We suggested they put the dogs in a kennel, but they refuse as they put a former poodle into a kennel when we all went on a week’s vacation together and that dog cried himself into a life-threatening health condition that required several thousand dollars’ worth of surgery to save his life. Sadly, my parents do not find either solution reasonable at all, and they have pitched a fit. Last year’s Christmas was celebrated without my parents who refused to come without their dogs. “These dogs are our children” they like to say – which, as their only child, I find hurtful.
My aunt, grandmother, and I have traveled out to visit my parents a couple times over the past year, but this has been hanging over everyone’s head. My father has continued to try and guilt his sister into changing her mind, but we all agree it’s better not to have these big dogs underfoot on the holiday. First, for all the poop and peeing issues and also because there is potential for the big dogs to knock over Grams, who is 94 now and frail (she’s fallen many times recently and fractured her spine).
For Thanksgiving this year, my parents suggested everyone drive the three hours to their house to celebrate, but Grams is often in pain, which make long drives not really an option for her, and I had to work the next day, so we all declined. My home is too small and my three cats would not welcome two big dogs into their space. So my parents chose to stay home with the dogs and cook for themselves. The rest of us all got together at my aunt’s. When I called that night to check in with my parents, I was told: “Well, I guess no one missed us at all.” I do not react well to passive-aggressive statements and responded that they were eating alone as a result of their own decision and they had no reason to be upset with anyone else. Today I got a text from Mom saying that my “tone of voice and absolving of my aunt’s partial responsibility in all this” was hurtful to them.
Before I lose my mind, Wendy, can I ask for an outside opinion here? Am I wrong in believing that, as the host, my aunt has every right to ban the dogs from her house despite welcoming them for years in the past? What possible reason do my parents have for believing they’ve been wronged here? — Stuck in the Middle with Yams
You are not wrong for believing that, as host, your aunt has every right to ban dogs who take huge dumps on her cream-colored carpet or the owners of said dogs who don’t seem to understand how rude it is to bring these untrained pets into other people’s homes! Honestly, your parents sound a little nuts. At the very least, they are selfish. They’re also liars. They don’t bring their dogs because “it’s hard to find a sitter”; they bring their dogs because they want to and they don’t care how it affects anyone else. It’s not like they don’t know when Thanksgiving or Christmas is. If they really wanted to get a sitter for their dogs — and they don’t! — they’d book far in advance. It’s not difficult to plan ahead. They just really, really don’t want to. Have you asked them why they don’t plan ahead? Have you suggested to them that they book a sitter now for next Thanksgiving since everyone missed seeing them so much?
Another option for them would be to find lodging in your town that allows dogs. AirBnBs or pet-friendly motels or hotels would be an answer. They’d have to leave the dogs for a few hours while they joined everyone for the holiday meal, but surely they’ve left their dog alone for a few hours before?! If anxiety is an issue, they could talk to their vet about ways to alleviate the anxiety. They could also crate the dogs in whatever lodging they found so that any accidental large dumps would be taken inside the crate and not all over the hotel room/airbnb. And if they crated the dogs at an AirBnB so as not to get in Granny’s way, maybe they could even host everyone for a potluck so they’d be able to check on the dogs regularly and let them out for walks.
Another option is that you and your husband travel to spend holidays with your parents, without your aunt and uncle and grandmother and cousins. Maybe you don’t do this for *every* holiday, but you alternate. It seems that if you live in the same town as your extended relatives, you can see them kind of whenever you want, and it would be a nice gesture to make the three-hour drive to see your parents on some holidays, even if it means missing an occasional holiday get-together with Grams, et al. As passive-aggressive as your parents are acting — and they are acting like children! — I can kind of see how they might be hurt by the perception that you’d rather spend a holiday with your aunt than with them. (I’m not saying that’s true, but I can see how they might see it that way.)
The real issue here is that none of you can meet in the middle (metaphorically, I mean, although maybe literally meeting in the middle could be an option, too), and all of you are acting like there aren’t other reasonable options (your parents being the worst offenders of this, by far). Holidays don’t have to be celebrated ON their actual days, they don’t have to be celebrated all together with the same people every single year (or every single occasion), and they don’t always have to be celebrated at the same place. I would remind your parents of this, tell them you missed them on Thanksgiving and that, although it is no longer an option for them to bring their untrained dogs to your aunt’s house, there are still numerous options for you to spend a holiday together and you want to work with them to figure out one that works best to try as soon as you all can. If they continue to suggest that the only option is for them to bring their dogs to your aunt’s and that your aunt is keeping you all from being together by banning their dogs, I’d let them know that you’re over the family politics and you and your husband will be spending the holiday season in Cabo next year, the end.
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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy(AT)dearwendy.com.