Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Dear Carolyn: My husband and I find ourselves hosting our children and grandchildren at every holiday and family get-together. This includes providing a guest room for our son and his family, as well as my brother, all of whom live out of state. We have two guest rooms and are happy to have them. While it is physically difficult for an elderly couple to have frequent houseguests, we try our best to provide for everyone.
Recently we had only room for one guest, my brother, since our other guest room was occupied. We asked my son and his family to find another place to stay (such as local family and friends). They chose to attend the dinner and return home on the same day. They were very cool toward us, so we knew they were miffed.
Two weeks later, my son called and complained that they had been treated unfairly. He maintained that they could have crashed on a sofa or somewhere else. He went on at length with these complaints, which in the end brought me to tears.
I am of the mind to let it go until it happens again, and then call my son on his ungrateful behavior. After all, this is the first time in his seven-year marriage that he was asked to stay elsewhere. My husband wants to call him and have it out. I think this would add another chip to their already heavy shoulders. Your thoughts?
— Exhausted Granny
Exhausted Granny: Your son is acting like a total ingrate. I’m sorry.
It sounds like it’s time to limit your hosting for your own health and well-being. Decide what you’re willing to do (one guest/family at a time, alternating? retiring the guest rooms completely? delegating specific chores?), then let your kids know of your new plans.
Don’t apologize for it, don’t back down, just say this is what you feel is necessary and you plan to apply it across the board.
That’s important — having different rules for different guests is a recipe for hard feelings.
As for your son, I do think it’s appropriate for your husband to follow up calmly. He can start by offering your son a chance to reconsider his words on this subject.
And he can ask what’s really bothering him, since not being offered a couch is not something that seems worthy of haranguing one’s mother to the point of tears two weeks after the fact, which is, frankly, shameful behavior. So make this point by prompting, what’s the real issue?
If he doesn’t back down, then your husband can point out — calmly! — that expecting accommodations beyond what his hosts felt able to provide is not something you raised him to do.
Re: Exhausted Granny: Sometimes, it is difficult for adult children to see the changes in their parents as they grow older. Mom and Dad are always seen as the strong, vibrant people who raised them. Have a talk that includes: “We love having the company, but a full house is a lot of work and we’re getting older and can’t handle all the extras like we used to.”
Anonymous: This might be the nicest description ever of someone blinded by his entitlement, but, worth a try, thanks.
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