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A Distant Fifth Wheel

Comment

Dear Annie: I live five hours away from my parents and a married younger brother. I work two jobs and can only afford to visit my folks once a month or so.

Lately, when I have driven out to see them, I am the last to discover that the four of them have already made plans. They never think to ask if I want to join them. Sometimes, I end up attending the same concert but sitting in the back, alone, while they have better seats. Or I house-sit while they spend the weekend at a casino.

I have tried phoning weeks ahead to let them know when I am coming, and I've changed my plans if I learn they are already busy that weekend. Yet asking to join them seems to surprise everyone and invariably ends up being quite awkward.

What drove me to tears was when they made plans to go to Mexico for a week this summer, and I found out about it when my father told me offhandedly that the four of them had booked their flight. When I asked why I wasn't invited, he responded by saying that they were given paired tickets, and because I am single, it would have meant one unused ticket. My mother then said I was welcome to come if I paid for my own plane ticket and hotel room.

I always thought I was close to my family, but now I see that I'm being left out because I am not married. I'd like to be with them, but if I am going to be ignored, how do I handle that? — Exiled Fifth Wheel

Dear Exiled: We don't think this is deliberate so much as thoughtless. Your parents and brother make plans together when it is convenient for them and don't consider your presence a factor because you are usually away. You could try explaining how hurt you are when they do this, but don't expect it to change much. Let your parents know when you are planning to visit, and ask whether they have already made plans. If so, don't try to join them.

Come the weekend before or after. And in the meantime, do more things on your own or with friends.

Dear Annie: My uncle (my mother's brother) and his two sons, both of whom are in their mid-50s, are planning to visit me. Their mom died last year. While I was close to my aunt, I have never communicated much with my uncle or cousins. They didn't even send an email when my dad passed away three years ago.

Now, suddenly, these three men are planning to drive from Vermont to my house in Florida. One says he'll make his famous chili in my kitchen. I told them, "Thanks, but no thanks."

My mother is angry with me for not welcoming this male trio. They will be at my mother's house for several days, and my husband and I have offered to drive there (it's three hours away) and take everyone out for dinner instead. Am I doing the wrong thing? — Florida Daughter

Dear Daughter: No, and your offer to treat them to a meal at Mom's is lovely. Some men are notoriously poor communicators, and the niceties of sending letters or emails escape them. It is obvious that Mom wishes you had a closer relationship and hoped this would provide an opportunity, but welcoming them into your home is entirely your decision.

Dear Annie: The letter from "Confused in Connecticut" hit home with me. I was an overweight child myself, so I feel for her. When I was 24, I decided I didn't want to be overweight anymore, so I joined Weight Watchers. It gave me a healthy program to follow and helped me learn what triggered my eating. It taught me to eat appropriately and keep the weight off. That was 33 years ago, and I have been a lifetime member and leader since. Thank you for letting me help. — Bremen, Ind.

Annie's Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please email your questions to anniesmailbox@comcast.net, or write to: Annie's Mailbox, c/o Creators Syndicate, 737 3rd Street, Hermosa Beach, CA 90254. To find out more about Annie's Mailbox and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

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Comments

37 Comments | Post Comment
LW1, pardon the expression but really, you need to get a life. It wouldn't even occur to me to make plans with someone who lived 5 hours away. And if you live that far, seeing them once a month is entirely too often. You'll be glad if you stop that now because once you do get married and have kids you will NOT want to drive that far that often! Build your life in your new city, and trim the visits to every other month or three. I'll be really honest, to drive that far I wouldn't even visit more than once a year. They probably think it's odd you come so often. Really. And if you come less often, it won't seem so routine and they'll be more apt to make your visits special.
Comment: #1
Posted by: wkh
Thu Mar 15, 2012 9:05 PM
LW1 -
Oh, I'm sure you're as close to your family as you think you are, the problem is, THEY are not as close to you as you are to them.

Just because they're not "consciously" aware of what they're doing doesn't mean it's not being done on purpose. So yeah, it IS very likely deliberate and probably, like you said, you are being "punished" for not being married and consequently being the 5th wheel.

wkh has a point - get a life. If you're going to be ignored, how do you handle that? Stop being dependent on them for a social life and start developing one of your own, with people who are not so concerned about foursomes.

P.S.: Five hours' drive every month? Whatever for? Surely to God there are interesting activities in your neck of the wood. Start discovering your city, get a hobby, volunteer somewhere, join a club, take classes. Take a second job and gift yourself your own trip to Mexico. There are other things but your square-dancing little family in this world.

LW2 -
Nobody has the right to dictate what you want to do for visiting friends and relatives, and taking for granted that you'll be the resident free bed & breakfast is being very entitled. You ere not wrong and offering to take them to lucnh seems like a perfectly acceptable substitute. If that's not what they wanted, too bad, You can't always get what you want, sang the Rolling Stones.

Comment: #2
Posted by: Lise Brouillette
Thu Mar 15, 2012 9:36 PM
LW1: I do understand how you feel. When my daughter and I would go to see my family two states away, I was blown away that they were making plans during our visit without consulting us and we were just kind of thrown into things that we don't want to do.

After this happened the second time, my daughter and I jointly came to the conclusion that we had to do what we wanted to do. So we made plans of our own while we were back "home". Suddenly, my mom and sisters were offended! "But you've come all this way and don't want to do what we want to do?" My answer: no. The last time I went home, I sent a detailed itinerary to my sisters telling them when WE would be available. Surprise! They respected the time, asked us what WE wanted to do (and gave some great options, one of which we did) and everybody was much happier.

My point? LW, you need to take some control of this situation. As wkh mentions, you seem to be going "home" much too often. This is bad for many reasons: one of which is you don't really get to know your new home town and get some roots down there. I would taper the visits back to maybe once every three months. The next time you plan on going home, ask specifically if they have plans. If they DO, don't go home, or make other plans for when they are busy. They want to go to a concert? You probably have other friends in that home town, why not go out to dinner with one of them? If you don't have friends there, go see a movie, take yourself out to dinner (yes people do that) or just hang out at your parent's house. If they want to spend a weekend at the casino, choose another weekend to visit them.

Most importantly, start to get out in your new town more on weekends. Don't go "home" for at least three months and make plans of your own in your new town. Every town has something to offer, no matter how small. And there are things to do in any budget. Start making your own traditions: when I was in college, I worked long hours and was studying all the time, but every Saturday morning, I'd buy a bagel and a tall glass of fresh squeezed OJ and walk to the park for breakfast. Since I had five roommates, it was the only time I really had to myself and I cherished it. Other things I did as a single girl (that I can publish!): cheap concerts, book clubs (still do those), Sunday night pool playing with my roommates (we did bills at the same time)... man the list is ENDLESS! Now looking back on that time in my life, I could cry for how I took it for GRANTED!! I had so much freedom, no one to take direction from or for, no responsibilities, all options open. This time should be a time of FUN for you, not sadness!!

Your time of being a part of a couple is on it's way, if that is what you decide later on. Right now, you are single. Enjoy it! Give it a chance! Embrace it! And don't go home so often. It's time for you to live your own life. Your family certainly is.
Comment: #3
Posted by: nanchan
Thu Mar 15, 2012 10:30 PM
LW1 - I'm not following the conclusion that you're being left out because you're not married. As for the trip to Mexico, why wouldn't you pay for your own plane ticket & hotel room? At some point, it's time to support yourself & pay your own way. I think your family is being really rude but I think they might have the mindset that since you're "home" when you're with them, they don't have to entertain you. They'll go about their everyday lives just as if you still lived with them. Agree that they're being rude, but short of calling them on it so at least they know you want to be included, there's not much you can do.
LW2 - I wouldn't exactly say you're doing the wrong thing, and it is entirely up to you whom you have in your home, but I would say you're not being very friendly to your uncle & cousins. Your language shows your distaste for them and your desire to distance yourself from them, but your mom sees them as your blood relatives, her brother and her nephews/your 1st cousins. I'm not sure why you mention their age although it hints that your mom is in her 70's or 80's and may be valuing the family she has left as she gets older. If you don't want your cousins & uncle to visit your home, it's up to you, but if you do visit them at your mom's house, try to keep an open mind and be friendly to your extended family.
Comment: #4
Posted by: kai archie
Thu Mar 15, 2012 11:02 PM
LW1, if I had a friend who drove five hours once a month to see her parents, I would think she had an unhealthy over-attachment to them. The fact that their unavailability hurts you, when you're there so often, confirms it. I would only go once, maybe twice, a year. That's plenty. Haven't you ever heard "What's easily gained is little valued"? It's absolutely true, in ALL areas of life. Go annually, and give them a chance to miss you. You haven't built enough of a life in your own city, so concentrate on that. You're missing a LOT by spending so much time living in the past.
Comment: #5
Posted by: Nancy
Thu Mar 15, 2012 11:27 PM
* * * * PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT * * * *

LW3 refers to the second letter on 14 January 2012, and was also discussed on 17 February 2012.

Comment: #6
Posted by: Miss Pasko
Fri Mar 16, 2012 12:11 AM
Re LW1: I don't see any reason why she shouldn't involve her brother when making plans to visit the parents. She could talk to him, explaining, "I want to spend some time with mom & dad, but I don't want my visit to conflict with any plans they already have with you. Which weekend would be best for that?" If the brother is aware when LW1 is planning to visit, the chance that "plans" will randomly happen could be reduced.
Comment: #7
Posted by: Bear
Fri Mar 16, 2012 2:13 AM
LW1 - From what I can conclude about your letter, it seems that your parents and brother KNOW that you're coming for a visit, but then they go ahead and make other plans anyway. In my opinion, that is rude. When family from my home state make plans to visit me, I make sure I have nothing else going on so I can spend time with them. We plan to do things together.

But I think the others here are right in that they say you're visiting way too much. A 10 hour round trip in one weekend every month? That's A LOT! I used to live 2 hours from my parents and I visited them once every 2 to 3 months. I live 5 hours from my home state and I see those relatives twice a year at most. I think it's time you started enjoying the place you live in and the friends you have. You can't change who your parents are but you can change yourself.

LW2 - Sometimes men aren't the best communicators. And perhaps they know how close you and your aunt were and that's why they want to visit. But...you don't have to have anybody in your home that you don't want there. I think it's very nice that you and your husband are taking them all out for dinner.
Comment: #8
Posted by: Michelle
Fri Mar 16, 2012 2:58 AM
LW1--"I live five hours away from my parents and a married younger brother." "They never think to ask if I want to join them." Your family isn't singling you out because you're single, rather, it's because you live FIVE hours away! I also live a half a day's drive from my family; I never expect to be included in their plans with each other which has in the past included vacations and special outings. You and your family now live in different cities; you may as well live in different worlds. Instead of becoming upset with your family or feeling exiled, cherish your newfound freedom and meet new friends in your own area with whom to attend concerts, travel or even date! In other words, get a life! When you visit your family, you can regale them with photos and tales of your adventures. What you're doing is clinging to the past and making your family feel guilty (and making yourself miserable) over the fact that they've has moved on and as a sign that they've left you behind. The nest is empty, spread your wings and fly.

LW2--"...I have never communicated much with my uncle or cousins." You did not commit any faux pas by rebuffing your Uncles' attempt to drop by for a visit at your home, however, it does come across as rather cold. While you state that you don't know these uncles well, I sense that you're hurt that they didn't acknowledge your father's death and your refusal to have them over is punitive. Maybe you missed your chance to start fresh and gain a new perspective on these relatives. Regardless, you are not obligated to host anyone you do not wish so and your offer to take everyone out to dinner in your parents' town is a good compromise.
Comment: #9
Posted by: Chris
Fri Mar 16, 2012 3:47 AM
LW1: Well I'm not going to join in the bandwagon of bashing LW for not having a life. For a period of time I also lived about 6 hours away from my parents and sister. Although I did not visit once a month I did visit ~3 times a year and my parents visited me ~3 times a year. Whenever I came home they always included me in plans and even once I came home unexpected and my dad chose to stay home from a once a year ticketed event so that I could go with my mom. And whenever there was a special family event they made sure I knew about it so I could make my own choice on whether I wanted to come or not. That what families do... they welcome their children home. This family seems to think of their eldest as an afterthought and that is sad for her.
I do agree that she needs to distance herself some and start making friends in her city that way she doesn't have to rely on mom and dad and brother for trips and special dinners.

LW: I'm wondering if LW is much younger and single and that is why she mentioned the ages of her cousins. Let's say LW was in her late 30's... if I weren't close to them, rarely spole with them, and lived alone I certainly would feel uncomfortable welcoming 3 men into my home too. Maybe she doesn't fear for her safety just simply that it's awkward and intrusive. I think LW handled it well by offering dinner out.
Comment: #10
Posted by: It's me
Fri Mar 16, 2012 6:12 AM
LW1 - what everyone else says: make your own life in your own town and visit home far less frequently. Call/text/email/Skype between visits to keep contact (although make sure any thank you notes are handwritten and snail-mailed!). Use the money you'd save on travel to explore your own area, take a class or do activities to meet new people, or whatever.

I have 2 sisters, both with young kids, that live 4ish hours from me. I'd LOVE to see them all way more often than the couple of times/year that we get together, but with my work/family/kids and their work/family/kids...we just can't. But when we DO get together, it's special.

LW2 - I agree with Chris - you didn't do anything wrong at all, but it does come off as cold. Maybe you're still upset about the lack of acknowledgment of your father's death (boneheaded, for sure, but many people are bad with that stuff). Maybe you're just uncomfortable with guests for whatever reason. Maybe you're overwhelmed with other stresses (wouldn't be the first time info got edited out of the original letter). I'm surprised, given your probable age, that the Annie's didn't suggest that you're suffering from menopause and obviously couldn't/shouldn't be expected to take on guests.

Whatever the reason, your offer to drive 3 hours (one way) to visit and treat them all to dinner was a very generous offer. That's at least an 8-9 hour round trip, plus gas money plus the cost of the dinner - probably costing you more in money than having the men stay at your house (where they would presumably treat YOU for at least one meal...chili, I'd bet).
Comment: #11
Posted by: paize038
Fri Mar 16, 2012 6:16 AM
LW1: I'm going to join the chorus of those who suggest that you are going home way too often, and that probably contributes to how casually your parents are acting during your monthly visits. In fact, part of me suspects that they might be deliberately doing this as a way to get you to visit less often and to start your own life "out of the nest". With phones and email and texting and facebook, you can stay in touch with your family while not making the physical trip so very often. It really makes it feel like you haven't really started living life on your own as an adult.

LW2: It sounds to me like your uncle and cousins invited themselves to your home, and so I completely agree with your decision. Especially if you've never been that close, it sounds a bit presumptuous for them to make such plans without being invited. I think your compromise is perfectly fine, and maybe instead you can hold out the possibility that, if this visit goes well, maybe next time you'd be pleased to extend an invitation to them.
Comment: #12
Posted by: Mike H
Fri Mar 16, 2012 6:41 AM
I understand how LW1 feels (though when I lived 6 hours from my parents, I visited about as often as I do now that I'm 20 hours away!) with feeling disconnected at times when I visit my parents and my married younger brother. However, I also know that it's temporary, I still have a close relationship with my parents (my brother? Not so much, but that's for another day...), and I make the most of it.
I've also made sure that I have a life in the town where I live. I have a group of friends that I get together with 1-2 times a month, and I go do things like visit the local zoo and art museum.
So my advice for LW1? Get a little more emotional distance between you and your family. Find out what your town has to offer and get involved with things that interest you. Use the internet to find groups that may share your interests (through one site, I met the group of girlfriends that I now hang out with 1-2 times a month as well as a "geek" group that's right up my alley!). Once you create your own "family" where you live, the healthier you will be. The one you were born into seems a bit clueless and thoughtless.
Comment: #13
Posted by: Janie
Fri Mar 16, 2012 6:49 AM
LW1: A number of years ago my Dad called wanting to treat my brother and me to a trip to Hawaii with him and our step-mother. My step-mother had adult children from her first marriage but they weren't invited. I knew that my Dad and step-mother would end up telling her children about the trip and I also knew that they would be very hurt that they were excluded. I suggested to my Dad that they be invited and he said he couldn't afford it. I then suggested the he use the money to do something closer so that my step-siblings could be invited. He didn't like that idea. I thanked him for the generous offer but declined. He was upset but I've never regretted the decision. I think the fact that LW1's brother doesn't make any effort to include this sister says something about the family dynamic that is going on here. Maybe LW1 should talk with a therapist about the real family dynamic. If she has always been treated as the outcast, she needs to learn how to reconcile that and move on.
LW2: At the death of my stepfather, an Aunt [sister of my mother] and her mother [my grandmother on my Mom's side] showed up at the home of the sister of my stepfather and expected her to put them up for several days before and after the funeral. Mind you, my mother had divorced my stepfather 20 years before and I don't think that my stepfather's sister had ever met these people. My stepfather's sister, being a very gracious person, did put them up but I was outraged a the gall of this Aunt and my grandmother. They didn't even call ahead of time! Family dynamics are very interesting. I think that LW2 was very gracious to offer to take everyone out to dinner. Don't let family take advantage of you. If LW2's response sounded a bit abrupt, they'll get over it.
Comment: #14
Posted by: Mindi B
Fri Mar 16, 2012 7:08 AM
Looks like there is a common thread between letters 1 and 2---------both involve people who have someone TELLING them that they will be coming to visit, rather than ASKING if it's OK, or waiting to be asked.

LW#1--------yes, you are going too often. Plus, you chose, for whatever reason, to move 5 hrs. away while the others have stayed. Maybe they resent it, maybe they've just gotten used to your not being part of the family dynamic---who knows? You moved away and left them, now they are moving on and in effect 'leaving' you. It happens.
Instead of your informing them you are coming every few weeks, try telling them you'd like to see them and asking them to give you a convenient time. I'll bet it won't be as often as once a month.
You left for a new place--------now get on with your life in that new place.
-------------------------------
LW#2--------Yup, you live in Florida. Very nice place to spend some time with a free place to stay------I wonder if that enters into the consideration, since you say you were never very close to these relatives.
I am of the opinion that whenever someone TELLS me they are coming to stay in my house, that goes over the line, and I would automatically tell them no just because I need to be in control of who my company is, and when they are there.
(I have even told people no and invited them for a different time when I had no real problem with the time they selected------EXCEPT that they are selecting a time and NOTIFYING me that they will be there rather than ASKING if it works for me.) Petty? Maybe, but my house/my time, my control.
--------------
LW#3--------Shameless free plug for Weight-Watchers. Someone was heavy, decided not to be, joined Weight-Watchers, and fixed the problem. I commend them, but what's the point of printing this letter? I'm pretty sure everyone knows Weight-Watchers, as well as all the other diet plans, are out there.
Comment: #15
Posted by: jennylee
Fri Mar 16, 2012 7:13 AM
LW1 - How many clues do you need before you get the message that your family simply doesn't want you around?

P.S. I've never heard of "paired" vacation tickets.
Comment: #16
Posted by: Paul W
Fri Mar 16, 2012 7:47 AM
LW1
It is bordering on iniquitous to claim that you are being left out because you are single. If you were married, you'd still live five hours away from your parents. Invite them to visit you occasionally. Perhaps there are fun things to do in your town. You are working hard at two jobs which is good for your future, but make sure to fill the rest of your time with friends and activities.
```
Comment: #17
Posted by: Word A Day Mate
Fri Mar 16, 2012 8:09 AM
@LW1: Please ignore the other posters who are bashing you for "not having a life", simply because you make sacrifices so as to try to be part of your family. Most people who work two jobs would not be willing or able to travel five hours, once a month, to see anybody! You are sacrificing time and resources that could be directed to other things, and not only is your sacrifice not appreciated, but people you've never met are castigating you for trying to maintain family ties.

You're definitely being excluded; this is not your imagination. It could be because you live far away and your parents don't see you every day, so they automatically start treating you as less important. Or it could be because some aspect of your personality or character displeases them, or it could be because you're single. Although the majority of the adult population in the USA is single, it's fashionable to treat married people as exalted beings or members of a special in-crowd, while excluding people who aren't in a relationship. Many people are perfectly happy being single, but others prefer to be in a relationship. Ironically, the more time you waste trying to curry favor with a group of people that clearly doesn't value your presence, the less time and resources you have to invest in people who like you and enjoy your company. The more you give to your parents, the less you have available for a prospective spouse (if you happen to want one).

Trust me, the second your parents want something from you, they will start making time for you and treating you like a human being. As soon as they need money, or get sick and need in-home care, or start having trouble, you will have all the parental attention anyone could possibly want. Singles are generally the ones tapped to care for ailing parents, not married couples who have children of their own. Especially if you have more than one income due to your two jobs.

For now, remember the scene in "The Seven Samurai" when the older samurai is talking to the younger one about how he should expect to be treated by non-samurai. I don't have the quote, exactly, but the essence is this: "When times are good and there is no trouble, nobody wants samurai around. But when trouble starts, everybody goes looking for samurai." A lot of families have people who get tagged as the family samurai, and it looks like you're it.
Comment: #18
Posted by: R.A.
Fri Mar 16, 2012 8:29 AM
Why is everyone so appalled at the LWmaking a 5 hours trip to visit family once a month? I come from Southern Oregon. My parents and my brother and I drove up once a month to Portland, OR to visit my sister. It's about 5.5 hours each way. No one that I personally know in my home town considres that a terribly long drive.

When I was growing up in the small town and you wanted to shop at stores better than JCP, Lerner's, Sears and Lamonts, you drove to Portland. You wanted to see a concert or professional sporting event, you drove to Portland. After I was discharged from the military and moved back to my home town, if I wanted my medical care from the VA...I drove to Portland. If I fly home for a visit...I fly to Portland and make the 5.5 hour drive to my parents home.

And seeing your parents once a month does not mean you have an unhealthy attachment to them. Married or not, living in Portland or Salem or Eugene or right there in town, my family gets together once a month, minimum. I call my mother for 30 minutes every 3 days. With the wedding planning it was every day. I'm not overly dependent. I genuinely LIKE the woman.

LW, if you let your family know you are coming and that you want to do something specific with them, and they make plans afterward and then act suprised that you feel left out, they are being rude. If all you are doing is showing up, or telling them you are coming but NOT making specific plans, well, you need to start making specific plans with them. If they ditch you after that, you will have your answer.
Comment: #19
Posted by: Kelle
Fri Mar 16, 2012 8:41 AM
Why is everyone so appalled at the LW making a 5 hours trip to visit family once a month? I come from Southern Oregon. My parents and my brother and I drove up once a month to Portland, OR to visit my sister. It's about 5.5 hours each way. No one that I personally know in my home town considres that a terribly long drive.

When I was growing up in the small town and you wanted to shop at stores better than JCP, Lerner's, Sears and Lamonts, you drove to Portland. You wanted to see a concert or professional sporting event, you drove to Portland. After I was discharged from the military and moved back to my home town, if I wanted my medical care from the VA...I drove to Portland. If I fly home for a visit...I fly to Portland and make the 5.5 hour drive to my parents home.

And seeing your parents once a month does not mean you have an unhealthy attachment to them. Married or not, living in Portland or Salem or Eugene or right there in town, my family gets together once a month, minimum. I call my mother for 30 minutes every 3 days. With the wedding planning it was every day. I'm not overly dependent. I genuinely LIKE the woman.

LW, if you let your family know you are coming and that you want to do something specific with them, and they make plans afterward and then act suprised that you feel left out, they are being rude. If all you are doing is showing up, or telling them you are coming but NOT making specific plans, well, you need to start making specific plans with them. If they ditch you after that, you will have your answer.
Comment: #20
Posted by: Kelle
Fri Mar 16, 2012 8:45 AM
@R.A. & Kelle - it's not that (most) of the posters are "bashing" LW1 for "not having a life" or saying monthly visits are necessarily bad, but the situation is clearly not working for the LW and the LW has asked for advice. If the LW made the monthly visits and everybody obviously enjoyed them, there would be no letter. Since the monthly visits are apparently not enjoyed/appreciated by all, and the distance DOES appear to be significant to the LW, the LW would be doing everybody a favor by reducing the frequency and developing other relationships closer to where she (I'm guessing) actually lives now. The LW can still stay in touch through many means without making the physical trip.
Comment: #21
Posted by: paize038
Fri Mar 16, 2012 8:53 AM
Actually though, Kelle - you have a good point about the difference between just showing up and making specific plans.

And R.A. could be right about the "fair weather family" thing.

All told - it still comes down to the LW to decide if she wants to continue being unhappy, or take steps to change.
Comment: #22
Posted by: paize038
Fri Mar 16, 2012 9:08 AM
Re: R.A.
I don't get the feeling the LW was being castigated - the point made was that she invests far too much in maintaining "family ties" that are evidently only one-way. That time, energy and money could and should rather be invested in enriching her own life where she presently is, rather than pursuing people who obviously don't care all that much for her presence. Which is pretty much what you were saying yourself.

@Kelle
"Why is everyone so appalled at the LW making a 5 hours trip to visit family once a month?"
Because she is obviously not particularly wanted there. If she were to be welcomed every time like the Prodigal Son, it would be understandable, but she is neglected and pushed aside. Five hours' drive once a month for THAT?

IN your case, you "genuinely like the woman", but in the LW's case, it is not reciprocated. She's flogging a dead horse.

I have a version of the same in my own family, BTW, except in my case it's because I'm the unwwanted red-headed step-child (literally), so I know exactly how she feels. Chasing them is not gonna make them love her, it'll only make her waste time that she should rather invest on herself.

Comment: #23
Posted by: Lise Brouillette
Fri Mar 16, 2012 9:11 AM
I think it's really odd how many people think LW2 is overly attached to her family because she visits once a month. If she lived closer to her family even once a week wouldn't be considered overly attached. Maybe she loves them, or (gasp) she actually likes them! I think it's a nice trait to like one's family.
I'm one of those people, I like my family - faults and all - and I like to spend time with them.
Speaking of faults, there often *is* a mentality of counting more if you are married, and that should not be discounted here. In my own family, when I was married it was ok for me to live out of state, but now that I am divorced there is a different attitude towards it. Also, my sister with a family is consulted for possible dates and times for family get-togethers, while my unmarried brother and I are told when to show up. It took me standing my ground and not attending to make my mother understand that unmarried people need to be taken into consideration too.
I highly doubt that the family is trying to send a message that she needs to leave the nest and start her own life. After all, they are always making their plans and outings with the younger brother and his wife. And for the poster who thought she *should* buy her own ticket, sure she should - but I get why she's hurt if her parent's purchased the brother/wif'es ticket, and it sounds like they did.
Personally, in this situation she should tell her parents straight up that due to the hurt they were causing she's not going to be coming to visit nearly as often, perhaps not unless she has an invitation.
Comment: #24
Posted by: kristen
Fri Mar 16, 2012 9:29 AM
Re: Nancy
Her family is in her past? I wasn't aware that you left behind the people who are closely related to once you reached adulthood.
Comment: #25
Posted by: kristen
Fri Mar 16, 2012 9:34 AM
You do if you move 5 hours away. Look, LW. If you want to be included more often in your family's plans, then move closer to them. Live 15 minutes away instead of 5 hours away. Find one job that pays as well as your two jobs. That's the solution. Is it easy, or feasible for you? If not, then accept that. You live hours away, in a completely different town, with your OWN life and your OWN finances and your OWN opportunities. You do not live in your parents' home or in your parents' town, so quit expecting them to act like you do.

Secondly, how old are you? If you're an adult, then I think you also need to realize that your parents' house is not your house anymore. instead of calling and informing them that you're coming to visit, you should call them and ASK when it would be a convenient time for you to visit. Quit inviting yourself. Quit barging in on their plans. How would you feel if this situation were reversed--if you had to work both jobs over the weekend, yet your parents expected you to host and entertain them? If you had tickets to a concert, and they showed up at your doorstep and expected you to find a ticket? Or if you planned a vacation with your sweetheart and they expected you to not only invite them, but pay for their stay? And if this happened not once or twice a year, but EVERY MONTH? Are you kidding?

I mean this in the most literal way possible, without snark: It's time to grow up. You need to accept your choices. You need to accept that you have moved away and that consequently your relationship with your family will change. You need to decide how that makes you feel and if you'd rather be closer to your family, then it's time to move. If you like it where you are, then you need to accept the limitations that distance puts on you. If you miss the bond of having people close who will go to concerts with you and travel with you, then find some like minds where you live. Your family undoubtedly loves you, but they are living their lives, and they have every right to do it. You need to start living yours.
Comment: #26
Posted by: limniade
Fri Mar 16, 2012 10:09 AM
Besides, we don't know who paid for the Mexico trip. Most vacation packages are sold on a paired-occupancy basis, and maybe they saw a deal on Groupon for 4 people and decided to chip in and get it. Who knows? But it's not the parents' job to coddle their hundreds-of-miles-distant adult child and make sure she doesn't feel left out. And LW doesn't get to have it both ways, either. Here she's moved 5 hours away and expects her visits to be given priority because of the trouble she takes to visit, and she complains when they don't do that. And yet she ALSO complains when they don't include her in their casual plans.

The bottom line is that when you grow up and move away, you don't get to just show up and sit down at the dinner table and expect people to rearrange their lives for you. You need to acknowledge that you have plans and constraints and priorities, and so do they, and sometimes yours won't include them and sometimes theirs won't include you. And if you want to take a trip to Mexico, you PLAN it. If you want to visit and go to a concert with your family, you PLAN it. You don't just show up and then act all butthurt when they have the audacity to not be waiting in stasis for your exalted arrival.
Comment: #27
Posted by: limniade
Fri Mar 16, 2012 10:22 AM
First time poster. I disagree wholeheartedely with the posters who have said LW1 needs to "get a life" or that she should only visit her parents once or twice a year. Where is your sense of family? I live three hours from my family and visit once a month or so- always have. Skype, snail mail "thank you" notes and the like are not the same. If it's important to you, you do it. If it's important to them, they welcome you. What LW1 needs to do is ask if it's a convenient time for her parents for a visit, or if they already have other plans. You can't just declare your visits. In my family, if someone makes plans after the 'family weekend' has been set (and it may or may not involve everyone) they ask if the others want in. Courtesy. Imagine that! So if my sister wants to take my niece on a hayride, or if my brother wants to take mom out to a fancy dinner, or whatever, a quick email gets sent to the group inviting them. They can say no, or pack accordingly. LW1, I applaude your sense of family and making (and keeping) them a priority in your lives.
Comment: #28
Posted by: flower
Fri Mar 16, 2012 10:26 AM
People aren't castigating LW for visiting home every month. They're castigating her for wanting the impossible: to live an adult life in a different part of the state/country, but to be treated like she's still a dependent in her parents' home, like she should still get to come over whenever without significant notice, sleep in her old room, get a plate set at the dinner table and be included (and even paid for!) on trips and concerts and whatnot, like she's 14 years old instead of an independent adult. They're castigating her for not cutting the cord, and they're castigating her for trying to act like it's unfair that her parents HAVE cut the cord.
Comment: #29
Posted by: limniade
Fri Mar 16, 2012 10:36 AM
Re: Kelle

I can understand your point. My parents came from small country towns in the Midwest and the nearest "city"" was/is six hours away by car (the only way you can get there, unbelievably, even now). Any time they needed to shop or see a specialized doctor, they "went to town".

But even when my parents moved to The Big City, their parents and family didn't see them every month in their own hometown. How they handled it: my grandparents etc would come to town every other month (staying at my parents' apartment and see the grandchildren and take care of shopping etc) and my parents would drive back to their hometown every other month to see the families. This was a loooooong time ago before Skype, The Internet and even calling was considered an extravagence, so my mom says she used to write Grandma once a week and Grandma would write her. Mom still has those letters and they helped a lot when she wrote our family history a few years ago.

What worries me about this letter is the apparent one side-edness of the situation. You and your family seem to have a very close fantastic relationship that is built on give and take. the LW does NOT have this type of relationship. Is it so hard for the parents to come to her? It sounds like they can travel internationally, so would it be hard for them to visit her? It doesn't sound like that option has even been addressed! And knowing that she is coming home asking her to house sit while they all go to a casino? I'd be like... have a great time, I'm going back home to my apartment.

Many of us are suggesting that the LW start to build her own traditions (although the "get a life" comments to me come across as a little harsh, especially if the LW is reading) and to build a new life out on her own is not saying she needs to shun her family, never go see them... it's just a suggestion that she may be happier if she were to stop focusing on this illusion of a close family that doesn't really exist in the way she thinks it does.

Comment: #30
Posted by: nanchan
Fri Mar 16, 2012 10:43 AM
Welcome paize038!
I've been enjoying your posts!
Comment: #31
Posted by: Mary Ann
Fri Mar 16, 2012 11:19 AM
Michael, where are you? I miss your posts!
Comment: #32
Posted by: Mary Ann
Fri Mar 16, 2012 11:19 AM
Those who say we (the castigation crew) are encouraging her to find her own life so as to stop being disappointed have my intentions right for sure. And yes, driving 10 hours (remember this is 5 hours each way) every single month does sound awfully needy. And expensive. Anyone looked at the gas pump lately? Maybe for a young single person it's not a big deal but it's making me nauseated because I have many children. And someday, she might have a family and driving kids 10 hours in a car in one weekend *every single month* sounds miserable. So she might want to learn to stop that now. She is behaving as if she still lives there and expects to be treated as such. She needs to make specific plans and not just "show up" (yes, even with notice) as if she's a college student home on break. It would serve her far better to build her life for herself in her new burb, or move back home.

We have family 3ish hours away and we really, really love them. They're our favourite family really. But we only go up 2-3 times a year. It's just too stressful packing all the kids and the car and then going up and finding where to sleep and eat and things to do and we come home all stressed out. It works better when we meet in the middle for camping in summer. So, sorry, but I just can't relate to people who want to drive all over heck and gone to see family so frequently. And I too grew up in a small rural town where the only real shopping was 3ish hours away, and concerts rarely closer than 5. But we didn't do it EVERY SINGLE MONTH.
Comment: #33
Posted by: wkh
Fri Mar 16, 2012 11:20 AM
Re: limniade
I moved cross-country from my family, 5 hours by plane. I was able to visit my family only a few times a years only because of limited finances and limited vacation time. I absolutely would have visited far more often if I'd had the chance. I didn't leave them behind when I moved, I simply increased the distance (and it wasn't a case of wanting to get away from them.)
I don't see how the LW is wanting to be treated like she's a dependent; she's not asking them to finance her life and expecting vacations, but she is wanting to be treated fairly - she wants to be treated the way her brother is, not differently. I think the Mexico vacation was mention only because brother's was paid for and her's was not only not paid for, she wasn't invited. That would sting.
We also don't have any reason to believe that LW is visiting uninvited. She did mention in her letter that she gives advance notice. My mom lived to far away for me to drop in unannounced, but I drop into my sister's all the time and I am embraced.
I guess it's all in the interpretation of the letter. Ironically, Margo's most recent letter is about living far from home, and how one of the siblings is dreadfully sad that his he and his children will only get to see the parents at most 3 times a year. Having been in that situation, 3 times a year (as was previously suggested by a poster) is not nearly enough if you truly enjoy your family as people rather than just blood relatives. And the apparent one-sidedness (I doubt that the parents really want her to go away as has been suggested) of this relationship does not squelch the desire and want of the LW to visit *in-person* with her loved ones.
Comment: #34
Posted by: kristen
Fri Mar 16, 2012 11:26 AM
@flower, there's nothing wrong with being close to your family, but that doesn't require frequent visits, especially nowadays. There's also something to be said about establishing yourself as an adult with your own life and own activities.

The issue with LW1 is that she has this sense of needing to be around her family more frequently than *anyone else in her family* agrees with.

Frankly, this suggests to me that perhaps she *is* being a little needy, a little too "dependent". If it were otherwise, then her parents and brother would be working more actively to make her feel more welcome, each and every visit. Since they obviously aren't doing that, there is some disconnect between LW's expectations and her family's.

Yes, it's a bit too harsh to say flat out "get a life", but the more LW1 develops her own *independent* life in her new city, the less she will feel hurt by her family's lack of excitement about each of her frequent visits. Also, with less frequent visits, its likely that each visit will seem more "special", which also may help to resolve LW's hurt feelings.

Since LW1 has pretty much tried everything possible to get her family to change, and it hasn't worked, the only thing left is for her to change herself -- to change her expectations and to change how she lives her life in her new home town.
Comment: #35
Posted by: Mike H
Fri Mar 16, 2012 12:58 PM
Re: kristen
"Personally, in this situation she should tell her parents straight up that due to the hurt they were causing she's not going to be coming to visit nearly as often, perhaps not unless she has an invitation. "
This is precisely it. There is nothing wrong with her wanting to drive 5 hours every month, even every week if she can afford it, to see people she loves, likes and WHO LIKE HER BACK. In this particular case, it would seem that, for whatever reason, she feels the need to spend time with them a lot more than they feel the need to spend time with her.

At any rate, I notice that for all that we're all arguing, we're nevertheless pretty much all saying the same thing - she shoud go less often.

Comment: #36
Posted by: Lise Brouillette
Fri Mar 16, 2012 1:27 PM
Good post Liminaide, Lise and Nanchan

All, I was referring more to the fact that people seem to think that 5 hours is a really long, make it only twice a year, drive. Lot of open distance out west where I come from. Here in the midwest, people tend to stay closer. We have friends that live 25 minutes away, from us and other friends. We see this family every friday night. 25 minutes isnt that far to me. Our other friends think its an awfully long way and only see them once every 3-4 months. Different strokes, I guess.

I wonder if the LW says something like "lets go to dinner/walk in the park/go to the pier/see a movie" after she gets to her parents home or does she wait for her parents to schedule something for her like they did when she was a child. My younger son was upset the other day that, after telling us that he was really tired, not really that hungry and just wanted to relax, DH and I went out to dinner and a few games of bingo without asking if he wanted to come along.

I hope that if the LW reads BTL, that she takes a good hard look at her own actions, as well as looking at those of her family.
Comment: #37
Posted by: Kelle
Fri Mar 16, 2012 2:46 PM
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