Q. I recently asked my son, my daughter-in-law, and their six-year-old daughter to join my husband and me on a weeklong vacation. I said that we would happily cover the cost of renting a three-bedroom condo. My daughter-in-law responded that they would love to come and that she intended to bring her mother, too, because her mom could use a vacation. The problem: I did not invite her mother. (I don’t care for her.) I sent back a response to my daughter-in-law apologizing for the miscommunication and explaining that we wanted them all to ourselves. Now everyone is furious at me. (They wanted her to come.) What did I do wrong?
A. In a recent community-building exercise, my child’s fifth-grade class was asked, “When are your feelings more important than the feelings of the group?” They were encouraged to think about circumstances in which they should all roll with the crowd and occasions when they should speak up about their individual needs. I’ve started asking myself this question in sticky situations (like when everyone in the family but me wants to see the Lego Movie again). You might want to try it, too.
In this scenario, your wish to have your family to yourself is reasonable, and your daughter-in-law should have asked you if her mom could come. That said, think of the situation from your daughter-in-law’s perspective. Perhaps she feels stretched between the competing needs of her parents and her in-laws. Or maybe her mother is going through a trying time and she wants to cheer her up. Either way, including the other mother-in-law in your vacation plans would probably have brought happiness to the most people.
The past is past. It’s up to you to decide how to move forward. I suggest that you call your daughter-in-law and acknowledge that everyone’s feelings have gotten hurt and that you could all benefit from better communication. Say, “When we plan our next trip together, let’s be sure to state clearly who is coming and the best way to accommodate the group.” If it is still possible to invite your daughter-in-law’s mother, you might want to consider doing so. Or you could offer to include her in another event. Your last option, of course, is refusing to share, but that might well result in your seeing your loved ones less, and I’d consider that the worst outcome by far.
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