Home Life Style Carolyn Hax: Okay to skip big family trip with octogenarian parent?

Carolyn Hax: Okay to skip big family trip with octogenarian parent?


Adapted from an online discussion.

Hi, Carolyn: I have a parent in their early 80s who would like us to take a trip together as a family. This parent has stated repeatedly that it is very important to them. I have a mostly good relationship with this parent, but when traveling, they are controlling and anxious, emphasis on the “controlling.” They have also stated that they will pay for me and my family to join them.

I don’t want to go on this trip. It will not be fun, because the controlling parent usually gets upset at one time or another, and I feel as if I have to keep everyone happy and do what this parent wants. Plus, this parent is 80, and mobility is limited to some extent. (Less of a problem but still a consideration.)

How do I get out of any trip? I love my parent; I worry about regret after they die; and I worry about devastating them, because they are a single parent, and it’s not like they would go on their own … but based on prior trips, I do not want to go. At all. Help!

Anonymous: Would you go on the trip if you called it something other than a vacation? If you reminded yourself it’s not for you, but for your parent?

If your parent needed a ride to a medical appointment, then you’d probably say yes and deal with your parent’s crankiness and control issues and the overpriced parking and handle all the logistics of limited mobility and sit in a bland, stale waiting room for hoooouuuuurssssss, bored out of your mind. Right? You wouldn’t opt out based on whether it would be any fun?

So. You have every right to opt out of a forced “vacation” (or appointment) that you want no part of. Always. And how much you expose your family to is a separate calculation. But there is ample room here for you to change your standards from “fun” to “rewarding” or “generous” or “box-checking” or whatever else you’d feel if you rallied big for your parent in what is probably the home stretch.

Re: Vacation: I’m also constantly getting nagged, but traveling with my parents and in-laws is kind of awful and stressful. And with limited time off and constant work stress, this is not how I want to spend my vacation week. I know it is selfish, and, yes, I am plagued with guilt. But this also feels like emotional blackmail — and I have been subject to a lifetime of it by my narcissistic parent. I’m done. (And I’m on your side, Anonymous!)

Nagged: As you should be! And it is not selfish at all, wow, to take the breaks you need. You’re entitled.

Your situation is actually quite different; yours is ongoing, and Anonymous is making an “after they die” calculation. (For which, to be clear, “no” is still a valid option.)

If it’s feasible, I urge therapy for your guilt. It appears someone has reached deep into your life choices and declared them their business. And persuaded you that this is true, that your time belongs to them. Whatever hours of emotional work it takes to uncouple yourself from their manipulations will, I am confident, feel immensely well spent.

Re: Parental “vacation”: Carolyn, I love this reframing and use it already with my aging parent in other ways. But I have essentially no paid “vacation days” from work. Does that change your answer?

Reframer: Yes. If you have no rest to spare, then the trip is out. (Our labor practices suck.)

Source link


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here