Dear Amy: I hesitate to admit this, but I’m tired of hanging out with my elderly parents.
I live an hour from them, while my two sisters live five states away.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, I’ve driven my parents to the family’s two-week beach vacation (and stayed with them), flown with them to a wedding (and stayed with them), and celebrated their anniversary on a week-long trip (and stayed with them).
There are also weekly dinners, shopping trips, and birthday parties.
Now we’re staring down the barrel of Christmas and a spring wedding, and I’ll again be responsible for getting my parents there — and staying with them.
At 86, my mother is extremely anxious for months before an event. I understand, but it’s exhausting.
Since every event might be “the last,” I go along to get along, already mourning the times she won’t be present.
As a sensitive person, I deeply feel this sadness.
This Christmas, I’d like a break from the tradition of traveling to my sisters’ state.
I would like to put my parents on a plane and head with my husband to an art show far away.
When I floated the idea, my husband said, “But you love to be with your sisters — there’s a light in you with them that you don’t get anywhere else.”
Maybe, but it also means I’d spend two weeks in a house with my parents.
Then again, it might be the last time we’re all together!
Sigh. With your calm and clear perspective, can you help me navigate what feels like an enormous emotional minefield?
I’d appreciate learning how to disengage a bit without feeling guilty. Or sad. Or pressured.
— Maxed Headroom
Dear Maxed: I’ve been there. And, while you might believe that your current frustration and grief will somehow help you to miss your folks a little less after their passing, it doesn’t seem to work that way.
All of these tasks, chores, and trips are further bonding you to them.
And this, my exhausted friend, is the heartbreaking equation of caregiving: The more you give, the more you lose.
I suggest taking your folks to your sister’s house, but you and your husband should stay in a rental house or hotel. Let your sisters take the lead.
Hang out for a few days around the holiday to enjoy your family time and then — go away!
You could then come back around to pick them up. Or, yes, let one of your sisters bring them home and stay with them for a few days (or weeks!).
If doing this will lead you to torture yourself, then don’t do it, but this is what you must tell yourself (because it’s true): If you don’t take good care of yourself, you will NOT be able to take good care of your folks.
Respite is vital, and it benefits everyone.
Dear Amy: My spouse is adamant that another couple should join us for our summer vacation; I do not want this.
I like them and enjoy visits with them, but their vacation interests are very different than ours, and so spending a week together on a daily basis is not my idea of fun.
My spouse knows my views and the reasons behind them but is still insistent that they join us.
The only solution I can think of is no vacation.
Can you think of another solution?
Dear Hurting: I have, in fact, thought of a solution!
My solution is for your spouse to respect your wishes regarding how to spend your vacation.
When it comes to something as precious as spending one week on holiday with your family, one partner should be granted veto power regarding including people outside the family — and the other partner should respect it.
Dear Amy: Regarding readers’ frustration about birthdays that fall on holidays, I read the following: “When he was 41 years old, Robert Louis Stevenson gave his birthday away to a young girl named Annie, the daughter of the American Land Commissioner in Samoa, who was understandably bummed out by the fact that her own birthday fell on Christmas.”
Personally, I’m very happy to have a birthday on a holiday. I’ve had a day off from school and work my entire life!
— Happy With My Holiday
Dear Happy: I read a charming story about Stevenson’s gesture in the Irish Times. It turns out that this birthday gift has been passed down through various members of Annie Ida’s family, and is still celebrated, 125 years later.
(You can email Amy Dickinson at [email protected] or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.)
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