Dear Carolyn: I’m a 70-year-old mom of a 35-year-old, newly married son, my only child. What are your thoughts about his telling me that if I visit them, I need to stay in a hotel? I would only visit if invited, of course. I visited him before and stayed in his apartment. Prior to that, he lived in a different city, and said if I visited, I needed to stay in a hotel. I didn’t visit him there.
As explanation or support he writes only that all his friends have their families stay in hotels. Just a by-the-way: I know lots of his friends and this isn’t true. My son and his wife host their out-of-town friends in their second bedroom with a comfy sofa bed. I’ve e-mailed back that I, like the rest of my family and everyone else I know, aren’t people who stay in hotels on short family visits. I think I also wrote that such a visit would engender not-good memories for me (I have too many to ignore already).
I don’t know his wife well. We haven’t chatted or spent time together just us two. She has a warm personality, many friends and writes me friendly thank-you notes for gifts I send her. (I always e-mail her first to ask if she’d like whatever it is.) It’s been that way since we met and I don’t have a judgment or opinion about what our lack of closeness is about.
I 100% get that other families happily do stay in hotels for excellent reasons. I may change my thoughts, like if my son has children or whatever (though parents I know and parents of his friends stay with their children and grandchildren on visits).
Carolyn says: If you indeed “aren’t people who stay in hotels on short family visits,” then you aren’t people who will ever visit your son.
Done. Your choice.
For the record, I can think of about a dozen more helpful people not to be. You cannot be people who:
• Presume to tell your hosts how to host you. Because doing that is incredibly rude — and, when you do it at a time you’re hoping to endear yourself to a child-in-law, it’s also self-defeating to a degree that leaves me agape.
• Rummage around in a son’s other relationships for proof of how justified you are to feel wronged by him. “Though parents I know and parents of his friends stay with their children and grandchildren on visits”?! Just, stop. Take unwelcome news with some grace.
• Expect grown children to follow your blueprint for what “family” does or doesn’t do. They’re old enough now to have their own vision of “family” — and you owe them and their choices the same respect you’d show any other adult (in those “other families” you “100% get”).
• Shift blame onto the most vulnerable target. You say yourself that your son made the hotel request once before, pre-marriage. So quit the side-eye at the wife. Your son wants this. Period.
• Refuse to be an agreeable or flexible guest, and then marvel when you’re invited only under certain terms and conditions.
I realize none of this is welcome advice for someone who is, at heart, just feeling hurt to be kept at arm’s length. I also understand the underlying fear — that you’re losing your son to the new family he and his wife have created.
But it’s on you to work with the people you’ve got, the arrangements they offer, and opportunities you see. Open mind, open heart, open arms — and, yes, a room at a hotel.
E-mail Carolyn Hax at firstname.lastname@example.org.