Dear Amy: I am a widow with three adult daughters, all of whom live close by.
My two oldest girls stopped speaking to each other shortly after my husband died eight years ago.
There was no big falling-out — just a slow simmering of resentments.
My youngest daughter and I spent years imploring them to work things out, to no avail. It’s an upsetting situation, but, ultimately, we realized that this is not something that we can fix.
After the older girls stopped speaking, my oldest daughter declined to come to any family event that her sister was attending.
Consequently, she has not shared a Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner with all of us in years.
I have continued hosting these events as usual, stressing that everyone is invited. Nonetheless, my oldest has opted to visit me on Christmas morning rather than share a meal with her sister and she spends Thanksgiving with me only on the rare year when my middle daughter is not in town.
Here is my problem: Two weeks ago, my oldest daughter told me that she doesn’t think it’s fair that her sister gets Christmas dinner, and she only sees me in the morning. She is insisting that I swap them this year.
This puts me in a terrible position. I don’t know how I’m supposed to tell my middle daughter and my grandchildren that they are disinvited for the latter part of Christmas and need to be out of the house by noon.
My youngest daughter tells me that this is an unreasonable request, that this is not my problem, and I should continue to stress that I will host as I have always done with everyone included.
Still, I feel like whatever I do, I’m the bad guy.
How should I handle this?
Dear Frustrated: You should not give in to your oldest daughter’s demand. If you do give in, then next year she might decide that she wants to “have you all to herself” on Christmas Day.
You don’t say specifically, but your middle daughter does not seem to be placing these specific demands upon you. If her older sister showed up for a holiday meal, I assume that she and the kids would find a way to handle it.
You are not the “bad guy.” You are the mom, and you should do the mom thing: “I don’t play favorites. I’m hosting Christmas dinner, as usual, and – as usual — I would love for you to come!”
You might add that a great Christmas gift for you would be for these two sisters to reconcile, at least to the point where they can be peacefully and respectfully in each other’s presence during holiday meals.
Dear Amy: I try to be a good friend. I've been told by many of my friends that I'm a good listener. I’m supportive and helpful.
I'm happy to do this for my friends, as it's how I would want to be treated.
I'm fortunate that many of my friends reciprocate.
However, two of my closest friends have gotten very absorbed in their own concerns, which are admittedly serious problems.
That being said, every time I see them or communicate with them they unload all of their problems on me, sometimes going into great detail over every little thing that's going wrong — for hours on end.
How can I kindly let them know that occasionally I would like to be asked how I'm doing, or maybe just have a conversation on the lighter side.
I'm happy to help and I'm happy to listen, but I'm not their therapist.
How can I re-establish balance in the relationship?
– Out of Balance
Dear Out: The way to say things kindly is to say things kindly, and to do so deliberately and thoughtfully before you LOSE IT and say things you cannot take back.
Try this: “I hope you feel supported and listened to. I genuinely care! But I also have worries, concerns, and also joys I’d like to discuss. Can you make some space for me? It would mean a lot.”
Dear Amy: “Upset Neighbor” was upset because he wasn’t notified of a neighbor’s death.
I’m glad you pointed out all of the challenges to surviving family members when a parent passes away.
After my own mom’s death, a former neighbor of hers berated me for not calling her to let her know.
Dear Grieving: It is extremely hard to take on someone else’s disappointment when you are reeling and overwhelmed.
©2021 Amy Dickinson. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.