece, who deserve to have their own relationship with you, outside whatever dynamic exists between your parents and them.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:03 AM on December 17, 2013 [7 favorites]


Invited to events - dinner, say - is one thing, and I'd call that the norm. Invited to a typical reunion - say potluck BBQ at a park - fits there, too. Maybe, depending on the specifics, even bringing them along to a camping at a park-style reunion.

But inviting them along to stay overnight at someone's home - WITHOUT permission - is NOT the norm, whether it's a teen or an adult, and in this case, the boyfriend is both.

I'm quite happy to welcome an extra dinner/party guest, especially if someone checks with me first, so I can make sure we'll have enough food.

However. NOBODY else gets to say who stays in MY house.

Multiple reasons.

If I don't know the person - or may know them, but not well enough to trust them - or don't trust the judgement of those that do know them, there's issues like:
Safety.
Potential theft.
Drug / alcohol use.
Respect for belongings.

My house is MY space - and while I'll tolerate some weirdness during the awake hours, that's a no-go when I need to sleep.

And I say this having just hosted SEVEN extra 15-18 year old boys in my house for 24+ hours over the weekend... and it went like a charm. (Not even any spills, and about five minutes of straightening up and dishes afterward.) But - most of the boys I knew slightly, and they're all friends of my almost-18 year old son, and he's proven to be an excellent judge of character, and it shows in his choice of friends. (The fact that almost all of them are higher-ranking Boy Scouts may influence the average quality...)
posted by stormyteal at 9:03 AM on December 17, 2013 [10 favorites]


My niece makes disparaging remarks about my mom behind her back. That's it: I'm angry on behalf of my mother.

Ah, I can relate to this, and I think it is perfectly fine to stick up for your mom. My nephew used to make snide remarks about my mom, until I shut it down: "Please don't talk about my mom that way. It hurts me to hear it, and it hurts her too." It's A-OK to be angry on her behalf, and to insist that she be treated with respect in your home.

Kiddo (and brother) need a cup o' tough love. Stand up for mom.
posted by nacho fries at 9:08 AM on December 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


I feel like they take advantage of my mom, that they don't treat her respectfully, that they're starting to treat me the same ... My brother still expects mom to clean up his messes (financially, household cleanliness, etc) and I have very little respect for him. My niece makes disparaging remarks about my mom behind her back. That's it: I'm angry on behalf of my mother.

That's obnoxious, I can understand why you're upset about being a second class citizen in your own family. I don't think the boyfriend coming is a big deal in and of itself, but I think that expecting the women to do the grunt work and put up with whatever the men dish out *is* a big deal. Especially if your niece and her boyfriend are learning to live the same way.

Your niece is apparently too naive to understand that when she's putting down and disrespecting the women in her family, she's perpetuating a status quo where *she* will be/is a second-class citizen, too. I would also wonder if she's attaching herself at the hip to a guy at all these family events because she thinks it gives her status. Not to say that they aren't in love, maybe they are, but I would also wonder about what she's learning about what a woman is "supposed" to act like or respect and how that's influencing her behavior.

So I would call out your brother's disrespect (in regards to the cleaning, the finances, coddling, etc) in front of her and the boyfriend as it comes up...I just wouldn't make the disrespect/entitlement issue about the boyfriend or Christmas (or even about your niece as opposed to your brother at all, really).

I can't say I think it's a good idea to do a call out about who is coming for Christmas or why in particular, because, even though not *everyone* is sensitive about not having a welcoming place to go for the holidays, enough people are that it could easily turn much more hurtful than I think you'd want or would be wise.
posted by rue72 at 9:18 AM on December 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


What I, personally, would do in this situation would be to say, "Oh, what a pity you didn't ask me sooner, I would have said that it won't be possible. I have neither the room nor the inclination to host a stranger in my house. If you'd like to get a hotel for X's boyfriend, I suppose it's alright if he comes to Y celebration and Z part of Christmas, but I certainly hope he won't be underfoot the entire time. I was really hoping this would be just a nice, private, family celebration, especially since Dad's is such a big gathering."

OP, however you decide to react, I would hope you take a different tact than suggested here. This response puts the vast majority of the "punishment" for your brother and niece's rudeness on the boyfriend, who is by far the most innocent of the three, since he likely is not aware that his presence is being flung on you fairly last minute without requesting permission. I don't think expecting the boyfriend to sit by himself in a hotel room twiddling his thumbs is a fair response since it is your brother and niece who behaved poorly here, and this suggestion lets them off fairly scot free while making the boyfriend's trip very unpleasant.
posted by The Gooch at 9:28 AM on December 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


Upon reflection, that's the real reason why I'm mad. I feel like they take advantage of my mom, that they don't treat her respectfully, that they're starting to treat me the same ... That's it: I'm angry on behalf of my mother.

Great that you are moving closer to the root of what this is all about. I wonder if there isn't one more step you could take, because that paragraph (especially the part I cut) still focuses on what they do. You could probably take one step more and get to a paragraph that's about yourself ("I feel... I fear... I think... I remember..."). And why does your mom need you to be angry on her behalf? Is she angry? How is she expressing it?
posted by salvia at 9:32 AM on December 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


Haha - I keep finding more layers of emotion within me ... like peeling an onion! Whoa, boy. Got teary there, reading some of these.

I have responded to brother and niece. I have informed them that boyfriend can stay but he and niece will not be sharing a bed. I also told them that in the future, they should ask for or wait to be given permission to stay in my house - if they bring uninvited or unexpected guests in the future, they will need to find a hotel.

It's true that I don't like my brother. I think he lies, I don't agree with his politics or general take on life, I think he's a mooch and a "everything happens TO me" kind of person, instead of accepting his own responsibility. He also didn't introduce his daughter to the family until she was 9. He had been making child support payments, we're told, but never visited her or had custody. I never knew her as a baby and my mother never got to cradle her only grandchild. We honestly didn't know she existed before she was nine.

And now ... now she's a full-grown teenager, who wears things that show off her midriff and visible bra straps and is obsessed with make-up and wears push-up bras and ... yeah, I resent her. I think she's really smart and is excellent at debate and has a lot of potential, and instead she's becoming one of "those" women that thinks her only power comes from her T&A. And I think her father, my brother, is a shitty dad and I've told him so in the past. None of that is her fault.

Anyways ... they accepted my rules for the house. Then Niece told me that her and the boyfriend's flight comes in 5 hours before my brothers, and that they'd really like to go to the mall, and that my brother said that was okay, so could I or my mom drive out to the airport, pick up their luggage and drive home while they took the light rail to the mall and had some alone time? (I told her no, that the mall has large lockers where they could store their luggage while they shop. I don't think I'm allowed to order her to spend time with the family when she's not my daughter.)

Brother also told me that he's taken the liberty of making us a reservation for Christmas dinner, so we won't be cooking a large meal together and watching football and drinking eggnog and playing cards and all the rest.

My mom is nearly 70 years old. She had a scare a few weeks ago and had to get shocked with a defibrillator. She's a cancer survivor, staunch Catholic, excellent card player ... she's climbed Mt Kilimanjaro. She's hiked to Machu Picchu. She's taught English in orphanages in India. She's amazing and yeah, I LIKED our little quaint traditional Christmas. I don't want things to change. I want them to realize how awesome my mom is and soak up all the time with her they can get.

But traditions DO change.

I think that I should arrange a separate time for my mother to come over and, with my husband, we'll cook a big meal and watch football and drink eggnog and play cards.
posted by athena2255 at 10:11 AM on December 17, 2013 [12 favorites]


First off, I totally agree that it was out of line for her not to ask permission. Completely unacceptable.

What I'm wondering, though, is why you didn't invite him in the first place when you (presumably) invited your niece? Then the whole issue would have been avoided. If you don't have space for him to sleep and/or don't want them in the same room, you could have made that clear at the time: "Whatshisface is welcome but we don't have any spare rooms so he'll have to get a motel room".

I'd be really hurt if I wasn't invited to holiday celebrations of the family of someone I'd been dating for a year. This might be region-specific so maybe you're better off asking your local friends - but literally everyone I know in a relationship celebrates christmas together, visiting both families together. I didn't date as a teenager but throughout my 20s I've always spent part of the holidays with my boyfriends' families and vice-versa. My sister brought her boyfriend to Thanksgivings and Christmases when she was 17 or 18.

On preview it looks like you've solved the problem, which is great! I'd really suggest inviting him directly next year, though.
posted by randomnity at 10:16 AM on December 17, 2013


I'm glad that you have sorted out the situation. I'd also suggest you think about why you are resenting your niece, who clearly hasn't had the best situation in life. To treat her as an adult is not fair to anyone.
posted by Nimmie Amee at 10:20 AM on December 17, 2013 [12 favorites]


What I'm wondering, though, is why you didn't invite him in the first place when you (presumably) invited your niece?

I wouldn't invite my 16 year old niece's boyfriend to an intimate Christmas gathering, either.
posted by winna at 10:24 AM on December 17, 2013 [7 favorites]


I can't echo Nimmie's comment above enough. It is not a part of your question, but this animosity you have for your niece is so totally misplaced and incredibly unfair to her. Your brother's past decisions ARE NOT HER FAULT and shouldn't be held against her. For all you know, you could be the ONLY chance she has at a responsible female role model, and you're writing her off automatically.
posted by Brittanie at 10:31 AM on December 17, 2013 [11 favorites]


Brother also told me that he's taken the liberty of making us a reservation for Christmas dinner, so we won't be cooking a large meal together and watching football and drinking eggnog and playing cards and all the rest....I LIKED our little quaint traditional Christmas. I don't want things to change.

Then do your little quaint traditional Christmas - you're the host! If they want to go to a restaurant, let them go to the restaurant themselves. I don't understand why you're letting your brother steamroll you on this.

To be honest, from this and some of your other comments, it sounds like you get some kind of emotional value out of martyring yourself and your mother.
posted by lalex at 10:36 AM on December 17, 2013 [16 favorites]


I think you might find it helpful to read about the differences between ask and guess culture, if you're not already familiar. Clearly, you and your mother are participant in guess culture, because you're very obviously angry that your niece even asked to have a ride to the mall.

Were I in your position, I'd just assume they probably want to get Christmas shopping done. But instead, this is yet another thing your niece is doing that enrages you--which also includes her manner of dress, her sexuality, her body, the fact that your mother didn't get to hold her when she was an infant. You keep saying none of this is your niece's fault, but your language and anger don't reflect that.

She is not fully grown. She is a kid who is navigating her sexuality for the first time after a childhood spent without her father. She is also navigating becoming part of a family she's only known for seven years at this point. She wasn't raised with your customs or culture. And it sounds like she's doing her best--she's agreed to sleep separately from her boyfriend, she's asking permission for favors instead of just assuming they'll be given. And you're still seething and finding fault with her.

Really, I want to give her a big hug. I know this is scary for you, to watch traditions changing thanks to the addition of another generation while simultaneously contemplating your own mother's mortality, but none of this is the kid's fault and it seems like she's become the scapegoat here. Compassion is called for, not judgment.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:41 AM on December 17, 2013 [12 favorites]


For all you know, you could be the ONLY chance she has at a responsible female role model, and you're writing her off automatically.

I'm not sure that I know how to do this. Do you mean role model as in "young hip cool aunt" role model? Because if this is like the family reunion, she won't be talking to me. She's be talking to the boyfriend, off in a corner. They've already made arrangements to go to the mall together, alone, for 5 hours and neither myself or my mother are invited to join them.

Do you mean role model as in "stable, calm, assertive" because that's what I thought I was doing when I was trying to get her and my brother to respect the rules of my house.

Can I tell her to put on more clothes? Can I tell her to interact with the family and not her boyfriend or her cellphone? Her father certainly won't put any rules on her ... I live two states away and see my niece three times a year.

I'm not trying to be snarky. I honestly just am not sure what, in actions, you would like me to do to be a role model.
posted by athena2255 at 10:41 AM on December 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


I genuinely mean this non-snarkily, but have you considered that she is aware of how much you disapprove of her and is a little bit scared of you?

I find it very hard to believe that the scorn and judgment you've heaped on your niece and brother here aren't evident to her on some level.
posted by lalex at 10:47 AM on December 17, 2013 [16 favorites]


I'm not trying to be snarky. I honestly just am not sure what, in actions, you would like me to do to be a role model.

Well, for starters, you might want to seriously rethink your assumption that "she's becoming one of 'those' women that thinks her only power comes from her T&A." Given how little you say you really know her, I would suggest that A) you have no idea if this is really true or not, and B) this is an utterly toxic attitude that is poisoning your ability to cultivate any sort of loving, healthy relationship with her.

You also say "she's really smart and is excellent at debate and has a lot of potential." Great. Then relate to her on those terms. Stop judging her and start getting to know her, and encourage the positive qualities you see in her by demonstrating them yourself.

That's what it means for any adult to be a good role model.
posted by scody at 10:48 AM on December 17, 2013 [19 favorites]


you can love her. she knows you think she's a manipulative trollop and i wouldn't want to hang out with someone who thought that about me. the best role model you can be is to love her and accept her. it will probably take some time for her to trust you. ignore the clothes - teens will always show too much skin for the adults, she'll grow out of it or she won't. you're being one of "those" women who refuse to see the person past the outfit. also, the injury done to her by not being a part of her father's family until she was 9 is far greater than the injury done to your mom by not holding a baby. you will have no influence over her behavior the kind of woman she'll become until you stop sitting on high and deciding what kind of person she is because of a bra strap or normal teen behavior.

i'm not disagreeing that she sounds rude - but honestly, your spitting resentment of her is out of line. i'm surprised she even agreed to come. she's probably bringing her boyfriend as a protection against the silent or not so silent judgements she knew she was running into.
posted by nadawi at 10:49 AM on December 17, 2013 [16 favorites]


[OP I am truly glad this thread has been helpful but please do not thread sit or turn this into a large discussion about how to deal with your family or dislike for family members. Thank you.]
posted by jessamyn at 10:49 AM on December 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think that I should arrange a separate time for my mother to come over and, with my husband, we'll cook a big meal and watch football and drink eggnog and play cards.

This is a really good idea. One of the best ways to ease up expectations around Christmas, especially if you're sad you won't get to do X activity you love with Y person you love, is to have smaller celebrations throughout December. It takes the pressure off Christmas Day to be the Most Wonderful Warm Best Day Of All Time and instead lets you celebrate it as a season. This is great if, as you're experiencing this year, actual Christmas Day is going to be different because of visitors or traveling or whatever and you want to still honor those traditions that you hold close to your heart.

I should also say I 100% understand your annoyance here. If I was informed that I would be hosting someone I didn't know very well, without having time to prepare for it, around a major and often emotionally fraught holiday, I would flip out. You're in a tough situation and I feel for you. I think you've sorted it out admirably.

However, I would urge you to think a little bit more about this portion of your feelings:

And now ... now she's a full-grown teenager, who wears things that show off her midriff and visible bra straps and is obsessed with make-up and wears push-up bras and ... yeah, I resent her. I think she's really smart and is excellent at debate and has a lot of potential, and instead she's becoming one of "those" women that thinks her only power comes from her T&A. And I think her father, my brother, is a shitty dad and I've told him so in the past. None of that is her fault.

The mall thing sounds absurdly bratty and you're right to roll your eyes and decline that suggestion. And lord knows that in general, there is NOTHING wrong with being annoyed by teens. But you seem to think she's wielding her sexuality as a cudgel to intimidate and inconvenience you, which isn't the case. I don't know your brother or your niece, but from your description of both of them it sounds like she may play up those traits about herself because she thinks that's what is most valuable about her and she doesn't have a parent dialed-in enough to realize what's going on and show her otherwise.

If you don't have a close relationship with her, it's not reasonable to expect that she'll confide in you or anything like that. You're not going to change anything about her life or your brother's parenting in one short, tense holiday. But if you're able treat her with the same respect that you treat the other adults in the house, whether or not you feel like she's currently earning it, that just may stick with her.

Otherwise, I do think you can expect her to just cling to her boyfriend the whole time, since he may be the only person there who isn't radiating scorn or indifference towards her.
posted by superfluousm at 10:50 AM on December 17, 2013 [7 favorites]


If you know how she's behaving isn't her fault, then why do you resent her? What is that about? That is a thing to think about. It sounds like you're transferring a lot of your frustrations with your brother's behavior and attitude on to her.

She's off talking to her boyfriend in a corner because she's sixteen. And because - you say she's smart - she may well have picked up on the undercurrents of resentment and anger flowing through the house.
posted by rtha at 10:53 AM on December 17, 2013 [7 favorites]


My niece didn't ask for a ride to the mall. She asked for me to drive out to the airport and pick up her luggage for her, while she takes the tram to the mall.

She asked; you said no. That's okay, and all that needs to be said about the interaction. For all you know, it was your brother's suggestion that she ask. And again, if you haven't, please read the link on ask vs. guess culture, because it's entirely possible that she doesn't see this interaction as stressful or onerous at all. It's entirely possible that she is totally okay with the fact that you said "no."

Because if this is like the family reunion, she won't be talking to me. She's be talking to the boyfriend, off in a corner. They've already made arrangements to go to the mall together, alone, for 5 hours and neither myself or my mother are invited to join them.

To be a role model, don't assume malice where stupidity or ignorance (or other factors, like shyness, intimidation, feeling out of place in a new family environment) might be at fault. Ask her and her boyfriend about their lives--make an effort to make them feel included. Don't pass judgment on her clothing or dating life; if you can't say anything nice about them, ignore them completely. Instead, go the extra mile to engage with her about the things she's interested in, because this will create a safe environment for her to reach out and establish a relationship with you.

Do you mean role model as in "young hip cool aunt" role model?

The young hip cool stuff doesn't really matter half as much as the kind empathetic caring generous stuff. You have in your power the ability to be kind to a kid with a pretty crappy-sounding life. You should try that--not only for her, but also because it sounds like your anger and resentment are eating you up. Your ire won't make her go away. It will just make things that much more toxic for your whole family.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:54 AM on December 17, 2013 [16 favorites]


"Stop judging her and start getting to know her."

THIS. Exactly this.
posted by Brittanie at 10:57 AM on December 17, 2013 [5 favorites]


If you don't have a close relationship with her, it's not reasonable to expect that she'll confide in you or anything like that. You're not going to change anything about her life or your brother's parenting in one short, tense holiday. But if you're able treat her with the same respect that you treat the other adults in the house, whether or not you feel like she's currently earning it, that just may stick with her.

Oh, yes. I remember meeting an adult cousin at a family reunion where everyone else was MUCH older than me- I think I was 17? And everyone else treated me like a kid, because I was 'the kid' of the group, but she just talked to me like a person, and it left a HUGE impression on me.
posted by showbiz_liz at 10:59 AM on December 17, 2013 [7 favorites]


Brother also told me that he's taken the liberty of making us a reservation for Christmas dinner, so we won't be cooking a large meal together and watching football and drinking eggnog and playing cards and all the rest.

Um, what? Nope, he doesn't get to change the plans. Don't go along with it and then sigh bitterly the whole time, just tell him no. You invited him and his family to come have dinner at your house. When he hosts the family dinner, he can decide to have it at a restaurant.
posted by desuetude at 11:16 AM on December 17, 2013 [17 favorites]


You should stop inviting family members you dislike to stay with you over the holidays.
posted by Sara C. at 11:24 AM on December 17, 2013 [17 favorites]


And now ... now she's a full-grown teenager, who wears things that show off her midriff and visible bra straps and is obsessed with make-up and wears push-up bras and ... yeah, I resent her.

she won't be talking to me. She's be talking to the boyfriend, off in a corner. They've already made arrangements to go to the mall together, alone, for 5 hours


You're in your early 30s: old enough to have mostly forgotten how teenagers are and what it was like to be one, too young to be in regular contact with them, for the most part, via family or your own kids.

(I know, because I too am in my early 30s, and if it weren't for volunteer work I'd never see a teenager either.)

Every single thing you describe about her is so beyond normal it is almost a cliche. Teenagers wear provocative clothing to enrage their elders. They prefer the company of other teens to adults partly because most adults can't stand the sight of them. They go to the mall. THERE ARE WHOLE GENRES OF FILM DEVOTED TO THESE TRUTHS.

Now, I was a different teenage cliche (perhaps you were as well?) -the bookish sarcastic nerd type- and I was really effing judgmental and bitchy about my cousin who was more like your niece. I was wrong. I have rebuilt my friendship with her now that we're adults (and she is a totally wonderful, healthy, productive and lovely adult, p.s., and judgy-wudgy me is kind of the family fuckup) but I owed her a hell of an apology.

How you set an example: don't want her to think she's just clothes and tits? Stop assuming she's clothes and tits and treating her like she's stupid and conniving. Want her to indulge her other talents and values? Express interest in them. Want her to make good romantic choices? Trust her. Listen to her. Get to know her boyfriend.

Tell your brother to cancel the dinner reservation, or change it to just the three of them. It's sounding like he's trying to make things nice, make it easier to accommodate the extra person, or make up for the inconvenience somehow, and doesn't realize that at this point he really is just making everything worse. Tell him you appreciate the effort but the plans are going ahead as originally settled.
posted by like_a_friend at 11:25 AM on December 17, 2013 [17 favorites]


Um, what? Nope, he doesn't get to change the plans. Don't go along with it and then sigh bitterly the whole time, just tell him no. You invited him and his family to come have dinner at your house. When he hosts the family dinner, he can decide to have it at a restaurant.

This. Tell your brother brightly, "That's okay, but unnecessary! I'm actually going to be cooking!"
posted by corb at 11:25 AM on December 17, 2013 [9 favorites]


But if you're able treat her with the same respect that you treat the other adults in the house,

IMHO, "respect", in this case, is all about setting boundaries for yourself, and clearly mapping them out for your niece.

Being a role model in this case means being someone who has control over her life and personal space. To be a role model that she doesn't seem to have, be the person who "has it together" in a way that your brother clearly does not.
posted by deanc at 11:26 AM on December 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


Regarding your niece: I think that, even if you don't agree with the idea, it's important to recognize that your cultural background is not remotely standard. Which is not to say it's not a perfectly good cultural background, but you've got to understand that when your niece wears certain clothes and a certain amount of makeup, her thinking behind why she does it, how it looks, and what it says to other people is probably very different from yours. And neither of you is objectively right. It might feel satisfying to put words in her head, but it's not very wise.

The need to seem hip and cool is understandable, but I really think it's kind of silly. I never cared if my relatives were hip. What I noticed when I was young was whether they were nice to me and my family, and when I was older I began to care about whether or not they seemed like good people in general, even if they weren't my type.

For what it's worth, I don't think I've even noticed visible bra straps since around the early '90s. To me they're so normal it's not even something to think about.
posted by egg drop at 12:19 PM on December 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


Can I tell her to put on more clothes?

NO! (You still get to think that privately to yourself, but unless you want somebody offering up an unsolicited critique of your wardrobe choices, then no.) Kids dress that way because it works for them. As others have said, she didn't have a dad during a critical developmental period of her life, and this isn't her fault. It has left a huge hole in her. So of course that's how she's going to dress. She's not trying to offend, actually she's trying desperately to please so that she can feel loved. Isn't that what we all want? Yes, she's hard to love. Yes, she pushes your buttons. She's a child! They're like that sometimes. Be the bigger person (yet again). Be the change you want to see in your family.

Can I tell her to interact with the family and not her boyfriend or her cellphone?

No, you can't "tell" her, instead you can "invite" her - but you can't be too direct about it, i.e. never mention that the boyfriend or phone irritate you. You do this by diversion: inviting her to spend quality time with you and your mother in little ways during the visit. "Let's all play this board game together." and "Come help me make this old family recipe." and "Hey, niece, come sit next to me and let's look at some old family photos together, and hear all about the time Grandma climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro…" Share with her what's special about being a member of your family, and treat her like she is a treasured family member.

You and your mother are going to have to make small "bids" for her attention, and most importantly: don't get mad if she declines and reverts to acting like a typical bored, too-cool-for-school teenager. Just know that deep inside her heart she is truly benefitting from quality time with you. Keep reaching out. THIS is how your mom gets to make up for all the lost time with her. The best thing you can do is to try to make this Christmas about forming stronger connections between your niece and her grandmother. THIS is how grandma gets to cradle her grandbaby.
posted by hush at 12:25 PM on December 17, 2013 [15 favorites]


About the dinner, I'd probably say "I've been thinking about your offer; it's really thoughtful, but I actually really enjoy having a family meal at home and I'm going to cook myself. Is there anything you or niece don't eat?" I would be more flexible about the football and card games and eggnog, because part of being a good host is taking guests' preferences into account. As you said, those are activities you can do in a smaller circle.

On preview, along what hush wrote you might try some sort of activity that lets you all get to know each other better. A board game that gets you talking about yourselves, a thing where you just sit around a table and ask each other questions, and so on. I'd probably do this in conjunction with tasty snacks, to lure the kids into sticking around.
posted by egg drop at 12:40 PM on December 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


...And if I've read your AskMe history correctly, OP, it sounds like you're in a new home this year. So it makes absolutely perfect sense for you to have the holidays in your new place, with family, and when we move to a new place, we often put a ton of pressure on ourselves to make every benchmark day as perfect as possible.

You have every right to want to spend Christmas in your home and to gently decline the offer for dinner out. It's possible your brother offered the chance to dine out as a way to make it easier for you, the hostess, but I'm like you in wanting to settle in and make memories at home.
posted by mochapickle at 1:18 PM on December 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


One of the reasons I love my aunts and uncles so much is because I know they are always there for me. Yes, I would ask before bringing a boyfriend over (to visit or to spend the night) - but I absolutely 100% know that every single one of them would say, "Yes, of course; your friends are our friends; your boyfriend is part of this extended family, even if he's just the latest guy; you always have a place to land here, you will always have a bed (or couch or floor) and place at the table here." That's what family is about. And they'd give the guy a hug and pour him a taste of craft beer and lecture him about hops, and then teach him how to play euchre (or whatever your card game of choice is), and he'd good-naturedly suffer through their discussion of Notre Dame v. Michigan football.

And then they'd offer me the keys to their car and ask if we wanted to slip out and go to the mall or the movies, because they knew the teenagers were getting antsy cooped up with family.

I'd definitely pull her aside and say, "Sarah, I'm glad you invited along Jim and he seems like a great guy. In the future, when you want to bring along a guest for a dinner or especially to stay the night, you should check with the host before inviting them. Of course he's welcome, but that's just good manners."

Aunts are like surrogate parents. You get to give a little discipline, but you're also there to give a lot of love.
posted by amaire at 1:44 PM on December 17, 2013 [8 favorites]


I would cultivate compassion by meditating, hardcore, on your niece’s experience in life so far.

Ideally, you might also have a deep think about the content of your judgements and why you’re making them. Because those interrupt compassion any time, and your judgements here are violent. You are really gunning for this girl. Digging into why might be illuminating for you. However, that kind of introspection might be a tall order for this particular Christmas.

So, I would focus on the likely reasons for your niece’s behaviour, some of which others have related here, others you yourself have offered.

I would include among them that it might not be reasonable for you to expect your niece to feel close to your family. She met none of you until 7 years ago and only sees you occasionally. She may have ambivalent feelings about her dad (with whom she’s still building a relationship. And however crap a dad he is, he’s her dad) and (agree with others) is definitely aware of your judgement of them both. Guaranteed that whether you’ve openly criticized her or not, she’s felt it.

So, why would your niece prefer to spend time with near-strangers who probably make her feel bad about herself (and about her father), over a boyfriend who probably offers a more secure feeling than most people in her life have so far?

Were there ever times you felt unmoored, unprotected? One of those times, did you find any little shield or comfort that made you feel safe? Didn’t you want to cling to it? (Maybe like, Christmas with your awesome mom?)

I don’t know what your reactions would be like if you'd dealt with your niece's circumstances, but she sounds like a fighter. And if you do happen to be inclined to martyrdom, it might be hard to empathize with a fighter.

If that's the case, try to remember: she’s fighting to protect herself, in the ways available to a teenager who’s had her experiences. In my view, that’s a life-honouring response. Even if you don’t like the look of it, or it’s (maybe) misguided.

So, 1) focus on what you know about her early life.

2) Try to hook into the feeling driving her behaviour, even if you can’t understand the behaviour itself.

3) Make it your mission to find one good, likeable thing about your niece. Also, try to think of one about your brother. (If you can't do that, try to notice any physical traits you might share. Maybe she's got hands or hair like yours. Maybe your brother is funny and had you in stitches at church when you were kids. Find something.)

If you do try to reach out in a genuine way, be prepared for a little disappointment, because there’s already a history. I will guess she doesn’t trust you not to make her feel bad.

So 4) lower your expectations about how you’ll be and what kind of behaviour you'll get out of your niece. You won't be ‘cool aunt’, and right now it’s hard for you to be ‘tender and understanding’ aunt. Just shoot for ‘nice-enough aunt who does not make or imply snarky judgements about, or loathe, me or my natural parents, and basically leaves me alone’. (If you can be decent to the boyfriend, that might help you leapfrog a little bit.)

If you can at least manage to withhold demonstrable judgement on this occasion, some more positive feeling might emerge over time, but the trust has to established first. If this is a relationship you want to care about, I mean.
posted by cotton dress sock at 7:31 PM on December 17, 2013 [13 favorites]


Ok the clothes, the phone, the just wanting to hang out with someone her own age i.e. the boyfriend is super normal teenage stuff you need to cool your jets on.

And what's wrong with them going to the mall? Do you or your mother really want to go to the mall with two teenagers? No you don't. Just like the two teenagers don't want to be stuck in the house all day with the adults. I mean I think she should have known better than to invite her boyfriend without asking, but let her wear her crop top and go to the mall in peace. It's Chrismas for her as well. Let her have some fun and honestly it'll be good for them to get out of the house.

You are placing a lot of adult social obligations on a 16 year old. Three days straight entertaining my aunt and grandmother would be a bit much even for me at 31. And you know where I usually go for a couple hours during the day to get out away from all my family during the holidays? The mall!
posted by whoaali at 9:09 PM on December 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


In aid of maybe just giving you a different perspective on the situation, I would personally be intensely grateful for the addition of a friend or boyfriend if a 16-year-old were staying with me for a few days, because it would take the pressure off me to try to keep them from going silly with boredom in my profoundly non-teen-optimized home (no xbox, no wii, no million tv channels, no young neighbors, etc.), and would be delighted they would have someone with whom they could go explore the more interesting spots around town so I wouldn't have to worry about them going off on their own or suffering silently through hours of boredom.

Beware, too, of being prey to unrealistic holiday expectations. I feel you that you missed the early years of bonding with your niece, and that hurts, but the typical cozy daydream of having a lovely, intimate Christmas experience chatting about family history, baking, cooking, decorating together, playing games and wrapping presents while carols play in the background and delicious scents waft from the kitchen... in truth, things hardly ever really happen this way even in the closest of families, and when they do, it's for smaller bits of time, not for a sustained period / stretch of days. Maybe you can rustle up some of that, but maybe it will be easier to do so if the stress to negotiate these interactions is reduced for both of you a bit.

So, yeah, if it were actually me, I'd welcome boyfriend gladly with a small sigh of relief and do my best to let all the seasonal and family tension slide away and hope that in the space created by letting some of that go, we could maybe all meet together for a bit holiday warmth and fun ... without placing overmuch expectation on either myself or my family to enact that in a very specific way. I also agree that you should decline the dinner invitation from your brother, maybe with a raincheck to do it on one the following days, or just another time.
posted by taz at 1:12 AM on December 19, 2013


Your niece sounds a little bit like how I was in my younger years--she's trying to please everyone, but most blindly perhaps the boyfriend, who, as you say, is the "child of doting parents who gave him anything and everything", and perhaps has now found a girlfriend who also gives him anything and everything, including a vacation (which it may not seem like a vacation to you, but to an 18 year old going anywhere can be considered a vacation, especially when it's with someone else's relatives who he doesn't have to worry about offending with his demanding behavior because his girlfriend will take the flack).

It really sounds to me like this is about the boyfriend being someone you don't want in your house, not the niece or your brother not asking (though those too are legitimate complaints). If this is part of the issue, I really would suggest the best thing you can do is try to make your niece see what he's doing if she seems to be catering to his needs or their relationship seems otherwise dysfunctional. As you know, she's not going to listen to anything you have to say now, but just injecting some "hip Aunt wisdom" can indeed have an effect. Try to be a safe person for her--she sounds a bit like the most likable of the three visitors, and she's still young enough that you may have a chance to make a difference in who she ends up being.

Can you please come back and give us an update after the holidays and let us know how it went?
posted by gubenuj at 6:35 AM on December 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


And now ... now she's a full-grown teenager, who wears things that show off her midriff and visible bra straps and is obsessed with make-up and wears push-up bras and ... yeah, I resent her. I think she's really smart and is excellent at debate and has a lot of potential, and instead she's becoming one of "those" women that thinks her only power comes from her T&A.

The clothes are a way to provoke a reaction, "I can make people do X if I do Y." She can make people notice her, she can make men demonstrate desire for her, she can make other women admire her or be jealous, she can make grandma and aunt athena scowl, she can get herself in trouble at school and then fix it, etc. It should be a step in her figuring out her individual identity and the concept of agency, like any minor rebellion and boundary-pushing are. However, in reference to your concerns, using provocate clothing to figure this stuff out can easily become a not-great self-fulfilling prophecy about a woman's value being her body.

In your situation (and I've been somewhere similar) I'd just totally ignore her clothing and the sexualization that it represents, give it a big ol' shrug -- after all, you're not her mom nor her rival -- and give her attention by listening to her talk about the things that interest her. I'll warn you, it's going to start off super-boring, she'll be testing you, just stick with it, don't be reactionary or give unasked-for advice, just try to pay attention and follow along, and use some active listening type questions.
posted by desuetude at 10:22 AM on December 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


I know Christmas is over, but I just wanted to say, for future readers:

When I was a teenager my boyfriend was welcome to come to my family's events. He came with us to our summer cabin and visited my grandparents and so on. My relatives got to know him and included him in messages to me. Both of us participated fully in family activities.

Not only was that kind of inclusion and acceptance important to me then, but it is now: my teenage boyfriend and I got together when we were 14, and we never broke up. We married at 25 and now we're 27 and we have a newborn. Our relationship wasn't an adult one when we were teenagers, but it WAS serious, and I'm so thankful my family respected that.

My sister's boyfriends have also been welcomed into the family. She broke up with them, but we're still glad we welcomed them and didn't judge her choices and didn't make her choose between family and boyfriend.
posted by Cygnet at 8:09 AM on January 5 [1 favorite]


« Older Recently moved into a pre-furn...   |  Reading his "Explaining H... Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments