Coordination of Large Families

Discussion in 'The Watercooler' started by Nomad, Dec 27, 2009.

  1. Nomad

    Nomad Guest

    husband and I just had the weirdest experience this Christmas. Warning: This is just one of those annoying easy child kinda things. Definately NOT a difficult child thing. When I think about it...should be thanking my lucky stars, huh???

    Anyway....there are still frustrations in the easy child world.

    Our son recently married to a lovely gal with several lovely relatives.

    However, some of her closer relatives are not the easiest folks to work with it and the weird thing is that they kinda run the show.

    So, when we try to coordinate get togethers with them, it is almost impossible.

    They seem to be throw-backs from the 1960s and they don't plan anything and although this is fine if it is just one or two people or just a couple and their young kids, but if it is several couples, it is basically impossible.
    So, they'll say we might meet for breakfast or brunch the next day..but wont tell us where or what time. They following day, we are suppose to sit and wait for a call. That call might come anytime between 8 a.m. and 12 noon. If you are doing something else, well, you'll miss out. If you really would like to go with the family (in this case because our son was trying to go), then that would mean basically sitting in your hotel room until you get the call).

    That is just one example. This was going on all the time for all events. So, husband and I could not plan anything on our own or make a decision if we wanted to do anything else. We were constantly waiting for phone calls never knowing where we were going or when we were going. When we asked, we were looked at like we were crazy to ask such a silly question.

    For one evening event, I wanted to do something else, so I asked if they could give me a rough idea of when they were going to go and get back and I would coordinate my "thing" around the same time and meet up with the group later. No one could do this. They just couldn't get a time in their mind and they were afraid to ask the patriarch of the family (who has some minor difficult child tendencies) to make a final decision of when he might want to leave and when he might want to come back. Even when I suggested that it would just be an estimate, they thought this would be asking too much. So, the entire group of people (several families) just sits and waits for the phone call and then moves out.

    Does this seem strange to you? What do other farmilies do when they are trying to coordinate things with groups of people? Does one person from the area kinda remain in charge and gets input and then makes a schedule?

    We REALLY enjoyed seeing our son for the holidays and had a good time, but the lack of coordination made me uncomfortable and unhappy and in the end, we pretty much made the decision to alternate holidays.
    Lasted edited by : Dec 27, 2009
  2. Fran

    Fran Former desparate mom

    I find that sort of vague plans intolerable. My time is just as important as theirs.
    I set times and my plans. If they have no interest in sharing theirs, I assume I'm not important enough for them to inform me. I set up my families holiday plans. I'm flexible if something concrete comes up but I won't sit and wait for anyone to decide what they want to do no matter how much of a patriarch they are.
    In that vein, sometimes I miss some of the family. They have lives and other ideas of what they want to do. It's fine but I'm not sitting and waiting to be summoned.

    I can't even imagine waiting for the phone to ring.
  3. Suz

    Suz (the future) MRS. GERE

    I won't fight that battle either, Nomad, and have opted for alternate solutions. We've got 4 families that Rob and Heather want to see. I couldn't/wouldn't sit for a phone call either so this year I had Christmas dinner on the 20th to free the kids up to make their own plans for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. It works out best for all concerned, with no hard feelings or frustrations.

  4. DammitJanet

    DammitJanet Well-Known Member Staff Member

    We give the option to either have us do a holiday together on the actual day...and this doesnt mean just Xmas or thanksgiving but other holidays too....or we can do them weekends before or after to accommodate other sides of the family.

    Now it seems like we do Xmas here with Cory and Keyana even if it is a day late and then we will travel up to see my father and Jamie and his family this coming week to be up there over New Years. Jamie and his family went to see her family over the actual Xmas day. Fine by me. Last year we had Keyana on Xmas day so we drove up to Jamie's and did it there but he had gone up to see Billie's family on the 23rd and we got to Jamies on the 24th.
  5. klmno

    klmno Active Member

    How frustrating! I can only think of two things that results in this lack of coordination. One being that they just like to play things by ear and not really make plans. The other is that maybe these are family members who really just want the whole group to get together for certain things and they want to do their own thing the rest of the time but didn't know hoiw to say that without sounding rude.

    Either way, I think I'd probably keep a Plan B for things like breakfast and evening activities in my back pocket. If someone mentions "maybe we could do this tomorrow" but won't really set a time or place, I'd say "we'd love to do that but we were also considering doing XYZ. If you'd like to join us or get together and do ABC, let us know by 'this' time and we'll work it out. Otherwise, we are going to go ahead and do XYZ. You're welcome to join us there if you decide to later."

    If they are the type who just don't do many larrge family outings well, this takes the pressure off them while still being friendly and flexible. At the same time, it prevents your aggravation of revolving your time around the unknowing.
  6. Shari

    Shari IsItFridayYet?

    I wouldn't wait, either.

    I have siblings considerably older than I am. The oldest was married with children while I was still at home. The in-law's were unrelenting in their desire to have their Christmas continue as it always has (perhaps why I am so put off by Two Brooms and her Christmas traditions). My mom recognized that my brother and his wife and young daughter were run ragged by the end of Christmas day, so for the past 30 years or so, Christmas with my family has been on some weekend before or after Christmas day. It ends up being wonderful...because most of us converge on my parents' home and stay all weekend and we have the best time.
  7. ML

    ML Guest

    This would drive me crazy! It truly is inconsiderate even if not intentional. Definitely always have a plan "B".

    I'm glad you got to spend time with your son though.

    Happy 2010!
  8. DammitJanet

    DammitJanet Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Let me ask something. Is this the first married daughter? That could be why this is an issue. It is always a work in progress to sort these things out. Actually, it will always be a work in progress as families grow and merge into these sorts of living, breathing beings.

    You have two kids. One day difficult child may meet someone and marry. She may have kids. At that point you will be melding her family in with you and your husband and then in with your son and his new family. It gets complicated!
  9. Fran

    Fran Former desparate mom

    In addition the fact that these are your son's in laws makes it even more difficult. We used to have my family and husband's family all mix together for holidays. Both sides are very nice and friendly but it just doesn't work that well. Now we enjoy them separately.
    Maybe it would be best to have one day with son and his wife and your family then he can have a day with his wife and her family.
  10. everywoman

    everywoman Active Member

    As my large, extended family has grown, I have learned to monitor and adjust. We all go to husband's sisters Christmas Eve. If my children have other plans, then it is fine with me. On Christmas Day, I had my immediate family. easy child and daughter in law chose to stay home. They live 2 1/2 hours away and I didn't want JJ to have to get up, see all the goodies from Santa, and then have to leave it all to come here. Sat. we held another celebration for all my extended family. Everyone was here that day---all my children (and those who've adopted us as their family). When your family grows, you have to exchange old traditions for new ones. Each year as my other children marry and have children and inlaws, I'm sure it will continue to change.
  11. Nomad

    Nomad Guest

    Thank you guys for the confirmation/validation. The frustration and at times confusion was intense. I am from a small family. We had our share of problems, but these were new and different ones.

    My guess is that this problem has been going on for a long time. She has an older sister, who is married, with a baby.

    Its kinda a "secret" that ain't no secret and it is causing lots of chaos that everyone is trying to sweep under the rug,

    Those involved are not too keen on doing things separately or on giving up any of their traditions. They basically run the show.

    What was really tough for me, is some of the older folks (two from different sets of families) complained to me about the problem, but don't really know what to do about it.

    No one has the "you know whats" to go to the source (s) with their complaints. I do NOT know what would actually happen if you said to the patriarch and sister "I do not like it when there is no planning, when there is no give and take, no organization, etc. in the planning or scheduling of these family events and do feel that it could be handled with more care and respect." Since I do not know these folks as well as my daughter in law, I did talk with her about it a little and I saw signs that she was trying to help.

    This gal gets pulled in a million directions though..,being asked to do many things by many people and my guess is that she has moments not knowing what is right anymore or what she wants to do anymore. Think "My Sister's Keeper."

    I did approach her and my son about if we could just inquire about times and such. My son totally understands the problem and my daughter in law llargely does. My daughter in law and son did try (with trepidation) to help me, but their questions were not taken seriously and were almost viewed with disdain.

    IT's really sad, 'cause I can tell that others are starting to get very upset. My primary concern is husband and myself and to a certain degree, my son and his new wife.

    husband and I have decided to handle family holiday gatherings separately.
    I do have some concern that the problem is soooo big that it could spread out into other situations, but have faith in my son and daughter in law that they will figure it all out.

    I tell ya....there were some days that were mind blowing. On the positive side, it confirmed my belief in the business of counseling/psychology...the area I'm studying.
    Lasted edited by : Dec 27, 2009
  12. Mattsmom277

    Mattsmom277 Active Member

    I'm a planner. I like a plan. I can be flexible if things come up with others. I don't like plans that have no actual plan. Vagueness almost always results in confusion I've found, and somehow someone usually ends up waiting around, as if their time isnt important, while others diddle dawdle to their own contentment. I find it fuels resentment or results in cancellations etc. It drives me batty!!!

    My S/O's family are the worst for it. They are great people. But they have zero ability to make plans. even if a plan is made, it is never followed through on. Saying they'll arrive for dinner early to visit, say at 3p.m., means to expect that somewhere about 6p.m. when dinner is nearly dried up in the oven and you are ready to naw on wood or eat your own limbs, they'll surface but want to visit before dinner. GRR!!

    Weeks ago we mentioned to S/O's brother that we'd like to visit during the holidays. He lives about 2 hours away and he picks us up and brings us home. We usually stay a few days and can always visit S/O's mother who lives near his brother. Well, this year as always it wasn't a confirmed thing. Nothing more was mentioned beyond if he's able to get us, we'd love to visit. So yesterday, the 26th, we get a call "what time are we getting you tomorrow". HUH??? We thought since nothing was decided and ever mentioned again, it wasn't doable on their end. Suddenly we should go tomorrow?? We can't. No plans made with difficult child (who doesn't join us when we visit there). We had some ideas of how to spend our next few days. On the 30th we have the Olympic torch coming to town and a huge city party that both kids want to see. His brother had decided he'd bring us home Jan. 1. But the 31rst is our anniversary and we have plans together. So that wasnt' working. We might not have made those plans had we made plans with his brother. But we hadn't. Apparently the brother thought we had, by virtue of mentioning the first day or two of December that we would be open to making a plan to visit. This happens often, always actually in terms of getting with his family for something. Its very frustrating. We always cave in and go with whatever they think we'd planned. S/O this year said thanks but we can't make it since we hadn't heard from you wether a visit was happening so assumed this late in the month that it wasnt' workable. Therefore we had made other plans. First time in all these years he's bucked tradition of following their routine. (or lack of one)

    We can't control how they work. So we kind of decided from now on that if their vagueness ends up meshing with what works for us, we will go along, otherwise we will bow out.

    I don't know how people travel distances without notice or planning. I simply need a plan.

    I totally understand your frustration, it is a difficult pattern to follow if you are a planner.
  13. DaisyFace

    DaisyFace Love me...Love me not


    The situation you describe strikes me as though you are dealing with a couple of people of like to be "in charge"....

    Everything must go through them, nobody can make any other plans, you must sit around and wait for their cue before proceeding.

    Yes, it's rude--but I wonder if it's a sign of a larger issue? A little "difficult child-ness" perhaps? If they're not in complete control then they aren't it's easier for the family to play along rather than put a stop to the pattern.??

    I would advise you not to play the game--however, if they really are doing this just to maintain control, then I would expect that you would soon find yourself un-invited to a lot of family functions. Seems like a lose-lose situation....

    I wish a had some good advice for how to negotiate a new arrangement.

  14. Nomad

    Nomad Guest see you have "been there done that."
    Daisy...some gfgness is seeping through. All attempts at hiding it are starting to fall apart. I am reminded of AA's motto: You are as sick as your secrets.


    The funny thing is that I'm not super organized. I guess I am a planner though. I do like a schedule. I am totally flexible. I like some idea of what knowing what is going on. Otherwise, it's total chaos all around. And of course, since I am over 40, would also like to provide some input. And perhaps age and experience, helps me to empathize.

    I HAVE noticed that if you are totally unorganized, others can manipulate you, and the weird thing about this that we got both situations going on at the same totally laid back person and one manipulative person...each at various times calling the shots...each making demands...and others going along with this. There is power that comes with larger numbers and then they also got a "momentum" going.

    Then here I come along....

    When you try to get a question answered, it was like nailing jello to the wall.

    Ain't gonna happen...frustration all around.

    Can't control other people. Only my thoughts, my actions.

    It's very unlikely that we can re-negotiate cooperation. Separate holidays seems best.

    Fortunately, we've been blessed with a very smart, kind and considerate son and we are fond of our daughter in law as well. We are keeping our fingers crossed for a better outcome come future holidays.
    Lasted edited by : Dec 27, 2009
  15. katya02

    katya02 Solace

    Sorry I'm so late coming to this, Nomad. I think most extended families have set ways in which they organize and interact, and trying to blend the styles of two big families for more than one short event is probably doomed. I had plenty of frustration in years past when trying to have everyone together for big, happy holiday events. People became irritable when things weren't done 'their way' and it was easy for the event to go downhill. I finally decided that separate celebrations worked better. So I agree with you, I think that's the way to go and you'll be far more comfortable. Hopefully you can arrange things with your son and daughter in law so as to see them at some point near the holiday and alternate celebrating on the actual holiday year by year.
  16. DammitJanet

    DammitJanet Well-Known Member Staff Member

    I think this is a good reason to follow the song: Over the river and through the woods, to grandmothers house we go.

    Open your home to anyone who would like to attend the holiday gathering. Maybe make this the weekend before or after Xmas so everyone can attend if so wanted. Wont put pressure on your son and daughter in law to choose sides. They will be so grateful to you.
  17. Lothlorien

    Lothlorien Active Member Staff Member

    Yeah, I would not want to have to deal with that either. I find it kind of rude to expect you all to sit around and wait for them. I'm not sure what the rationale is for them not to give you a round about time frame. If you have to deal with that again, give them your cell number and go and do what you want to do.
  18. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    There's your answer, Nomad.

    Your son has two choices.

    1) Accept this is how it is and put up with it; or

    2) Do their own thing and if it fits in with her family's activities, then great! otherwise - no guilt.

    My vote would be a combination of the two, but not to the point of letting anyone else control what you want to do. It's going to take a lot of strength and your daughter in law's cooperation, she will feel very uncomfortable about it and needs to be OK. But the strategy is - "We are doing X at such-and-such a time. You're all welcome to come along. Let us know."
    Then do it and stick to it. Be prepared for people to straggle in like Brown's cows (or not" and also for people (ie difficult child patriarch) to throw a hissy fit and boycott whatever your son & daughter in law are doing. But that then becomes THEIR choice. Spread the word around everybody in the family, then if anybody really is getting jack of the control freak rubbish then they will be the ones to turn up and frankly, that is success.

    The ultimate success is when everybody turns up and enjoys themselves. Because they then learn that being organised is a good thing.

    I come from a large family. It can be done. It should be done, to be organised enouh to make it easier on family. Frankly, making it difficult is simply a way of ensuring that the family put YOU, the patriarch, first at all times. it's a way of asserting priority for its own sake.

    What my parents did - yes, we had our own strong Christmas tradition. We would have Christmas lunch after opening our gifts in the morning. Christmas lunch would be followed by Christmas siesta then a swim either at a friend's pool or a trip to the beach (remember, summer Christmas here).
    The fly in the ointment came with the third child to get married. The two boys had no problems, their in-laws happily changed their arrangements to have Christmas dinner in the evening and not as lunch. But when the third one, a sister, got married, her in-laws were a pain. Not for insisting that she and her husband have Christmas lunch with them, but because they were like your son's in-laws, Nomad, and simply wouldn't plan things or allow anyone else to. My mother asked my sister a month before Christmas, "When do your in-laws want Christmas lunch so we can work in with them?"
    My sister asked and was told, "We definitely want Christmas lunch."
    So my mother planned accordingly - we were all gonig to have our Christmas celebrations as Christmas dinnr instead. So my brothers organised with their in-laws (who were happy to have Christmas lunch instead, or if not they switched anyway) and it was all working - until my sister's in-laws changed their minds and made the change. My sister tried to ask them to change it back, but they didn't want to. Not for any real reason, it was just a whim. "Let's have Christmas dinner and get-together in the evening this year, it will be more pleasant in the cool of the evening."
    So that year we had to go ahead and try to fit it all in, with family coming and going at different times. My brothers had now committed themselves to Christmas lunch with their in-laws and it was too late to change. The end result was - my sister turned up to her in-laws to find that her husband's brother and family, who was the reason her in-laws gave for not allowing a change, had also had problems with the scheduling and had left early. So they left early and came back over to our place. Of course they had already eaten and my sister was really cranky at the mucking around, it really spoiled Christmas for her.

    After that, our family went back to having Christmas lunch for all those who were available, and no pressure or guilt trips for those who were not available. And we would all hang out together afterwards until a more relaxed meal in the evening for those who were still around. It was "open house" and all were welcome, as and when they were available.

    This year, that is the approach we took with our kids. mother in law has always had her own strict Christmas traditions and is very inflexible with them. She will relax them if you talk to her and discuss them (which is what I did) but when it comes down to it, we get "It doesn't feel like Christmas without X and Y."
    But this year I finally had my way - no pressure on the kids. We would do Christmas lunch for those who were there, but only something fairly light. We could nibble (as usual) but would only nibble quality healthy food, and not rubbishy snacks. So no big bowls of crisps but instead, carrot sticks and yogurt dip (which we all like anyway). I made a lot of sausage rolls (a bit junk food-ish but always popular) and we snacked on those for lunch instead of filling up on lollies. We had told the kids, "Have Christmas lunch with your families then come to us when you're ready. You choose when."

    My reasons? I wanted our place to be the LAST stop in their day. That way they would get to us and finally be able to relax. Ww could party into the night knowing they didn't have to watch the clock and be elsewhere. We'd had beds arranged for the night and everybody stayed. So mother in law had her one big meal together for everybody, even if by then we weren't very hungry.

    The thing is - at holiday times (whatever the holiday) people have pulls in increasingly different directions. Over time, people will feel more loyalty to those who don't use emotional blackmail or undue pressure. I want my kids to spend time with us because they are happy to, not because they feel they should.

    If you have to deal with people who refuse to plan, then make your own plans. Be specific then invite them along. Put it in writing if necessary - emails allow you to do tat and still keep it informal. If you say, "Come along at 2 pm for a garden party at our place" and they don't turn up until 4 pm, then that is THEIR problem. If all the food is gone and people are going home already, then whose fault is that? You DID say 2 pm.