Script to explain not visiting with unvaxxed relatives
September 24, 2021 12:42 PM   Subscribe

My mother and sister live in Canada, and I have not been to visit in over two years. My mother is 97, and I would like to see her, especially given her advanced age. However, my sister and her family are unvaxxed. I do not want to spend time with them because a) they are unvaxxed and b) *I am really angry at them for being unvaxxed -- and don't see how seeing them will be in any way productive considering how I feel.

My mother has been doing her best to convince me to see them, her reasoning is that I have been vaccinated and therefore it is safe, and that she frequently visits with them (unmasked, of course), and she is fine (she is vaccinated).

I need a simple script I can repeat to her to explain why I won't be visiting with them that will be as neutral and non-judgemental as possible, but yet clearly drawing a line in the sand. And addressing in particular how visiting indoors with unvaccinated people is dangerous for me.

*Amongst other really bad behaviour, my sister insisted on hosting an unmasked Canadian Thanksgiving at her home last year, she was feeling ill beforehand, but went ahead with it. My mother got really ill after the weekend, she never got tested or treated, and somehow managed to recover on her own at her home. I have a lot of thoughts about this.

(Also, this would be in winter when an outdoor visit is not possible).
posted by nanook to Health & Fitness (20 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
Best answer: You don't owe them an explanation, and you don't need to provide justifications of your boundaries.

"I'm sorry, that won't be possible for me with everyone's current vaccine status. Until that changes I won't be able to visit." and maybe if (uhg, you will) receive pushback; "There's lots of information from $local responsible government on this topic; I don't feel like an authority on this issue."

I've lost family connections over this. It's fucking stupid, and it's not your responsibility to hold the emotional labor of this. Their actions/inactions have consequences, this is one of them.
posted by furnace.heart at 12:47 PM on September 24, 2021 [27 favorites]


Ugh, I'm sorry you're dealing with this.

To help with responses, can you clarify whether you are planning on visiting only your mother, OR whether you are not visiting family in Canada at all? I wasn't sure who is included in the "them" in "visiting with them".
posted by rogerroger at 12:54 PM on September 24, 2021


Response by poster: Thanks for the question, if I visit, I will just be visiting my mother. I am undecided if I will visit, because I am not sure if it will be a workable situation, or whether it will just mean a lot of stress for me and for my mother.
posted by nanook at 1:00 PM on September 24, 2021


What’s the geographic proximity of your sister and mother? Do you need additional script guidance for if they “just happen” to show up when you’re over or is that not too much of a concern?
posted by raccoon409 at 1:08 PM on September 24, 2021 [2 favorites]


Response by poster: They live 10 minutes away, and yes, them dropping by is a concern.
posted by nanook at 1:11 PM on September 24, 2021 [1 favorite]


I need a simple script I can repeat to her to explain why I won't be visiting with them that will be as neutral and non-judgemental as possible

"I'm sorry, it won't be possible to visit with my sister and her family."

If asked to expand, then:

"I'm sorry, it won't be possible to visit with my sister and her family until they are fully vaccinated."

Repeat until the person questioning you has given up.
posted by saeculorum at 1:40 PM on September 24, 2021 [6 favorites]


Best answer: Would your mother enjoy some time in a fairly neutral third place, or is that too difficult to pull off?

Like, I'm thinking -- you get a hotel room for yourself and an adjoining one for your mother, and pick her up and drop her off (or have her stay)?

Basically, your mother is mom-ing pretty hard -- reasonable, non-disordered parents tend to hate it when their children are fighting and tend to want to try to fix things. She also likely really misses you and wants to see the whole family together before she dies.

That doesn't mean it doesn't suck for you but it does give you some idea about how to approach it.

Specifically, tell her you'll think about it and that she shouldn't worry about it because you'll work it out with your sister, and you really appreciate how much she cares about you both but she can take a break when it comes to this issue, as you're going to work it out directly with your sister so that everyone can be as comfortable as possible.

Then when the time comes tell her that you will work out a way to see your sister but not on this visit as wintertime makes it too hard.

Basically, give her an excuse to disentangle herself and then kick the can down the road.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 1:43 PM on September 24, 2021 [13 favorites]


Best answer: To avoid conflict, keep it on yourself. "I have decided not to visit because I don't feel it would be safe and i don't want to contribute to community spread by interacting with unvaccinated relatives. I hope we can see each other soon."
posted by RajahKing at 1:43 PM on September 24, 2021 [7 favorites]


Providing a justification for why you don't want to meet with your sister and her family opens it up for discussion and negotiation. I don't think you want to have a debate over relative risks of interaction with unvaccinated people in various situations with various mitigation mechanisms. If you don't, I would simply say you don't want to do it, and leave off why.
posted by saeculorum at 1:48 PM on September 24, 2021 [1 favorite]


I also wondered if maybe you could visit your mom in a third location. I realize she's 97, she may have all the systems she needs in place at home, and that may not be possible.

In which case I think you just have to keep it as straightforward as possible: I believe the unvaccinated are a danger to everyone else, and I'm not interested in interacting with them.
posted by Lyn Never at 1:50 PM on September 24, 2021 [3 favorites]


Find a time when your sister and her family are away and visit your mom then. If they don’t go away, it might be that you could visit your mom unannounced for a few hours while folks are at work. It’s awkward, but it is a response to your sister’s disgraceful theft of contact between you and your mom.
posted by The Last Sockpuppet at 1:54 PM on September 24, 2021 [1 favorite]


One thing that’s worked for me is saying, “I’m not making exceptions about this for anyone.” And I guess have an escape route if your sister shows up anytime.
posted by mskyle at 2:27 PM on September 24, 2021 [8 favorites]


How are you getting there? Flying? Unless you don't leave your home now, you are likely exposed to unvaccinated people on the regular. And, your mother has a point about you being vaxxed (and maybe boostered by then?) and wearing a mask. Having said that, it is your choice to visit with whom you want to visit. I doubt your mother will be traveling soon. If it were me, I would not tell anyone including your mother until maybe the day before you arrive. "Hey mom, I got some time off this weekend so I am coming up to see you tomorrow. I won't have time to see sister or anyone else for that matter, but I wanted to come up, see you, take you to dinner, and generally spend some one on one time with you. I miss you." Don't give anyone a chance to plan or prepare.
posted by AugustWest at 2:39 PM on September 24, 2021 [7 favorites]


I say visit your mother. I like August West's advice to keep it on the down low.

If that is not possible, still visit. Tell your sister, "I'm visiting Mother and don't feel comfortable expanding it to to other people."

I think your disapproval of your sister's actions is one thing, and your risk tolerance is another.
If you are flying (or doing other things in your life that unavoidably expose you to other people), you are assuming a certain amount of risk. Don't let your frustration with the sister stop you from visiting your mother.

My mother passed away a few years ago, and I miss her dearly, so I might be imposing my emotional viewpoint.
posted by rhonzo at 3:39 PM on September 24, 2021 [7 favorites]


In situations like this, I like enforceable statements, which is a concept from the Love and Logic parenting/childcare approach but I think it's great for use with adults. Enforceable statements are statements about what we will/won't do, give, tolerate, etc., phrased in such a way that we can back up the limit with our own behavior. In your case, an unenforceable statement would be something like, "Please don't invite my sister because..." or "I don't want to see my sister because..." An enforceable statement would be something like, "I don't socialize with people who aren't vaccinated." It's nonjudgmental in the sense that you're not singling your sister out. The key is, you're not trying to get the other person to agree that your limit is reasonable--you're expressing a limit and offering them the opportunity to choose whether or not to respect it.

You could offer some explanation along the lines of, "I've consulted with [my doctor, public health resources, whatever], I've done a lot of thinking, and I've come to the conclusion that this is how I want to protect myself. I'm really glad to be able to spend time with vaccinated people, but if an unvaccinated person is going to be present, I don't go, or I leave if they show up unexpectedly. I understand you're making a different choice, and you think I'm being overly cautious. If you'd like to hear more about my rationale, I'm happy to share so you can better understand where I'm coming from, but this isn't negotiable for me. If you're willing to respect my choice, I'd really love to see you."
posted by theotherdurassister at 3:49 PM on September 24, 2021 [7 favorites]


There's some interesting reading on the immunity provided by prior infection here. It's not as good as prior infection plus vaccination, but still robust.

Was everyone in your sister's family sick last fall? This is going to be unpopular, but if so, I'd consider visiting both her and your mom.

There are bound to be "feelings" on both sides if she's doing all the heavy lifting necessary to keep most 97 year olds in their own places and you swoop in for a visit and oh-isn't-it-wonderful-nanook-came and you won't give them the time of day. I know sibling relationships can be... fraught, especially with aging parents thrown into the mix. You have every right to see who you want to see, but check in with yourself to make sure it's all about the COVID.

Wishing you safe travels if you go, and peace with whatever you decide.
posted by kate4914 at 5:09 PM on September 24, 2021


Best answer: Your mother knows exactly why you do not wish to do this.

Your sister knows exactly why you do not wish to do this. And all of her family knows also.

For me it would be a no-go. Both of my parents have passed from the scene, in the final years of their lives it was almost exclusively telephone. And that is a great thing. Not as good as a hug but better than going against what you know you want.

I talked with my mother all the time, her last five years, esp once she finally let up with all of her religious crap. Once that jive hit the deck we actually even became friends.

I think of sailors in centuries gone by, no letters to or from their loved ones for years, literally years. They seemed to make out fine. Bonds of love, familial bonds, they are pretty strong. With a phone it's easy-peasy.

Don't go. You're lying to yourself if you think you can do it and feel good about yourself. You are worth standing up for. Quite frankly, your sister is nuts, bizarre, she's caught in the lunacy that so many others are also. You need not play into her game; I hope that you don't.

Good luck.
posted by dancestoblue at 7:24 PM on September 24, 2021 [11 favorites]


Best answer: If you do visit, have a friend or partner who can be your sounding board via text message or something. Who can point out when a family member is acting manipulative or pressuring you to ignore your own boundaries, for example, and can give you the emotional/moral support to maintain them. But planning something with just your mother in a third location sounds like the best option for a visit, if you do go.
posted by eviemath at 5:20 AM on September 25, 2021


Best answer: Script:
You: “I will not be going near anyone who is unvaccinated”
Them: [Anything. Anything at all]
You: “I will not be going near anyone who is unvaccinated”
{repeat}

If it helps, you are providing a natural consequence to your sister’s decision. Wavering on that delivers altogether the wrong message. You are doing a service to both of you here.

Your mother is unfortunately caught in the middle and will no doubt be disappointed that a split like this exists. On the other hand she will be a lot more disappointed when she’s at the bedside of a dying child. So be proud to stand firm.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 10:02 AM on September 25, 2021 [4 favorites]


You traveling to visit relatives via public transportation is also an exposure risk for all concerned.

Let them know you are coming to visit, and that you have discussed your own health situation with your medical team. Sufficient to say that you are making decisions based on their professional advise, and will act accordingly if unvaccinated people show up unexpectedly. You do not need a note from the doctor to reinforce this.
You do not need to unpack your private medical history. Your relatives should respect that.

Your mother and other relatives may be out of town or have other plans if you turn up uninvited.
I would not ask a relative to meet me someplace where she is exposed to the general public.

Currently I have no problem speaking with others in an outdoor setting (Team Moderna here). I do not need to see vaccination cards or have long discussions about risk/benefit assessment. I am leary of people telling me that they are or are not vaccinated, so I just assume they are not.
Wear a mask, wash your hands, watch your distance.
posted by TrishaU at 1:49 AM on September 26, 2021


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