Help, before Christmas!

Published 11:52 am Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Dear Aunty Pam,

 

I’m hoping you can help me before Christmas!! My mother is 88 and in good health, but tires easily. This year, my 4 siblings, their spouses and children (11 total) are coming to spend Christmas with my mother and she is dreading it. It’s not that she doesn’t love them, but besides seeing me nearly daily, she lives on her own and her only socializing is a ladies bridge club meeting each Monday. Having all her family in her house at the same time just wears her out and she told me it takes her days to recover. I tried to explain this to my family over email and got some pretty offensive replies that I’m trying to control everything and that, at her age, this could be her last Christmas and who did I think I was to not allow them to see her? 

I feel really hurt and also angry because I’m trying to carry out my mother’s wishes and not my own!!

Any advice??

Betty’s daughter

 

 

Dear BD,

 

Been there, seen that, got the crocheted shawl…Heck, BD, I’m not 88 and I feel the way your mother does now!  What people often don’t realize until they become elderly is that it takes an enormous amount of focus to visit with large groups of people—it can be difficult to actually hear the conversation, much less keep up with it—especially when several different people are speaking. Experiencing such a big change in routine can be jarring— even upsetting. And so, yes, birthdays and holidays can become dreaded energy vampires. 

You’re going to have to use a verbal choke chain on your siblings, which isn’t going to be pleasant, to stand up for your mother’s wishes and your mother will need to have your back. There are ways for everyone to visit their beloved mom without wearing her out. First of all, everyone can stay at a local AirBnB and not at her house. Secondly, the day can be scheduled with one or two visiting her at a time. You can also have Christmas dinner catered, or cooked yourself, so there isn’t a stampede of family milling around the house (the kids will be bent over their phones, so probably far more quiet than the adults) so that the family ‘visit’ is for the actual dinner and dessert and gift giving— two to three hours max. 

When we celebrated my mother-in-law’s 90th birthday, our entire family knew she, Christine, would speak up when she’d had enough and that was very helpful. A marvelous dinner at a restaurant was held for her and as we all finished and the coffee was served, she stood up and said, “Thank you. I’m tired, now, I want to go home.” That may sound very abrupt to some, but Dutch folks speak their minds and we had always respected her wishes– and so she was driven home and everyone else lingered at the table, chatting and enjoying one another’s company. This sort of scenario could work well if your mother is willing to speak up for herself.

It can be a tap dance, BD, to schedule these sort of visits over the minefield of others’ feelings. But at the end of the day, this is about your mother’s comfort and health, and if that tap dance needs to turn into clogging over some peoples’ heads, so be it.

 

Cheers, dear!!

Aunty Pam