Carolyn Hax: Is it fair to alternate Christmas visits when you won the grandchild lottery?

Carolyn Hax
Columnist January 29, 2013

Hi, Carolyn:

I am hoping you can give us some advice concerning this coming year’s holiday season. I know it’s a little early but this past one was a painful one for my husband and me. We live close to our son and daughter-in-law. Her family lives 2,000 miles from here. They were married two years ago and now have a year-old girl. We see them a few times a week, quick visits to see our granddaughter or to babysit for a few hours.

Carolyn Hax started her advice column in 1997, after five years as a copy editor and news editor in Style and none as a therapist. The column includes cartoons by "relationship cartoonist" Nick Galifianakis -- Carolyn's ex-husband -- and appears in over 200 newspapers. View Archive

For the past four years, her parents have come here for Thanksgiving. We have hosted them twice. Also, for those four years, our daughter-in-law and son have traveled to spend Christmas with her parents. Our Christmas with them consists of having them here on a day before Christmas for dinner and to open gifts. So for both holidays every year, she is with her family and we are here with our other son, who would like to spend a Christmas with his girlfriend’s family but feels too guilty to leave us alone. We have told him it’s okay, we’ll be fine.

In the interest of fairness, is it fair for us to ask our son to alternate Christmases with us? They could go to her family the day after Christmas. Now that there is a grandchild involved, we would like to share our customs and the day with all of them. We are not getting any younger and would like our grandchild to have some memories with us for such an important holiday in both our families.

Questioning Grandparents


(Nick Galifianakis)

While I sympathize with your yearning to share your traditions with your next generation, acting on it would be positively myopic. You won the grandchild lottery! You see this family on an every-other-daily basis!

If this were a cartoon, I’d flick your forehead, which would make that bowowowowowow sound. Any interest in “fairness” would have you paying the airfare and driving them to the airport for their annual Christmas trip to reintroduce the child to the other grandparents.

Okay, maybe not paying for it, but certainly giving their trip the kind of wholehearted blessing that only someone who has won the grandchild lottery can give.

If you disagree with me, here’s another reason to make like a clam on the whole topic of Christmas: If I, an objective observer, see your let’s-alternate-Christmases proposal as a greedy grandchild grab at the expense of the other grandparents, then imagine how their daughter will see it. Those thrice-weekly visits you now take for granted could dry up faster than Cream of Wheat in a carpet, if an incredulous daughter-in-law wishes it so.

And one more, if these two rationales aren’t enough: Just about every young family mellows into an established one, and established families tend to wake up one morning before their Big Holiday Travels and think, “I want to have Christmas in my own darn living room.” If and when that happens, Christmas Mountain will come to Muhammad, and you’ll want to be there to receive it.

Write to Carolyn Hax, Style, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071, or tellme@washpost.com. Subscribe at www.facebook.com/carolynhax.

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