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Direct Answers – The Grinch

My husband and I have been married 25 years. I have two children from my first marriage who have grown up with my husband. They were young when we married and saw their dad, but lived with us.
We were invited to my sister-in-law’s house for Christmas.

My husband’s family lives in the same area as my son. When my kids were growing up, they often went to her house on Christmas. My son is now grown with three well-behaved children.

I asked my sister-in-law if they could come over also, as we are traveling several hours to her home and have limited time to see everyone. I was embarrassed and hurt when she said no.

She had several minor excuses: not enough room (though the house is quite big and we used to have multiple people attend years ago) and she just doesn’t like to have so many now that she has gotten older. She and I are the same age, 58, youthful and healthy.

I guess I somewhat understand, but I feel like we are all family.

And this is my son, not some friend. I felt hurt and slightly embarrassed for asking. However, I don’t feel like I’m the one who should be embarrassed. My husband is on my side and says he is ashamed his family acts this way.

I didn’t want to cause a big flare-up, so I remained polite on the phone with her until the conversation ended.

Anyway, now I’m on the fence about what to do. If we don’t go to her house, it could hurt my mother-in-law and my stepson, and his family will be there. I don’t want my son to know he’s not invited. The whole thing feels awkward and makes me a little angry.

I am a good person and try to be forgiving and kind, however, I want his family to understand that my kids are part of our family. If my son’s not welcome, then I am not sure I am either, if you know what I mean.

Please advise. Thank you.

~ Mary Jo

Mary Jo, people have a right to invite who they wish to their own home. When a guest list grows too long, people can decide who to remove from the list.


Your sister-in-law having the right to make her choices gives you the right to make your choices. She chose to host an event where your son and his children would be excluded. That was not her only option.

In the same way, attending that gathering is not your only option. If you are traveling far and have only a short period of time, why not spend the time with your son and his family? Call your sister-in-law and tell her you can’t make it for dinner. With so little time available, you don’t have time to do both. Sorry, one has to give.

Don’t worry about your mother-in-law, stepson and the others. It should be obvious to them your son and his family were not invited. Surprise, surprise, Mary Jo took offense to that. Your sister-in-law should have known she was creating “a situation.” There is no sense discussing good manners with adults.

People often make too much of the holidays. Everything is more intense and so fraught with meaning. We are supposed to treat the people we care about well every day, and the holidays are no exception.

Though your sister-in-law was within her rights to say no, at Christmas everyone gets invited. It is not a time for splitting the family but a time for uniting it.

Two spirits spoke to your sister-in-law: one said include everyone, the other said include only my blood. She made the wrong choice.

Call her and tell her you and your husband can’t make it for dinner.

~ Wayne & Tamara

Week of December 14, 2015

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