Dear Amy: My adult son made an excuse to not attend an extended family holiday gathering, but I have reason to believe he may have lied to me. He and his wife have not attended this annual party for several years, because some years they lived out of state, which I understand.
However, they are currently living within driving distance. Everyone in the family gets along fine, and our time together is very enjoyable. As far as I know, no one has offended him in any way. They all love him and his wife.
The party is planned about a month in advance and is held on a weekend a few weeks before Christmas. I asked my son if they were attending this year, and he vaguely said he had an athletic team “thing.”
After the date, I checked the team calendar, and the team was in another state that weekend. When he doesn’t want to answer a question I’ve asked, he simply does not respond to my text.
He later told me that he went to a neighboring city the day of the family party. It hurts me that he does not seem to want to see the group, as well as the possibility that he lied to me.
Is this a generational issue, with individuals doing what they want, no matter how much close family would love to see them once a year? I don’t want to create a rift, but I would like to know why they didn’t want to attend.
No one is perfect, and I make mistakes, too. I just wish he would be honest and upfront. Is it worth asking him about it directly?
— Kentucky Mom
Dear Mom: Your son made an excuse to avoid going to this family party. You later felt compelled to investigate his excuse, which seems to have transformed his excuse into a lie. You should do some honest searching to understand why he doesn’t feel able to tell you the truth. Perhaps he is trying to spare your feelings. Is his cowardice inspired by the way you typically react when told an unpleasant truth?
Yes — people do what they want to do. And they should! You want to attend this family party every year, and he doesn’t. You should be honest with him, even if he won’t be honest with you.
You might convey to him that you don't intend to apply pressure, but that these family members would all love to see him and his wife.
You could ask him, “Is there a reason you don't want to get together with the extended family?” It's unlikely that he will choose to be completely candid with you. Regardless of what he says, you should then tell him, “Well, everybody loves and misses you.” And then you should do your best to move on.
Dear Amy: I’m disappointed that my sons, both in their 40s, do not seem to remember my birthday unless they are told. I acknowledge their birthdays, as well as the birthdays of their spouses and children.
I don’t expect gifts from them — just an acknowledgment, without being prodded by someone in the family. My husband says not to take it personally, but I do.
Am I too sensitive?
— Disappointed in California
Dear Disappointed: A person’s birthday is the very definition of “personal,” and that’s why people tend to feel happy when they’re remembered and celebrated, and sad when they’re forgotten, especially when they’re forgotten by their own offspring.
I actually agree with your husband that the best way not to feel bad about something you know is going to happen is to anticipate it and to make a choice not to take it personally.
This is a skill I'd like to patent, because very few people possess it. It is especially tough for people who have made a huge investment into influencing the outcome. Mothers, for instance.
I suggest that you contact your sons with identical messages, saying “Gentlemen, my birthday is April 12th. Please put it on your calendars and remember that reaching out to me on that day (via call or text) will make me happy.” After that, make your own choice.
© 2023 by Amy Dickinson. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency.