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should I attend estranged sister's babyshower?
April 19, 2014 11:44 AM   Subscribe

Today I got a message from my brother inviting me to our older sister's baby shower on Sunday and saying that she would really like me to come. I'm torn about attending because ...well, my sister didn't actually invite me. It's at her place so obviously it's not a surprise shower. Instead she relied on our brother to do it.

Some background: My sister instigated the conflict between my parents and I that led to my estrangement from the family last summer. I did my best to keep in touch with them without actually visiting because it wasn't safe for me. In the fall I found out that I had cancer and reached out to them for support. Silence. I haven't heard anything from anyone until now.

My family is the type to hold a grudge and cause a scene. So, I am worried that attending would result in some sort of fiasco that would put me in a dangerous situation. I'm not prepared to deal with that. On the other hand, I would love to see my family, especially my brothers. This could be a chance to begin mending our relationships. I'm worried that if I don't go, the relationship will be lost forever.

Any advice? If I suck it up and attend - how can I make it less awkward. Or, does this relationship seem too far gone?
posted by mariisoul to Human Relations (27 answers total)
 
Say you absolutely can't make it, so sorry, but you'll send a gift. And suggest a coffee or lunch with the brother soon.

That is if you want to be back in touch. I'm not saying whether it's advisable (or not).
posted by the young rope-rider at 11:48 AM on April 19 [2 favorites]


I don't understand how being at a party is appropriate when you have not been in contact for so long.

What prevents your brothers from visiting you?

Overall, this invitation does not make sense. Do they know you have been seriously ill?


Maybe you could update with more details, but no - I would not go.

Make plans to see your brothers separate from the drama and carry on. This sounds like more of the same drama. Don't bother. Do something positive instead, y'know?
posted by jbenben at 11:50 AM on April 19 [12 favorites]


I would say contact your sister and get her to actually say that she accedes to you attending, so that she can't create some sort of drama by pretending you're crashing the party, and leave whenever you want, the instant they start giving you shit. Sure, keep offering the olive branch, but don't let them take advantage of your good faith.
posted by XMLicious at 11:51 AM on April 19 [2 favorites]


Or, does this relationship seem too far gone?

Well, that is difficult to say without knowing your and your family. What I can say is that baby showers and other family events are better handled after some sort of reconciliation as opposed to being the reconciling event.

Maybe schedule something before the shower to test the waters?
posted by lampshade at 12:00 PM on April 19 [2 favorites]


No idea how into traditional etiquette your family is (and the fact that your brother is involved in the baby shower at all implies maybe not?), but usually a baby shower is held on behalf of the mother-to-be. It's not her party that she's hosting and inviting people to. Someone else hosts and invites people.

I feel like if your brother told you that she would specifically like to have you there, then you should take him at his word unless there's a reason not to trust him.

That said, if you don't want to go, don't go. Certainly the wishes of someone who has very little regard for you mean a lot less than your own happiness and feelings of safety. Send a gift, either in time for the shower or before the baby is born.

Are you sure your brothers will even be there? I've been to a few co-ed showers, but I think if your primary reason for going is to see your brothers, you should just arrange to see your brothers in a situation that is otherwise comfortable for you. Either way, I don't think I would use an event like this as a chance to mend fences. Mend fences in your own way, in your own time, without risking that you'll spoil a fun time for all the people who likely don't know anything about this conflict.
posted by Sara C. at 12:01 PM on April 19 [11 favorites]


I'm sorry, you told your family you had cancer and they didn't speak to you again? Wtf? I would NOT attend this shower. Screw them.
posted by katypickle at 12:04 PM on April 19 [55 favorites]


you are about to become an uncle/aunt, and i would focus on that. the baby is not responsible for stuff that happened previously.
posted by bruce at 12:07 PM on April 19 [5 favorites]


You know, maybe I'm a very small person, but I'd play this for all it's worth. I'd send messages to everyone along the lines of:

"Gosh, I'd really love to attend Cordelia's shower, but my CANCER has left me feeling unwell. Perhaps we might get together when I'm feeling better. I'd love to see you at my place on a day when I'm feeling up to it, when my CANCER is in remission."

I'm the type to hold a grudge and frankly, I'd work the guilt a bit until you receive an apology and they come to you on your terms.

Send a little gift to your sister, to show that you're taking the high road.

I admit to being manipulative and a beyotch.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:08 PM on April 19 [44 favorites]


You would be well within your rights not to go. Your family has treated you shabbily, and your first priority is to your own mental health. That being said, if you want to be an aunt to this baby (and it's ok if you don't), I'd send a note and small gift as a trial balloon.
posted by snickerdoodle at 12:11 PM on April 19 [3 favorites]


Day before invitation after extended radio silence... from a family that knows you've had health issues and holds grudges?

Nope, I would not go - I'd send a note and a small gift at the most.
posted by sm1tten at 12:22 PM on April 19 [5 favorites]


I would say something like "Hi bro, Thanks for the invite but unfortunately I won't be able to make it. Want to come over next week and catch up? Miss you!" Send the sister a kid's book off Amazon (as in, order and ship it to her online, don't go to the store and spend a lot of time on it).
posted by bleep at 12:36 PM on April 19 [4 favorites]


The most charitable face you can speculatively put on this is that your sister (finally maybe) feels a bit guilty about cutting you out of the family. She is afraid to face your entirely justified anger, so asked your brother to invite you instead of sucking it up and doing it herself, and she left it till so late because again she feels guilty and uncomfortable so procrastinated. You are completely justified in declining, but if you want to keep the door a little bit open for seeing other family members, maybe decline with the excuse that you are not feeling up to it (cancer!!!), and, as bleep suggests, send a kid's book or two via ordering online from amazon. Also do this: I would say something like "Hi bro, Thanks for the invite but unfortunately I won't be able to make it. Want to come over next week and catch up? Miss you!"

If you would decide to go (and again, you are not obligated to in any way), you have the option of saying that you are not feeling up to attending the full shower, but wanted to come by for a couple of minutes while it is going on to drop off a little gift. This would require you to stick to that though, and really leave pretty quickly, which might be hard if they try to guilt you to stay.
posted by gudrun at 12:49 PM on April 19 [2 favorites]


I would be inclined to RSVP that I would like very much to attend but given my health I might not be able to and even if I do go, I might not be able to stay long, it all depends very much on my health issues, which can be unpredictable. Then see how they respond and see how I felt the day of and see how things went if I did go. Given you have cancer, you can always go "Welp, I am having a bad day, cancerwise. Loved seeing y'all. Bye." at any point where you feel things are going south and you don't want this to turn into a shitshow.

They can talk shit behind your back or whatever but it is a very plausible excuse and it can let you test the waters, socially. If they are butts to you when you arrive, you have learned something. Sometimes giving people a second chance to be assholes to you can give you a kind of closure when the first round only left you feeling hurt. If you handle it in an aboveboard fashion and they just are jerks about it, it might save you from having regrets about the mess. You can't control other people but, gosh, can some of us beat ourselves up for all eternity if we never gave the other person another shot.
posted by Michele in California at 1:29 PM on April 19 [4 favorites]


I'm going against the grain to say maybe you do go.
If you are willing to start up casual contact with your family--I would start by treating them the same as I would a really flaky friend. I would not invest my emotions into the relationship, but I would try to spend a little bit of time with them where there are lots of people and ways to get space quickly.

This invitation might be your sister's very awkward attempt to see how you are doing and to at least have a bit of a relationship with you.

Then just go low-key--greet everyone but don't try to have heartfelt talks or a full blown reconciliation. Just go for a short while to say hi and congratulations.

If you are approached for a serious talk then invite that person to lunch at a later time to talk.
posted by calgirl at 1:36 PM on April 19 [2 favorites]


The type and degree of danger would matter a lot. Are you likely to be kidnapped and shipped to another country? Exposed to an addictive substance? Subject to emotional abuse that would disable you?

I guess - is it possible to mitigate the danger?
posted by amtho at 1:38 PM on April 19 [1 favorite]


I think maybe you should contact your sister and see if she really wants you to go. I she really is extending an olive branch, this might be your last chance to reconcile. If you don't go it looks like you are turning your back on them at an important time, and they might not reach out again. I think you should talk to your sister, or at least your brother first, and then go if all seems legit.

It would help if we knew the reasons for the estrangement, and why you say you might be in danger. Has there been violence in the past? That might change things.
posted by catatethebird at 1:40 PM on April 19 [3 favorites]


And traditionally, the sister of the new mother throws the shower, and is responsible for inviting guests, so maybe your brother has stepped in here. I wouldn't take it as a slight that your sister didn't invite you personally, especially if your brother says she wants you there.
posted by catatethebird at 1:44 PM on April 19


Frankly, I think you should be the one holding a grudge!
But if you don't want to go that route, then at least talk to your brother and ask him wtf is going on. You need to have an actual conversation with someone, get more information, before making your decision to come. I suggest your brother because he's the one reaching out.
After that, if what he says satisfies you, soeak to your sister to see if they're on the same page about wanting to see you.
posted by Omnomnom at 1:46 PM on April 19


There's a whole lot here we don't know. But from what you're saying, it sounds like your sister did express her desire for you to come, through your brother. I don't know how she initiated this conflict with your parents and if what she did was wrong, but if you want to see her, you have your brother's word that she said she wants to see you. I'd say go, and if it turns out your brother exaggerated how much your sister wants to see you because he wanted to build some bridges, slap him upside the head for misleading and be grateful you have such a loving brother.

I was recently diagnosed with cancer, and if my parents hadn't been there for me I would have been devastated. I'm so sorry you had to experience that. Your parents should be ashamed. (In fairness, I don't know their story either. But, still. God damn.)
posted by Ursula Hitler at 2:04 PM on April 19 [1 favorite]


If you are interested in some sort of reconciliation at some point, for fguck's sake don't play games it would not make anything better and could make it worse by a long shot.
Of course going or not going is your prerogative alone, I am going to buck the trend here just a little. This might be an opportunity for some small repair, in that the focus will be on BABY and not necessarily WE MUST FIX OUR PROBLEMS NOW. Yeah, sounds like family has responded pretty shitty regarding your health, there may be some mitigating circumstances to the behavior that doesn't absolve, but may at least explain. Awkwardness and guilt compounded with time make it tough for some people.

Look, I have some serious passive aggressive issues with my family that perhaps doesn't make me the expert but part of what you wrote strikes me as people at least trying timidly to offer an olive branch. Perhaps it's not enough, not going is certainly the easy option and I don't think anyone here would fault you for taking that path, certainly not me. But, it also reinforces the status quo, nothing will change.
posted by edgeways at 2:48 PM on April 19


It's never too late to reconcile. Contact your sister and say that you can't do the shower but you'd very much like to meet her for coffee or lunch. A room full of baby shower guests is not the best spot for sorting out an estrangement. She's reaching out. Reach back be prepared to listen to what she has to say. Maybe something good will come out of it.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 2:51 PM on April 19 [2 favorites]


Maybe just send a nice note to her? "Hi sis, Bro just invited me to your shower tomorrow, but unfortunately it is impossible for me to attend at this point. I'm very happy for you and the upcoming birth of your little one. Let me knew if you'd like to get together to celebrate. Hope the shower is great." I'd be hesitant to show up if things might get hectic, but I'd also hesitate to ignore the olive branch, and some pleasant one on one communication could start to thaw the freeze.
posted by salvia at 2:52 PM on April 19 [3 favorites]


In my mind, a baby shower is not as emotionally significant an event as a wedding, funeral, christening, etc - it's a party where people play cheesy games and give gifts to a mom-to-be and they can happen in an office, in a home, at a restaurant, etc... and include people of varying degrees of closeness. So if you skip it, no big deal.

If your fam is prone to scenes I would say that having your first reappearance be at a shower - public event, lots of people, perhaps lots of hormones/tears on the part of your sister - might not be setting yourself up for success. What about getting together with her for coffee or a meal, before or after the shower? Less audience and less chance for fireworks.

It sounds from what you've typed here that your fam has been really hurtful to you. What are your reasons for wanting to reunite? What are your expectations from your sister and/or the rest of your family? If your sister is a giant poop to you will you regret reaching out? Do you have enough non-family support that you will be ok with being hurt again? Before you get back into contact with these potentially toxic people, have a good talk with yourself about what you hope to get out of it. It could work but psych yourself up for the worst case scenario as well.
posted by rogerrogerwhatsyourrvectorvicto at 2:53 PM on April 19 [2 favorites]


In your shoes, I don't know that I would want to go and endure that; your emotions will be high, presumably theirs will too. That's hard to handle in a crowd.

If you want to reach out, plead your health (which is true; your mental health is important even if your physical health is up to it right now), and send a small gift. If you like, inside the gift you can put a note inviting your sister to call you if she wants to...if you want her to.

Reconciliation is great when it can happen, but it isn't everything; if the price is you allowing your family to treat you horribly, then it's not worth it (and it's not even reconciliation).

I have had, in my own family, it happen that a family member who disapproves of me/my politics/my lack of religion has occasionally been seized with an attack of piety and guilt, and "reach out" by inviting me to something/challenging me on Facebook; but what they really want is for me to stop being the way I am. When I do engage with them, and they realize I have not/am not going to change, it always descends into uncomfortable silences and disapproval.

So that sort of "reconciliation" is meaningless. Whether a better sort is available is something only you can decide.
posted by emjaybee at 5:28 PM on April 19 [2 favorites]


I know you only have one family, but they sound like assholes. They didn't talk to you after you were diagnosed with cancer? You are very vague about what all happened that caused the falling out, but they sound like assholes and I'm not sure why you'd want them in your life anyway.

A baby shower might not be the appropriate venue for this sort of re-connection after so long of not speaking, especially with it sounding like a rather bitter and hostile situation. Couldn't you decline and offer a counter invite for dinner so you all can talk?
posted by AppleTurnover at 11:24 PM on April 19 [2 favorites]


How will you feel if you go and everyone is polite and welcoming, but you have to listen to stories about all the stuff they've done together as a family while you were estranged and fighting cancer without their support or concern? Did your brother even apologize for not being there for you when you were unwell?

In my opinion, if your sister didn't invite you herself then she is not ready to face up to whatever she did to get you cut off and to make amends. If she's ready to reach out to you then she should do it herself, not put your brother in the middle and leave her true motives in the dark. For all you know this could be solely your brother's idea, and you would be a surprise, possibly unwelcome guest.

I think you're understandably craving being part of your family again, and as such are willing to sweep grievous wrongs under the rug, but you may still end up being really really hurt again by these people. It's an invitation, not a summons. I think you should politely decline, but with an opening to your brother to get together for something more casual.
posted by sundaydriver at 1:31 AM on April 20 [1 favorite]


Thank you all so much for your responses, I really appreciate having some additional perspective on this. I've decided to recognize this as an olive branch - I trust my brother enough to believe my sister communicated to him she would like me to come.

After much deliberating, I've decided not to attend the shower. I'm finally in a great place mentally and physically, thanks to all the support from the other people in my life and I don't want to damage that by putting myself in such a volatile environment.

I'm still open to a casual relationship with my family so I've decided to take the advice of sending a small gift with an invitation to call me/do lunch. If nothing comes of it, I know I've tried and I think that will be enough for me.
posted by mariisoul at 3:32 AM on April 20 [20 favorites]


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