Morning Quickie: “How Should I Invite My Estranged Son Home for Christmas?”

I hope you can help me out by sending me a sample letter to send my estranged son of two years. Why he is estranged doesn’t matter any longer, but I would like to mail him a letter to invite him and his family to our home for Christmas. I just can’t seem to put a letter together. PLEASE help me? Thanking you in advance — Sandy from CT

Dear Son,

Our time apart hasn’t lessened the grief I feel in your absence. I think about you and your family every day and hope that time has softened your feelings and that you might grant me the wish of seeing you all again. Would you do me the great honor of bringing your family to our home for Christmas? It’s the gift I dream of most. I miss you so much.




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  1. TheRascal says:

    I think this letter is kind and compassionate. I wonder, and I’d love to know what other people have to say, should there also be an additional line that expresses the sentiment “I understand if you do not want to and I will respect your decision.”
    I have a difficult relationship with my own mother, and while I am not estranged from her, if I received a note from her like this — ie, one that only addresses her wishes — I would feel like she was trying to guilt me into the visit. But perhaps that is me projecting. We don’t know the nuances of this particular LW’s relationship, so I can only speak to how I would feel.

    1. Avatar photo something random says:

      I hear where you are coming from. The letter writer doesn’t think it matters anymore why they are estranged but the son might have different feelings. I like adding the the last sentence. It makes it much more comfortable for the son to decline. When you are trying to have a relationship with someone caring about their comfort is a positive sign.

      Otherwise this is a beautiful letter with an open heart. I hope this letter writer uses it or some variant to reach out and hopefully heal things.

    2. Avatar photo Dear Wendy says:

      Hmm, I would be hesitant to say “I understand if you do not want to,” because the LW likely doesn’t understand or doesn’t want to give the impression that she’s expecting a no. I might amend my last sentence so that it reads: “If you decide this isn’t the right time to visit, just know I love and miss you and welcome you and your family any time.”

      1. Ooh, I like that last line. I think it gives the son the option to decline since it’s already so close to Christmas and he might have plans that he can’t break and to consider getting together and hopefully soon.

      2. TheRascal says:

        Me gusta!

  2. With all due respect, Sandy, the reason for your estrangement does matter, very much. In a sense, Wendy’s letter is just fine, because if you want to reach out to someone, you simply reach out with love and an open heart and mind. But the reason for the separation gives context to the tone of the letter. Are you estranged because you called his girlfriend of another race a slur, or refused to accept that he was gay? Did you refuse to support him in some way, such as college or a career choice? These details don’t necessarily change the content of the letter, but they change what you are offering. Are you offering to accept him back in your home, no questions asked, as long as he doesn’t mention his boyfriend? In short, if your attitude or attempts to control him are the reason for your estrangement, then you may need to acknowledge this and discuss how your behaviour will be better if he comes for the holidays. Since you are the one who is seeking to build a bridge, you may want to consider what is broken and may need to be rebuilt for this visit to work. From experience, i can tell you that just showing up on the premises does not constitute a win unless there is a real rapprochement. My family is a panel of experts on “making nice” but still harbouring deep-seated grudges for all eternity.

    1. Exactly – they may not matter to her, but they may matter to him. I’d also add that it’s wonderful to reach out and hope for reconciliation, but the holidays might not necessarily be the time to do it. The season is so fraught with emotion and expectation for so many, and if there’s anything holiday related that might be anywhere near the cause of the estrangement, I’d even consider waiting.

    2. Avatar photo Dear Wendy says:

      You’re totally right. The reasons for the estrangement may not matter anymore to the LW, but chances are they very much matter to the son, especially if he feels he was wrong or slighted — and he must, or else why an estrangement? — and no apology or extension of compassion or understanding as been expressed. I wrote the invite template as a very general letter that maybe other people could adapt for their own use, but I neglected to point out that without some expression of regret on the LWs part for whatever role she had in the estrangement, her son is likely not to accept her invitation now or in the future.

      Without details, it’s hard to advise. But I would think something along these lines would work for many instances (provided the sentiment is actually true): “Our time apart has given me a chance to think about my actions and behavior and I regret ever giving the impression that I don’t love and accept you and your family with all my heart.”

    3. Avatar photo something random says:

      Diablo, you’ve mentioned setting boundaries and having to enforce them by cutting off toxic visits to your family. I’m sorry. I wish your mother was capable of seeing what internet strangers see- what a funny, sweet, sharp, committed person you are.

      My family is wonderful and my parents are excellent and loving. But they are also extremely flawed and at times toxic and lacking healthy boundaries. Reconciling these qualities for me means continually deciding what to engage, what to ignore, and when its worth the energy versus having a break from them. I feel at home with them and happy to be there but never completely safe and off guard. At the end of the day they usually contribute much more good than harm and my life is richer and my heart is fuller for including them.

      I don’t know where Sandy’s son is at, but Sandy wants healing. Not everyone is willing but I don’t think that should stop Sandy from making the effort to bridge what she can. A nice holiday visit isn’t going to fix a dysfunctional parent/child relationship and every human failing in the past. Trying to make everything right might prevent any relationship from happening. Maybe it can just be a nice holiday visit and nothing more or less. I dunno. Families are weird.

      1. Well, my family isn’t totally toxic either, but there are some real issues. A visit is a start, because I find that you can’t really mend anything without being in the same room as people. You need to look into a person’s eyes and see their good intentions. I’ll never shut the door all the way on any member of my family. But I’ve decided to draw the line at accepting any more scapegoating due to my sister’s undiagnosed mental illness. My mom’s urge to protect her feelings (and delusional view of reality) at ALL costs (really, like, at the expense of losing her other children) has unbalanced our family dynamic to the breaking point. That being said, my Dad has asked to have lunch with me today (first contact in months), so we’ll see what he has to say. If it’s some guilt trip, fuggedaboutit, but I’m willing to be open. Thanks for your kindness, though. I certainly feel like an asshole for setting boundaries.

      2. Avatar photo something random says:

        You’re welcome. And tell your self-doubt something random said to lay off. Healthy boundaries are our friends 🙂

      3. Best of luck with lunch. But continue setting boundaries, it’s totally the best thing to do!

      4. It went OK. The problem is, Mom is the one who has a problem with me, but where was she? Dad is trying to engineer a good result, but he acknowledged that Mom has some longstanding grudges that are not too reasonable, and which can’t really be addressed because some of them are in the distant past. For example, the manner in which i left home 28 years ago. He also said that she doesn’t like me much. So, he talked me into agreeing to try to talk openheartedly to her. But if i get a whole bunch more anger and loathing, honestly I can’t go much farther down that road. So, we’ll see.

    4. Tammy Williams says:

      The estrangement doesn’t always have to be the parents fault. Why do you automatically assume she did something to cause the estrangement? I know plenty of parents who have estranged children just because the children are entitled, spoiled and self centered.

  3. So, at first I thought maybe this was my MIL…. but it hasn’t been 2 years. Just 6 months. And all I can say is that while the reasons for estrangement may not matter to you, they quite possibly matter to your son. And likely matter to his family as well (depending on what the reasoning is). I know you want your son there for Christmas and I think Wendy’s idea for a letter is very sweet and to the point, but just know that you will likely need to address the reason for the estrangement (although I’m thinking Christmas is absolutely not the time for it). Just sending a note inviting him to Christmas isn’t going to fix things. If there’s been a 2 year estrangement, there is serious work to be done on the relationship. And if your son and his family believe you just want to sweep it under the rug and not address the issue, they will likely be less inclined to react positively to anything you send.

  4. Laura Hope says:

    Wendy’s letter was great but I would still try to write your own because your son will know it’s authentic and came from your heart. Try stream of consciousness–just write and see what happens. It may or may not be usable but maybe you need to put in a little effort for him to respond.

  5. Avatar photo Addie Pray says:

    Wendy’s letter was nice but LW definitely needs to write it herself and making it genuine, relevant, and yes address whatever it is that has caused the feud. There are three general reasons for the feud between Son and Mom: (i) Son is mad at Mom for something; (ii) Mom is mad at Son for something; or (iii) both. If you want the letter to help/fix the problem, I’d expect either an “I am sorry,” or “I forgive you,” or “I”m sorry and I forgive you,” depending on the situation, but it needs to be in your own words and it needs to be honest and it needs to be real and substantive.

    1. Avatar photo Addie Pray says:

      (LW, and if you gave us more info, I bet you’d get a better, more on-point letter you could use from someone…)

  6. Laura Hope says:

    And for all we know, he reads this column, will know it was Wendy’s letter, and show up at her house for dinner. (Hmmm. Xmas tacos?)

    1. Xmas tacos? What are you, some kind of mad genius? (Yeah, i know Wendy mentioned tacos, but Xmas tacos definitely ratchets up my holiday spirit!)

  7. Laura Hope says:

    Alas, I’m Jewish. We’re required to eat Chinese food on Xmas. I think it’s in the torah.

    1. Avatar photo Addie Pray says:

      Last year my mom and sisters and I went out for Chinese food on Christmas, and holy shit it was PACKED! Also, unrelated: I think I would have made a good Jew, like I should’ve been born Jewish. That’s my deep thought for the day. Who wants to talk about my new boyfriend? Anyone?

      1. Avatar photo Dear Wendy says:

        I do! Are you spending Christmas together? New Year’s? Does your mom like him? When does he want to have kids? When are you going to have them? Is he going to be a SAHM? What are you going to name your kids? Are you going to take his last name? If you don’t, will your kids take your last name or his last name? Does Moose like him? I forget — does he have a dog, too?

        Hmm…. those are all the (g-rated) questions I can think of at the moment. Ok, wait: does he have a big nose? Also! Does he like to cook?

      2. Avatar photo Addie Pray says:

        Not spending Christmas or New Year’s together! (He will be in London with his sister and her in-laws and I will be in California – but all future holidays will be together!)
        My mom thinks he is a very nice boy.
        He wants to have kids, and soon!
        If he would like to he could be a SAHD but I am also ok with a nanny and in fact already have a nanny picked out – she doesn’t know it yet but my cleaning lady! She can nanny and clean. She is really the best thing ever and now I can’t believe my platform to gush about my boyfriend has turned into gushing about my cleaning lady. Ok, getting back on track now…
        I have always said I would not take someone else’s last name and my boyfriend asked me about that and that’s what he said and he is fine with that. But… I could see myself changing my mind. I asked if he would take mine and he said “probably not.” Bummer, I tried! But my kids can take his last name. But I may want them to have my last name as a middle name but no hyphens because … well, my first thought is “what do you do when you have to write your name in those standardized test forms?!” (That’s my first thought, don’t know what that says about me.)
        He and Moose are kind of … at odds with each other. I think Moose is going to be a problem. Like, my boyfriend has already said that Moose should not sleep on the bed but I don’t understand why I can’t cuddle BOTH OF THEM at night. So, this may be one of those things one of us has to accept and deal with but I’m not sure yet who will be doing that.
        Does he have a big nose? …. Not really. Maybe? It’s hard to tell. He’s 6’3″ and just everything is sort of bigger when you’re 6’3″. I think I’d classify his nose as average or slightly bigger than average.
        He likes to cook! He is in charge of the kitchen.
        Also, he loves me so much. And he’s so nice and not critical and so fun and easy going and open about his feelings and really secure about his feelings and doesn’t seem to be scared about the big stuff at all and knows exactly what he wants and it’s just so niiiiiiiiiiiice.

      3. Avatar photo Addie Pray says:

        And actually he’s good with Moose – he’s walked him for me and cleaned up after Moose for me. … but he’s just not as insanely in love with Moose as I am … And because he’s so nice I could probably get away with having Moose sleep in the bed with us but … I dunno, I think it’s probably a reasonable request that Moose not sleep in the bed. But come on it’s a huge-ass bed! And Moose is so small and likes to curl up on my head so it’s not as if he’s going to curl up on him!? To be determined later when “my bed” becomes “our bed.”

      4. Avatar photo something random says:

        What about Moose being exposed to wah cheeka wah (that’s supposed to be getting it on music)? Is that an issue for dogs? Maybe moose can get a goodnight cuddle before he goes off to his bed?

      5. In “Best in Show,” Parker Posey’s dog is in therapy after seeing her attempt a Kama Sutra position, so don’t say you haven’t been warned.

      6. RedroverRedrover says:

        That dog needed therapy for a whole lot more than that. 🙂

      7. My dog Ozzy sleeps on the bed (my boyfriend’s idea, not mine altho Oz is my dog) and he has no issues. We just kick him off the bed when the getting it on music starts. Dogs are pretty adaptable. Moose will figure it all out but “Mom” and “Dad” need to be on the same page or Moose may need therapy.

      8. Awwww. It is nice to hear about a man that is clear about who he wants and acts in a manner consistent with that. No drama, no fuss, no issues. My SIL has been dating a guy for 5 years and he is balking at living together because it is so much of a commitment. Meanwhile he would be okay with her having his child. It hurt my head so much.

      9. RedroverRedrover says:

        I don’t understand these people who think that marriage or moving in is a lesser commitment than having a kid! A person, who you created, who will be your child for the rest of your life. Frankly I’d personally be wary of a guy who thought that way, cuz it kinda feels like he thinks he’ll just be able to leave whenever he decides he’s done. No thanks.

      10. Yeah – she is ready to leave. She is giving him until NY to see if he can figure out what he wants for his future and if it doesn’t match up with what she wants – and has been saying what she wants from time – then she is out. Stupid men with their bait and switch nonsense. They even recently both got second jobs so they could save up for a down payment together…and now he can’t remember what the down payment was for.

      11. RedroverRedrover says:

        That’s bullshit. If you take a second job, you damn well know what it’s for. No one works two jobs for no good reason. It sounds like she’s probably better off without him.

      12. I think when he lives with Moose full time he’ll fall in love with that squishy little face too and suddenly Moose will be sleeping in bed with you 😉

      13. RedroverRedrover says:

        Both my cats sleep with us. It was my husband who started allowing it. My husband, who was the one who insisted they can’t sleep with us. 🙂

      14. Avatar photo Addie Pray says:

        Update: you’ll never guess what he said would be fun. He said it would be fun if we both become teachers and then every summer we go on a big road trip around the USA. … Um, hello, have I *NOT* said the same damn thing, many times, here on DW? How it would be so cool to be able to do that? I think we’re two peas in a pod.

    2. This may be a false dichotomy. I’m not sure Christianity vs. Judaism aligns philosophically in any defensible way with tacos vs. Chinese food. I did minor in philosophy, but it was a long time ago, so I can’t recall if St. Thomas Aquinas had anything on the subject. However, I do recall Marcus Aurelius: “Of each particular thing, ask what it is in itself. What is it’s nature? is it a taco or an eggroll? And if you put eggroll sauce on a taco, could you actually call it salsa? like, plum salsa?” The mind boggles when it turns to epistemological considerations…

  8. Laura Hope says:

    I do too! Anything you’d like to share.

  9. The only way letter that doesn’t address the estrangement works is if both of you want to sweep it under the rug and move on. You clearly do – but does he? A letter ignoring the elephant in the room might drive him further away as he could just dismiss you as oblivious and not taking any responsibility (if it is yours to take – which I am kind of leaning towards). My mother was estranged from my brother for almost 5 years. It just destroyed her. I had nothing to do with him either but what ended their estrangement was me reaching out to him (though it was not my favourite thing to do) and sending him a letter that told him that the rift had been going on too long and that he could not cry tears of regret over a casket if he choose to do nothing now to repair his relationship with his mother. I have no desire to reconcile with him but I thought it important that he reconcile with my mom. Do you have an intermediary that can speak to your son for you? Or test the waters a little? Failing that, and failing even a general apology of “I am deeply sorry for my part in the rift between us” I would leave the letter more open ended… That you would love to see his family over the holidays or in the new year. A summons for Christmas sounds like a privilege you have lost and most people already have their Christmas plans in place.

  10. Laura Hope says:

    Diablo, I’m thinking mu shu anything is the closest thing to tacos.. Not very philosophical but we’ll have to save that discussion for later cause I really gotta get moving. I’ve been reading Plato recently but no mention of Mexican or Chinese food in any of the dialogues. Imagine that!

  11. LW, I think its too late to try for a reunion this Christmas, and depending on the circumstances of the estrangement, it may be too big of a day for that. You need to address the issues with your son, but don’t make it all about you, because it’s not. It’s *only* been two years and feelings may still be fresh for him. You have to tread lightly and not push too much. If he has children don’t make it about how you want to see your grandchildren. Also, this may just be me, but I would find it too formal and fake if my parents sent me a letter in the mail (also I would be creeped out they found my address). Now maybe your son won’t respond to an email automatically, so then I think it’s fine, but you want to come off genuine, not formal.
    Now obviously I’m projecting, but even in the slight possibility my parents sent a genuine letter about wanting to see me for Christmas, it would take me time to come around to that idea. I would have a hard time finding any letter to be genuine. It will often take more than one attempt to repair things, but if he is the one who cut you off, you have to be careful as you only have so many chances to try.

  12. This is too: ‘Missing Missing Reasons’ for my taste. I appreciate the template, but the reasons do matter more than the LW’s desires.

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