Christmas (drama) in July!
July 2, 2011 10:33 AM   Subscribe

Is there a way to tactfully ask my mother to host Christmas this year?

My brother and I are both in our 40's, and for about 20 years his family has hosted all Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations. Years ago, my mom wanted to have Christmas at her home, but my sister-in-law said she didn't want the hassle of traveling with small children, and so my mom never brought it up again. Holidays are at my brother's house. I'm single and for the most part have lived in a small apartment not conducive for a family gathering, so I've never had a family get-together at my home.

This year, my brother asked if I could host one of the holidays. I said, "Sure," and picked Thanksgiving. I live in a pretty small house with my boyfriend, but we have outdoor space so I figure we can have an al fresco feast. I'm a little fretful, as it will be the first time my family and boyfriend's kids (who will be visiting) will meet, but I think I can handle it. But yesterday, my brother asked if I could also "take Mom" for Christmas.

He finally opened up and said that he and his wife are having some marital problems, and he really does not think he can deal with the stress of having our mother in that atmosphere. Mom and sister-in-law have never gotten along, so get-togethers have always been a little tense, and I understand completely that my brother wouldn't want to bring that vibe into the current situation.

There is no way I can host Christmas. There is just no room here for all that... Christmas stuff. Boyfriend and I were already talking about taking a trip for Christmas, since he won't have his kids for the holiday, so we were thinking of alternatives. We will go insane if we bring Mom along on the trip, but I was thinking of proposing to her that we meet up for Christmas day (bf and I will probably take a trip where we'll be in Mom's vicinity during our travels). Should I ask her if she wants to meet us at a restaurant or something, or can I just say, "What would you think of having us for Christmas?" She hates cooking and is borderline hoarder. I can't tell how much of an imposition this would be. I've planned trips to visit her before where I had to wind up at a motel because there was no room in the house for me to sleep.

Brother says if Mom were to host, he isn't sure he would bring the family there, but it's not out of the question. He is most emphatic about not telling Mom about the marital problems issue, because... oh, the advice, the opinions...

I just don't know how to do any of this. When we were kids, my brother and I only ever celebrated Christmas with Mom and Dad, because my mom had for the most part cut off communication with her family, and my dad's family lived in the same town as her family so we just avoided the whole thing. I think it's fair to say that I don't have a really strong sense of family, but I do know that I need to be good to both Mom and brother here.

I'm bringing all of this up now because Mom usually books her plane tickets for the holidays now.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (14 answers total) sounds like you guys all live in different cities, yes?

Next time you're talking to your mom and the right segue comes up, I'd say, "hey, Mom, since Larry doesn't have the kids this Christmas, we're really looking forward to traveling for the holiday. What do you think about having Christmas in Sheboygan [or wherever she lives]?"
posted by phunniemee at 10:44 AM on July 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

"Hey Mom, remember when you said you wanted to have Christmas some time? What do you think about this year?" If she asks why, or tries to divine some ulterior reason, just say that you're all getting older, no better time than the present, might as well do it sooner than later, yadda yadda. Keep it to reasons why it would be fun for her.
posted by rhizome at 10:52 AM on July 2, 2011 [2 favorites]

If your brother and SIL are having difficulties, and if your SIL does not get along with your mother, and if your mother is a semi-hoarder, it makes no sense to plan a family gathering at your mother's house.

What needs to happen is that your brother first explains his plans for Christmas this year: Mom, we're just going to stay home this year. Your mom will probably figure out why, but your brother doesn't have to talk about it. But it's important that he take some responsibility here.

Say to your mom that you're planning on traveling, but will be near her. Let your mom invite you to dinner at her house.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:10 AM on July 2, 2011 [2 favorites]

I'm confused. Is your brother asking you to head your mom off before she buys her yearly plane ticket?

Your brother should call your mom and tell her they won't be able to host this year, that they need a break from hosting duties (understandable!) and that you should all start thinking alternative holiday plans.

Keep it simple.

He should be alerting her to the change in the usual plan, not you.

I don't agree with you adopting a rouse to fool your mom. I think your brother is acting kinda immature. He's free to omit details or not explain, but to put you in the position of doing that is unfair and will more likely raise your mom's suspicions than a simple, "heads up we can't host this year," from him to her.

Don't get in the middle of this. You will not be treating either one of them with the respect due adults who can manage their own feelings and affairs.
posted by jbenben at 11:13 AM on July 2, 2011 [15 favorites]

In answer to your question, "Is there a way to tactfully ask my mother to host Christmas this year?"

Sorry, no.

Anyway, I think you meant to ask, "Is there a way to tactfully change our usually christmas plans and protect my brother's privacy as he navigates his marital problems?"

Yes. Have your brother inform everyone he's just not up to hosting duties this year. No explanation after 20 years of taking on the task is necessary. In fact, it would be rude to question him. If your mom does press your brother for details, he would be justified in politely shutting her down. He's an adult and so is she. The oft quoted, "It just won't be possible (to host Christmas this year)" will get him through any awkward questions.
posted by jbenben at 11:23 AM on July 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

I think the most direct method would be "Brother can't do Christmas this year, and my house just can't handle it. What sounds like a good Plan B?"

Are there still small children involved? Because otherwise I'd say find a mutually convenient hotel that does a bang-up Christmas spread, book a suite to do a small round of gift-giving and hanging-out in, and then everybody meets up, does the thing, those who want to stay a couple extra days can, nobody's house is involved, and somebody else cleans up.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:51 AM on July 2, 2011 [5 favorites]

I don't know if tact is the real problem. If I were in your mother's place, my first thought would be, "Holy shit, how am I going to deal with the....(sleeping arrangements, tree-trimming, noise, kids I've never met, cooking, cleaning, constant activity, etc).

Go through the holiday visit in your mind. How can you, your boyfriend, and your brother make things easy for your mom? My parents are in their eighties, and before a proposed get-together at my parents house one of us offspring first talk to the siblings. We divvy up the work and come up with logistical solutions. Then one of use calls my mother and asks, "If we can make it easy for you, could we celebrate at your house?"

I don't know how the "borderline hoarder" aspect comes into play, though. See what your mother says when you bring up the family visit idea.
posted by wryly at 12:04 PM on July 2, 2011

Tell your mother you and BF will be on a road trip over Xmas, that on the 24th - 26th you will be passing through City 40 Miles Away, and that for her Christmas present you are treating her to two nights at Swank Hotel or Inn so you can all spend the holidays together.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:29 PM on July 2, 2011 [6 favorites]

I like DarlingBri's idea. The other option would be to say that you'll be in her area over Christmas, so you will bring all the dinner fixings to her house on Christmas Day and you and your boyfriend will cook dinner for the three of you.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 12:47 PM on July 2, 2011 [2 favorites]

I don't see the drama in just straight up asking her. She wanted to before, maybe she would be thrilled to have a project like that. Offer to help with the cooking or just do all of it when you get to her house. It will also give you a chance to possibly help her clean up a bit.

It's a simple question that you have too added many factors to. Just get a yes or no and then plan from there.
posted by Vaike at 12:49 PM on July 2, 2011

Even if you use your mom's house instead of your own small abode for the holiday festivities, there's no reason you can't still be the host. You could suggest to your mom that your brother would like a break from the hosting duties and you would be happy to do it, but your house is really too small for that so would she mind if you used her house? Tell her that you're willing to do the cooking and offer to help her ready the house for guests. The advantage to her, of course, is that it would be like old times and she wouldn't have to travel.
posted by DrGail at 12:51 PM on July 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

So your "ulterior" reason for not wanting to host Christmas is that you have a small home and it's basically not feasible for you to host Christmas?

That sounds like a perfectly good and ordinary reason not to host Christmas. Why not just... go out and say it to your mom and everyone else concerned?

In fact, keeping in mind that we're talking about a person who physically pushed you out of her body in order to give you life, why not just... ask your mom if you can spend Christmas with her? I mean, she's your mom. If hoarding and the house-shame that sometimes goes along with it are the major issue here, DarlingBri's advice is right on.

As to cooking vs. a restaurant or whatever - it's just the three of you, no? So you three just do whatever you'd like to do. Right?

I'm not seeing where the "drama" in this situation lies.
posted by Sara C. at 2:25 PM on July 2, 2011

1. Let your brother go first and say "no big family Christmas at my house this year"
2. Call your mother, tell her you and bf are traveling at Christmas time and since brother isn't hosting, you would love to be in her town on Christmas day. Given that she isn't into cooking and the house is clutter, you should suggest having Christmas dinner at a nice resturant, maybe followed by gift opening at your hotel room. For that one night, try to find a suite hotel so you have room to entertain without sitting on the beds. You can buy a little table top tree or a few decorations at the drugstore, have something to drink (alcoholic or hot chocolate) and some cookies. This will let you spend more time together than just the meal (assuming that is a good thing.)
3. If your mother responds by insisting that she host, protest (politely) and then give in (athough you still might need to sleep at a hotel/motel. If she responds by complaining about your brother, cut off the conversation - "Well, I can see why they might need a change this year but bf and I just want to have a nice time with whoever wants to be with us." Give her time to get used to the idea and try again.

By the way, the year after my mother died, none of us wanted to host Passover in her place so we met at a neutral vacation spot, got rooms with little kitchenettes and managed to produce an acceptable meal including all the the requisite traditional food. With a little creativity and lower standards, this isn't that hard.
posted by metahawk at 11:19 PM on July 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

ps If brother wants to come (with or without his wife and/or children, you can still use the same plan. Just more reason to shift things out of your mother's house. I'm guessing the kids are old enough to handle a restaurant meal and if you can go back to a hotel with enough room for them to their own stuff, they will have a good time. (Bonus if the hotel has a swimming pool or game room.)
posted by metahawk at 11:22 PM on July 2, 2011

« Older Help me remember an old website   |   The still sea is darker than before. Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.