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In Other Words: “I Don’t Want to Invite My Daughter to Christmas”

Here’s a recent Christmas-themed letter from Dear Prudence you might enjoy, with my advice to follow:


My husband and I have two grown daughters, “Holly” and “Ivy.” I also have another much older daughter, “Gertrude,” born during my brief first marriage. Holly and Ivy are both married and have small children. Gertrude never married and has no children. Holly and Ivy have never been particularly close to Gertrude, but in recent years their relationship has deteriorated to the point that Holly and Ivy have told me that they do not wish to visit my house if Gertrude is there. While I don’t know exactly what caused the rift (Gertrude claims to have no idea), I suspect that Gertrude, who unfortunately inherited my ex’s rather difficult personality, has said or done something to deeply offend her sisters. Holly, Ivy, and their families spend Thanksgiving and Christmas at my home. We decorate the house, bake cookies and pies with the grandchildren, go sledding or for walks in the woods, and generally have a picture-perfect holiday. Gertrude usually comes to visit for a few weekends at other times of the year and we have a lovely time together. Gertrude has recently informed me that she is very hurt that I do not invite her to my home for the holidays. While it’s too late to do anything about this year since Holly and Ivy have already made travel plans, I wonder how best to handle subsequent years. Should I maintain the status quo and tolerate Gertrude’s hurt feelings? Should I start a schedule of alternating holidays, for example, hosting Holly and Ivy next Thanksgiving, then having Gertrude visit at Christmas? The problem with alternating holidays means that my husband and I will have less time with our grandchildren, a prospect which makes us both extremely sad. — Fa La La La La

Ahhh… the thought of having less time with your grandchildren makes you extremely sad? That’s too bad. You know what else is extremely sad? BEING BANNED FROM YOUR OWN MOTHER’S HOUSE FOR THE HOLIDAYS. Shame on you. You’re a disgrace. Why “Gertrude” (such an uglier name than “Ivy” and “Holly”!) even bothers to maintain any contact with you at all, let alone come visit you on multiple weekends, is surely a testament to the solid foundation and self-esteem-building love her father must have given her because I can’t imagine it’s a reflection on YOU, the mother who bans her own daughter at Christmas for no other reason than because her presence is inconvenient.

If you want to take advantage of Gertrude’s seemingly warm feelings for you and avoid a change of heart on her side, start behaving like a loving mother and open your home to her whenever she would like to visit, holidays included. Tell those other daughters of yours that starting immediately — yes, NOW — Gertrude will be invited to all family gatherings since she is, after all, family. If they have a problem with that, they don’t have to come. Or they can pick up the phone and work things out with their older sister, either agreeing to be cordial to each other or choosing which holidays to alternate their visits with you. They’re all adults, so let them work it out amongst themselves. Your job is simply to open your home to all your children and to never exclude one, especially, ESPECIALLY when you don’t even have one solid reason why her presence would be unwelcome. (And if you cared at all to know, you could just ask your two younger daughters — the ones who seem to have a problem — what the problem actually IS. And then you could even go a step further and discuss their feelings and try to reason with them why it’s important for your sake that they at least try to put their feelings aside during the holidays and make an effort to tolerate their older sister. But I suppose that would take effort on your part and why would you want to expend any effort when you already have “picture perfect” holidays without your oldest daughter and you’re so busy baking pies).

If your decision to welcome Gertrude to your home during the holidays means you’ll miss time with your grandchildren, you’ll just have to find some other time during the year — like maybe the weekend before Gertrude comes or the weekend after — that you invite them to visit or you go see them. Not all grandparents get to see all their grandchildren at every holiday every year. Most don’t, actually. That you apparently have had the honor to spend so many Thanksgivings and Christmases in their company is a rare privilege — one I would hope fills you enough with the spirit of the season to throw some compassion, love, and respect to poor Gertrude, your one daughter who doesn’t have her own family to spend the holidays with. If you’re lucky, she might just have enough compassion and love for you to overlook your appalling indifference to her emotional well-being.

You can read Prudence’s advice here.


You can follow me on Facebook here and sign up for my weekly newsletter here.

If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy@dearwendy.com.


Comments on this entry are closed.

avatar Christy December 20, 2013, 9:17 am

I really think that everyone has that secret that could “ruin Christmas”. A few years ago, my uncle was surprisingly drunk at Christmas dinner, and it turns out it was because he and his wife had already decided to separate but hadn’t told anyone, so they still hosted the dinner! So he (not wanting the separation) just decided to have 17 beers that night to get through the meal.

He later talked to gf (who’d never met him before) and me about the bar where he had his bachelor party, and kept trying to persuade us to go there.

It all made a lot more sense after they separated.

avatar lemongrass December 20, 2013, 9:32 am

Back when I was 17 and living with my SIL, her cousin stayed the night at our place. We went out and all got fairly tipsy, him more than us. That night I woke up to him stroking my hair and told me I should come out to the living room and hang out. I said no and he left my room and that was that. 2 years later, Mr. Grass and I got together. Having to see him again was weird but now it’s way back in the memory hole and I do really like and get along with him. Only the 4 of us know that story but man would that ruin Christmas if it came out (he’s married with teenage kids)

avatar lemongrass December 20, 2013, 9:34 am

Also, let’s make this a thread where everyone tells their dirty family secrets.

avatar Christy December 20, 2013, 9:36 am

That was my goal :D

avatar lemongrass December 20, 2013, 11:04 am

C’mon guys! I can’t be the only one! It’s just awkward and weird then.

Fabelle Fabelle December 20, 2013, 11:15 am

I’ve been trying to think, but I can’t think of any. Maybe nobody lets me in on the family secrets…

Addie Pray Addie Pray December 22, 2013, 4:41 am

This means YOU are the family secret hahahahaha

katie katie December 20, 2013, 11:16 am

i wish i had stories to tell, there are apparently tons of them from my family, but i dont know or speak to any of them but one uncle/aunt/2 cousins, so i only know bits and pieces.

i do have this though- we went through a box of very very old pictures from my late grandmother once at the uncle/aunts/2 cousins lakehouse. my mom was there as well, so i had 3 people who all were there telling me the stories about the pictures and letting me know who was in them (it was amazing, and my uncle let me keep a bunch of the pictures!). anyway, there is this one picture of my grandmother, grandfather, and like 3 other people out at a dinner together somewhere. and my mom goes, oh, here, this is funny, this is your grandmother, thats your grandfather, and that was your grandmother’s lover! apparently they just all hung out. haha

avatar MMcG December 20, 2013, 11:46 am

Sorry but we are too loud and upfront in my family to have secrets at this point… I wish I was kidding but stuff doesn’t stay hidden for more than a few months at most… which is sometimes good, sometimes not ;-)

barleystonks barleystonks December 20, 2013, 12:03 pm

unfortunately most of my family’s secrets are of the dark, evil, criminal, disgusting kind and sharing them would only make me (and everyone on here) mad.

Except we have this really fun not-really-incest thing going on right now.

My mother’s sister died of a heart attack about 10 years back, and my uncle recently remarried- to my mother’s (3rd? very distant but still traceable) cousin who was formerly married to my mother’s first cousin and they started living together before the cousin-ish marriage was fully dissolved and also first and second wives were totally best friends their whole life.

Nobody actually cares about any of this but trying to explain it to my husband and stepdaughter was fun because too many cousin-ish labels.

avatar iseeshiny December 20, 2013, 8:55 pm

Right? Mine too. All our family secrets are gross. I wish we had fun ones.

CatsMeow CatsMeow December 20, 2013, 1:07 pm

I’m not sure if this is a “secret” or not, but I find it funny. All the old people in my family used to date each other. Like, they’re all connected in some way and I can’t remember the intricacies now. For instance, my grandma and my uncle’s (by marriage) mother both dated the same man before they were married. They obviously didn’t know each other at the time, though. There’s more like that, but I doubt it’s interesting to anyone else so I’ll stop here. :)

avatar csp December 20, 2013, 1:12 pm

Ok, I have a weird one. So my cousins’ grandfather on the other side. Like 10 years ago, it came out that he molested his kids, so like my aunt by marriage. The thing is, this grandfather is still at family events and weddings. This man is in his 90s and my aunt is in her 60s. But I am like, how can this side of the family stay in a relationship with this man? I mean, he will be dead soon but I think it is weird that everyone knows what he did and we go to a wedding and pretend nothing happened.

avatar Holly December 20, 2013, 9:28 am

YAY You’re doing a new “In Other Words”! That makes me so excited since I requested more of those. :D

I haven’t read Prudy’s advice yet, but I’m so in agreement with Wendy. This is ridiculous and mean and I’m all kinds of angry on Gertrude’s behalf.

avatar SasLinna December 20, 2013, 9:29 am

This made me sad. It’s painfully obvious that Gertrude is less loved by her mother because she’s the child of her “difficult” ex husband. I commend Gertrude for speaking up and saying she’s hurt rather than either just giving up on her mom or getting angry. And definitely those who have a problem (Ivy and Holly) should be the ones to offer an explanation, not Gertrude.

Fabelle Fabelle December 20, 2013, 9:30 am

Ugh I saw this yesterday, & yeah, wtf is this woman’s problem? I mean, clearly “Gertrude” is a terrible reminder of her first unsuccessful marriage or something? but she shouldn’t punish her daughter for being a scar on her otherwise perfect life. Because that’s a fucked up mindset to have. But unfortunately, that’s the mindset she has. Sooo WWS.

Also where is everyone? It’s so quiet this morning.

katie katie December 20, 2013, 9:32 am

geez, wow. this is so sad, and we see this theme repeated in letters more often then not. the whole, i have a perfect-now family now, my mistake-then family was before, but for some reason the mistake-then family is trying to ruin (read: be a part of) my perfect-now family!

very sad. appearances simply do matter more then family, apparently.

avatar lets_be_honest December 20, 2013, 10:13 am

It is so sad. There’s a part of me that’s really glad my dad and stepmom never had kids together because I know there’d be some of this (not to this extreme, but still). People suck.

avatar csp December 20, 2013, 1:25 pm

So, I also just wonder if it is as simple as how long do you keep a really difficult person in your life? I mean, the mother might be directly responsible for Gertrude’s chip on her shoulder. But it also might be that every holiday becomes such an ordeal that you tip toe around someone.

My SIL went through a bad time after her divorce. We begged her to come to Thanksgiving one year and she sat at the table and said the nastiest, passive aggressive things ever. She then said that we should be grateful that she even showed. It was a mess. The next holiday, she started to pull the same crap and we said, “if you don’t want to come, then don’t. We don’t feel like begging you anymore.” She ended up coming and having a better attitude. However, if you have someone who is a real pill, how long do you put up with it before you say, we are better without you.

avatar jlyfsh December 20, 2013, 1:29 pm

shouldn’t the daughters then have had something to complain about specifically? not just eh we don’t like her. but, rather last time she said or did x and we can’t handle it. instead it seems like they’ve never gotten along and Gertrude has never been invited.

is Gertrude the difficult one or has the mother always treated her like an outcast and added fuel to the us vs. her mentality that seems to exist there?

avatar csp December 20, 2013, 1:47 pm

So, this is a bad example but it is all I have. I had two friends that stopped being friends. The one is quiet, nice, and maybe passive aggressive while the other is outgoing, funny, and a little in your face. So the passive aggressive one, broke off the friendship but couldn’t really give one example of why. She gave examples of harsh things said at her expense over the years and the final straw was a side comment like all the others. If you have someone who “can’t say anything nice” then it is hard to give one defining reason. This might be a terrible LW like everyone thinks, but it also might be a pill of a daughter or both.

avatar jlyfsh December 20, 2013, 2:00 pm

there is a difference between children and friends. and even if the daughter is a pill, the adult thing to do is try and work it out. not make your mother choose between children.

avatar csp December 20, 2013, 2:39 pm

Fair comments. I agree with everything you are saying. However, I remember once whining to my mom, “But why do I always have to be the bigger person?” why isn’t Gertrude just as responsible for trying to make the relationship better? We have no proof that Gertrude has tried to mend the fence either.

avatar jlyfsh December 20, 2013, 4:37 pm

nor do we have proof that gertrude is the problem. other than the mother assuming it’s because she has a bad personality compared to her two other loved daughters. and honestly if it’s nothing more than personalities that don’t mesh well, you suck it up. it sounds like it’s once a year, not all the time. and i mean i’m sorry but you better have a actual, damn good reason to ask a mother to exclude her child from her house. not just we don’t get along, i don’t enjoy being the bigger person.

avatar TECH December 20, 2013, 9:32 am

So, this is probably going to sound judgmental, but I’ll just say it — What kind of mother excludes her daughter from holidays for no good reason? What kind of mother is that?
I could understand if “Gertrude” had committed some crime or done something horrible, but the LW herself admits she doesn’t have a solid reason. This just makes me sick. There are some pretty despicable parents out there.

TaraMonster TaraMonster December 20, 2013, 9:40 am

Prudence was not mean enough. My blood was BOILING reading that letter.

avatar MMcG December 20, 2013, 11:50 am

The comments section, at least on Slate, went bonkers over this letter. And yes I ready Prudy on slate because I hit my WaPo free articles limit like a week into the month… and that’s how I get around it.

This “mother” sucks so bad. and I like the name Gertrude for the record, there was so much hate over the name!

Fabelle Fabelle December 20, 2013, 9:43 am

I agree— Holly & Ivy were like, “We’re not coming if Gertrude is there”, so the mother just excludes her, no questions asked? Fuck that. It seems like she was almost looking for reason to exclude her.

avatar kerrycontrary December 20, 2013, 9:51 am

Who is so childish to refuse to come to the holidays if their sister is there? Unless a sibling threatens someone or abuses a child, I can’t imagine ever behaving this way. Suck it up and be cordial if someone gets on your nerves or says the wrong thing, but don’t exclude them from your family.

avatar Christy December 20, 2013, 10:05 am

I skipped Thanksgiving one year because I couldn’t stand my mom’s husband at the time. I stayed at school and went to Thanksgiving with a friend. But siblings, I can’t imagine.

avatar emily85 December 20, 2013, 11:21 am

I don’t get along with my brother at all. He has systematically cut different people off in my family for no reason, including my 90 year old grandmother. I would love to be able to avoid him, but he does come to one family gathering for Christmas and I would never skip it just so I didn’t have to see him.

katie katie December 20, 2013, 10:00 am

oh that answer is easy, its the kind of mother who is only worried about how “picture perfect” her christmas’s look with her “whole” family (ie. only the mother and father, bio children, their bio children, ect).

avatar kerrycontrary December 20, 2013, 10:06 am

Yup I think this is really the crux of the problem. She’s been so fixated on having this perfect nuclear family instead of acknowledging that she had a previous marriage and child.

muchachaenlaventana muchachaenlaventana December 20, 2013, 9:41 am

This just makes me so incredibly sad. I agree with Wendy and I hope this sort of deluded and obsessed with appearances woman (who has seemingly no remorse over her blatant favoritism or how much she is likely hurting her first daughter) takes Prudie’s advice and invites her eldest daughter to celebrate with them before its too late (although for the life of me I can’t imagine why Gertrude would actually want to go).

Kate B. Kate B. December 20, 2013, 10:36 am

Really. If I were Gertrude, I’d find someone else to spend Christmas with, or plan the perfect “me” holiday. Who needs a mother like that?

avatar cdobbs December 20, 2013, 9:41 am

Way to go Wendy!!!! Perfect response!!!!

avatar ktfran December 20, 2013, 9:44 am

I so wish this was a letter actually sent to Wendy. And I so wish the writer could read Wendy’s, and I’m sure most of our responses.

Because I mean, she needs to be called out for being a horrible person.

It’s letters and people like this that makes me realize how truly lucky I am. Yes, I complain about my family. But really, I grew up with one of the “good ones.”

avatar kerrycontrary December 20, 2013, 9:49 am

Yeh…I don’t know why a mother would treat her children so differently just because they have different fathers. Or play favorites so obviously. So not only does the LW like her other 2 daughters more because they come from a “better” father, but also because they have grandchildren. That’s just wrong. I’ve actually seen this scenario play out a lot where a parent has a child from a first unsuccessful marriage, and then favors their “picture perfect” 2nd family because it fits their mold of what they think a family should be. The first child is slightly ostracized and can’t find their place in either “new” family. It’s really sad.

avatar starpattern December 20, 2013, 9:59 am

UGH I can’t even. Gertrude is welcome to celebrate Christmas with my family if her mother can’t find it in herself to stop being such a selfish hag!

Stonegypsy Stonegypsy December 20, 2013, 10:13 am

I thought Prudy gave a pretty good answer to this as well (though I agree that she probably wasn’t harsh enough) and did call this woman out for what she was doing. Hopefully this woman realizes what a horrible mother she’s being and begs “Gertrude’s” forgiveness (you can feel the dislike she has for her daughter by the fake name she gave her)

avatar jlyfsh December 20, 2013, 10:32 am

I hope that the OP updates Prudence about this!! You would think that the act of writing this letter would have made the mother think about what she was doing and instead of sending it off throw it in the trash and invite her oldest daughter to Christmas. And I mean who DOESN’T have a family member who not everyone gets along with? Or rather maybe a better wording of that is, who doesn’t at times not get along with everyone in their families? Hopefully the OP reads Prudence’s advice and that of the commenters on Slate and realizes that she needs an attitude adjustment. As do her two daughters. I’m going to guess this isn’t the first time that there has been a clear division between her children. Which is just sad.

Fabelle Fabelle December 20, 2013, 10:36 am

“You would think that the act of writing this letter would have made the mother think about what she was doing…”

RIGHT?? Like how do you write this, all “Holly… Ivy… GERTRUDE” & not be like, “hmmm…”

rainbow rainbow December 20, 2013, 11:37 am

Honestly, I’d rather be a Gertrude than an Ivy or Holly. But I agree that LW wouldn’t.

avatar ChemE December 20, 2013, 10:32 am

Yep, this letter pissed me off too. I’m that kid from the mistake family, so I’ve always been treated differently. My mother has never been able to separate her hatred for my dad from me.
Gertrude has one up on me in that I’ve given up on trying to have a relationship with my mother and sister.

I think the woman in the story should leave Gertrude alone and stop with the fake weekends at other times in the year. Gertrude should’ve stopped spending time with a long time ago especially when she found out you were inviting the sisters over. How you ever thought that was acceptable is fucking ridiculous. How do you get sleep at night knowing you INTENTIONALLY exclude your daughter?

I’d also like to point out it sounds like you have never had your first daughter to your house for the holidays. Even before the sisters initiated the ban. Just, wow. I hate you and you aren’t even my mother.

I can’t even say anything else because this feels too close to home. Having the family I do and then letters like this makes me wish one day you’ll have to be licensed to have kids.

avatar Miss MJ December 20, 2013, 10:45 am

Wow. This woman might actually be a more self-absorbed, shallow and useless cunt than the woman who wanted her future DIL to tell her disfigured father that he couldn’t come to the wedding because his scars would “scare the children” (read: “be unpleasant to look at”) and I didn’t think anything could top that.

Way to go humanity.

Addie Pray Addie Pray December 20, 2013, 10:53 am

I haven’t read any of the advice yet so let’s see how I do “solo”: Tell H&I to suck it up. You’re the mother to all three girls, and their making you choose in a sense between them or Gertrude for the holidays is really, really shitty, especially when they can’t even articulate to you why there is a rift. If H&I are too stubborn and still won’t come home for the holidays, that’s on them.

Addie Pray Addie Pray December 20, 2013, 10:56 am

Oh Wendy’s advice was even better and stronger. LW, my mother just said Gertie is welcome to our house this Christmas.

avatar KMJ December 20, 2013, 11:00 am

Absolutely shameful. Cannot believe a mother could treat her child this way.

Wendy said it well.

avatar painted_lady December 20, 2013, 11:05 am

The only possible way it’s not completely shitty that the LW took sides is if she knows Gertrude’s been abusive and Holly and Ivy feel unsafe. She says she doesn’t even know what Gertrude did. And why is it that the other daughters say they don’t want her around and the LW automatically assumes Gertrude did something?

It also sounds like one of the reasons for preferential treatment is the grand kids. I wonder if Gertrude had a kid or two, the LW wouldn’t magically change her mind about standing up for her daughter.

Look, LW, if Gertrude is honestly unpleasant to have around – if your problem is with her – then you need to address it with her. You didn’t mention it in your letter, though, so I’m going to assume it’s that Holly and Ivy are spoiled little whiners and expect Mommy to fix everything. You can demand Gertrude be pleasant to them, and you can demand that they be pleasant to her, while all three are in your house, and if any of them isn’t, then you can ask them to leave. If how they interact outside the house is unpleasant, that’s on them as adults to fix. If they genuinely can’t enjoy the holidays when they’re in the same house, you need to figure out a compromise that doesn’t end up with Gertrude being unwelcome in her own mother’s home.

avatar Christy December 20, 2013, 11:17 am

I just don’t understand why people feel entitled to grandkids.

avatar kerrycontrary December 20, 2013, 11:30 am

I know! People get really weird about grandchildren. Like they would prefer to see their grandchildren instead of one of their children. My fiance’s parents keep “joking” that his sister can move out, but their grandchild needs to stay in the house. Except I think they are serious.

Pamplemousse Rose Pamplemousse Rose December 20, 2013, 12:30 pm

My MIL is already a being over the top about having a grandchild, and the baby hasn’t even been born yet.

avatar WAPS December 20, 2013, 3:51 pm

YES. My husband’s parents are like this. When they moved to the city that my husband and his older brother live in, they chose to live 10 minutes away from them and 1-2 hours away from us so that they could always go see their grandkids (we don’t have kids). Then all of them insist that we come to them always because it’s too much hassle to travel to us (or even meet us halfway!) with kids. His parents refuse to speak up when their other son and his wife are being ridiculous because they’re afraid that they’ll restrict time with the grandkids, even if it means that my husband won’t be able to attend a family event. So although they don’t know it yet, this will be our last Christmas with them.

avatar painted_lady December 20, 2013, 12:23 pm

Well, and in so many families, the adult children with kids themselves are the “good” kids.

avatar MMcG December 20, 2013, 12:39 pm

Exactly! unless you have Downtown Abbey to try and make sure you keep in the family… and even then it’s really not ok.

Plus I imagine all these grandparents were not exactly feeling the same way when their in-laws and parents tried to tell them what to do when they started having kids. It’s like you get amnesia or something and all of a sudden your need/entitlement to control is perfectly fine. F that!

avatar painted_lady December 20, 2013, 11:25 am

In disagreements between adults, short of one party being abusive or similar to the other party, you stay the fuck out of it. Don’t manage their conflicts for them, and maybe Holly and Ivy will learn to act like adults. Ugh. Helicopter parents of children are bad enough.

mandalee mandalee December 20, 2013, 11:10 am

This letter is just awful and it especially hits home because this woman sounds like a nicer version of my maternal and paternal grandmothers. They have no problem excluding their adult children in favor of others. It hurt very much when I was a kid and my mother had to explain to me that we couldn’t go to Christmas at my grandmother’s house for three years in a row because your aunt, who was my grandmother’s favorite, didn’t want our family there due to some stupid family disagreement. The disagreement being that my aunt had gotten knocked up by my uncle’s friend and named her son after him (!!), but her poor husband was completely in the dark about the whole thing. How wonderful.

Honestly, I feel bad for Gertrude in all of this. I mean, disagreement or not between the sisters, this is their mother. By not inviting Gertrude she is clearly taking sides here, and that’s honestly the most petty thing a mother can do with her children. If anything, she should be interested in bringing them together in hopes that the family can be on good terms one day, rather than focusing on her own narrow view of the current state of her family.

avatar Amanda December 20, 2013, 11:15 am

WTF WTF WTF? Why are people like this breeding? To channel BGM, NEWSFLASH LW: If you didn’t want to have children with your shitty ex-husband, you didn’t have to. In fact, you didn’t have to get married in the first place. Fuck you. You truly are scum.