Ask Amy: Holiday invitation doesn’t feel ‘fuzzy’
DEAR AMY: With the holidays approaching, I am once again facing the problem of how to deal with an unwanted invitation. My sister-in-law lives four hours away. We don’t have much communication with her during the year.
She comes to visit my husband’s mother several times a year, but she doesn’t contact us when she’s in town; we have seen her at a birthday lunch twice in two years. She’s always very nice, but that’s the extent of our contact.
I have nothing personal against her, but she expects us to come to her house for Christmas and do the big family thing as if we’re all warm and fuzzy, and I just don’t want to do that. I think if we had a true family relationship that included us having some communication during the year, it would be different. But to want us to adjust our schedules to hers so we can celebrate a “family” Christmas just doesn’t sit well with me.
Additionally, we are on a tight budget and the expense of having to stay at a hotel is out of the question. Her mother, children and grandchildren stay at her house, so there’s no room for my husband and me. According to my mother-in-law, she often says how much she loves us and how my husband is her favorite sibling. But to me it’s just lip service. If we had a closer relationship, it would be different, but I don’t see us making the effort to go there when she excludes us the rest of the year.
Am I wrong to feel this way? How should I handle this? -- Dreading the Holidays
DEAR DREADING: One way to build a closer tie to a family member (or branch of the family) is to spend time together during the holidays. This is how traditions are made. You seem stung by a lack of attention from your sister-in-law during the year, but you don’t note making any effort to get to know her. She visits your mother-in-law several times a year. You could e-mail her to ask if she could come to dinner with you and your husband during her next in-town visit.
You need only to respond to a generous and enthusiastic holiday invitation by saying, “We really appreciate the invitation but won’t be able to make it this year.” You don’t need to make excuses or supply details, but sincerity would be nice — even if you have to fake it.
DEAR AMY: My son just started kindergarten. Although he is happy and engaged most of the day, he gets visibly upset (often cries) when we drop him off at school in the morning. His teacher assures us this is normal and that he’ll get over it in time. But it has been a few weeks, and it’s getting harder to leave him. Any suggestions for making the transition easier? -- Concerned Mom
DEAR CONCERNED: Ask your son’s teacher, not just for reassurance but for concrete suggestions. Ideally, he should be greeted in the morning by a teacher who can help him make the transition by giving him a “job” to do. This will help him enter the daily routine more smoothly. Perhaps there is a more confident buddy he can be paired with.
You should also examine your own behavior. You might be conveying some anxiety by worrying out loud, asking leading questions (”Do you think you’ll be okay today?”) or lingering too long at the drop-off door.
DEAR AMY: I’ve enjoyed the discussion in your column about the best way for a car to merge from two lanes into one. Basically, the two points of view advocate either for “merge early” or a “zipper merge.”
They’re both right! If traffic is moving at highway speed, you want to merge before the lane runs out, otherwise someone will likely have to brake. In stop-and-go traffic, the zipper merge is best, as it uses all the available pavement and promotes a single merge point for efficiency and safety. -- Merging Master
DEAR MASTER: Thank you!
Write to Amy Dickinson at email@example.com or Ask Amy, Chicago Tribune, TT500, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60611.
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