Monday, June 18, 2007

HTT: My brothers never visit, and I'm sick of it.

Dear HTT,

My mother is visiting from New York and has been here for a week. We live in Raleigh and so does my brother and his family. He hasn't been by to visit his mother, OK, our mother. He has called and invited my family and Mom to his house for dinner tonight. He will pick up my mother and I'll meet them after work. My husband doesn't want to go and when I mentioned it to Mom, she said her feelings would be hurt if he didn't go.

This same situation has happened many times in the past. Did I mention that I am from a tight Italian family and we do everything together? So my husband feels like he has always "given in," so as not to hurt Mom's feelings. I am on the fence here. On one hand I say, what's one more time to appease an old Italian lady? On the other hand, when does it stop?

The situation is the same when we visit New York; we have to visit another brother who lives there. We have to save one night to have dinner at his house. He has made no attempt to visit us. We've lived in North Carolina for ten years! And my husband always goes, in order not to cause trouble.

Help !

Crudely put, family dynamics are a pain in the ass sometimes. Now, before I get a lot of angry email from anyone in my own family, let me admit that I contribute my share of the pain. When my mother visits, for example, I’ve been known to become sullen if I don’t get my way about what we’re going to do and when we’re going to do it. I once stomped my foot when I realized we weren't going to have time to see a movie I'd planned on. It’s like, for ten minutes at a time I’m 13 again, minus the braces and pathetic attempts at feathered hair. Not a pretty site, I can assure you.

Do your brothers actually realize that they never go to your house, and do they know how you feel about that? For the sake of argument, and because I know you’re not exactly shy about expressing yourself (New Yorker that you are!), I’m going to assume they do know and just haven’t made any attempt to change.

In which case, I’m sure you and your husband find it frustrating that your brothers never make the effort to visit you. No one likes to feel that they’re doing all the giving in. But since neither your mother nor your NY brother lives here, it seems that by default this situation can only get so out of hand, right? What’s a couple of dinners a few times a year? Annoying, sure, but is this worth starting a family argument about? I know. You’re probably more upset over the principle of the matter than over the gas money you spend getting to either brother’s house, be it the one across town or the one in New York.

Can you and your husband take some measure of satisfaction in knowing that you’re doing the right thing? There’s a lot to be said for appeasing “an old Italian lady” who happens to be your mom. Be the good guys. Go to dinner. Don’t offer to help with the dishes if that makes you feel better.

Good luck,