June 4, 2014 in Features

Carolyn Hax: First apologize, enjoy visit with SIL

Washington Post
 

Dear Carolyn: My brother, sister-in-law and nephew, 5, live halfway across the country from us. I live near my parents. There was some significant upheaval between my parents and brother’s family a couple of years ago, and it was very tense.

The few times a year that SIL and Nephew and sometimes Brother (who cannot always come) visit, they are up and down the state visiting family and friends. The last visit, my parents were away. SIL and Nephew stayed with us for a couple of nights.

Now they are coming again in a few weeks. SIL emailed to ask if they could stay with us. Her email made it clear she is not excited about seeing my parents and mentioned setting aside one night “so they can see (Nephew/Brother).”

I responded that I would be willing to have them stay with us if she made seeing my parents with my nephew more of a priority. I am heartbroken for my parents. They are good and very loving people, at times argumentative (Dad) or fussy (Mom), but always wonderful grandparents.

I have not heard back from her. Is there anything to be done besides wait? – M.

You can apologize to SIL for overstepping your boundaries. No hedging.

And you can stop acting on advice only from those in your camp. You see your parents as “argumentative” and “fussy,” and you’re their loving child! Imagine how those traits come across to someone they didn’t raise – someone who is raising their grandson, no less, a process that can bring out the fuss and argument in the best of us.It is not your place to dictate whether SIL brings Nephew to your parents’ home, when, how, or for how long.

By imposing conditions on hosting SIL, meanwhile, you not only failed to make your parents more appealing to visit, you also almost certainly damaged one of the connections between SIL and her husband’s family that is sort-of working. She made a point of visiting you without your brother present. You interpret it as her using you, but I see it as a bridge between families of her design.

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