Holiday drama...say Something to My Sister or Ignore It?

Updated on November 14, 2017
J.B. asks from Boston, MA
14 answers

OK. My parents and I agreed that I would host Christmas again, for the second year. They have hosted everything else for 40+ years but they're in their 70's and it's a lot for them and I finally have the space for it. My out-of-state sister apparently didn't like this idea and complained to my mom about last year. She didn't like that I have a dog, that things didn't go as smoothly as they do at my parents' house (where we are a well-oiled machine from doing the same thing for decades), didn't think that my house was decorated enough or clean enough. For a reality check, I talked to one of my other siblings who confirmed that things were good last year - my house was company ready and festive, the location was more convenient for other relatives, the kids had fun, and people were looking forward to coming back. When pressed, my mom said that she thought last year was fine but there were some things she would change up to make it run better, and they were actually things that I had already noted from last year (like I had chargers under the plates for color but they were too crowded, so I took them out at the last minute; or that I could order a smaller deli platter for the evening party or start the roast 15 minutes later - not life-changing details).

My sister is a perfectionist who thinks houses should look like museums. My house, even when company-ready clean, looks like children live there (gasp!). When she came last year, she intended to "help" but was largely bossy and in the way. She's critical of everyone (and has a list of complaints about my parents' house too). My mom wanted to take back Christmas to appease my sister but I said that while I would ultimately do whatever was easiest for her and my dad, I had already started preparing and frankly, found my sister's attitude to be pretty offensive. So she agreed that she would tell her that I have already started preparing and that the original plan would stand.

I'm really annoyed that she put my parents in the middle of this instead of coming to me directly, and I find her comments/concerns pretty insulting. That said, she has always been this way and always will be so I'm trying to not take it personally. Would you bother trying to clear the air with a sibling in this situation, or just muster up some Zen and let it go?

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So What Happened?

Thanks everyone - I'm going to let this go. One of my other siblings called last night to fill me in on what went down as he was at my parents' house and facetiming another sibling when this happened so she had a front row seat as well. After the complaint call from my sister, my mom told them that she was going to change the plan and call me and they all told her that the original plan was good and to leave it alone and not stir things up by kowtowing to Ms. Complainer. They (dad and siblings) were glad that I pushed back and that the original plan is going forward. It was helpful for them to confirm that I wasn't a terrible host and that my house doesn't smell bad or something valid like that LOL. It's just the way she is.

More Answers


answers from Norfolk on

If your sister was the only person who had any complaints - then you pleased %99.99 percent of your guests/family.
Woo Hoo!
Pat yourself on the back and do your happy dance!

Your sister didn't have to complain - she did.
Your parents didn't have to listen - they did.
Your parents didn't have to pass on said complaints - they did.
Your mom in her 70's offered to take back Christmas to appease ONE person - that's a whole separate therapy session right there - at least that idea got tossed out the window eventually.

Why is everyone so willing to bend over backwards, wiggle their ears and whistle Dixie trying to please this one person who can not/will not be pleased no matter what anyone does?
Just accept she lives/loves to complain and isn't happy unless she's unhappy.
Accept her as she is - but for goodness sake - don't take her seriously - nobody should.

So short answer - let it go!

10 moms found this helpful


answers from Springfield on

For some reason I'm thinking of a colleague of mine right now. He get's very bent out of shape about stupid things. I learned a long time ago (with a different colleague that could be this way) to just remind myself that he'll get over it. Whenever he gets this way, my co-workers and I will remind each other that it's not our problem and say, "He'll get over it."

This is her issue, not yours. She has unrealistic expectations. She'll get over it. Either that or she'll just be unhappy. Let it go. If everyone tries to appease her, she gets the idea that her expectations are valid. Just practice saying, "I'm sorry your expectations weren't met. I did the best I could," and then let it go. She'll get over it.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Houston on

You could say "sister, I understand you didn't feel that the Christmas party at my house was a good time. I'm sorry you feel that way. I wished you had said something to me at the time instead of Mom and Dad. Its not fair that you put Mom and Dad in the middle when this was really between us."

If it were me? I wouldn't say anything. Nothing will change her mind. She bitched moaned and groaned about your parents house. I always remember my mom telling me : "You can't please all the people all the time, just some of the people some of the time." So, if you are pleased and your mom is pleased then piss off to sister.

Go about your preparations. If she has an issue, remember, its HER issue. It only becomes yours if you let it. That always applies to your Mom as well. Don't go for the drama.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

Ugh! One in every family. You are gracious enough to have your family over and host the holiday and everyone should be happy! Your sister sounds like a real pain! You can't please everybody so try and just ignore her. I hope she contributes something not just wise comments. Make her in charge of desserts!! Don't let her ruin your holiday! Have a glass of wine before she arrives & plant a smile on your face! Let her comments go in one ear out the other. I don't see her changing her ways! Enjoy!

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Honolulu on

If these complaints made by your sister were out-of-character for her, and the product of a single event that went badly, and if your sister was generally agreeable, I'd try to clear the air.

But it sounds to me like you know your sister is compulsive, a complainer, and a bit disagreeable when it comes to family. All the air-clearing in the world wouldn't change your sister's personality.

It also seems that your mom offered helpful advice learned from a long lifetime with a history of entertaining family members. Stuff like that is nice. Follow your mom's lead and take the helpful advice and ignore the unhelpful complaints.

Continue on with your holiday plans, and just do whatever you can to make sure that the reasonable people in your family have a wonderful Christmas get-together.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

Ugh - no win situation.

I think you have 3 choices:
1) ignore her. When she comes to your house and offers "suggestions" (which I know are criticisms), say something innocuous like "Thanks for your input. I'll try to remember that in the future." Or, "Hey, this is a lived-in house where my children and their friends are welcome. Sometimes there are signs of traffic and use." Then go peel the potatoes or whatever it is.
2) Let your mother host because she's a big girl and can exhaust herself if she wants to. I know you want to rescue her but maybe you can't. If your sister criticizes your mother, say "Hey, it's the holidays and I don't want to discuss it, but maybe she'll be open to your critiques." And if your mother allows herself to be in the middle of this year's discussion, resist the urge to take her out of it.
3) Alternate with your perfectionist sister and let her exhaust herself creating a museum exhibit if she wants to. Be a charming guest and let her oddities go when it's her year. If no one goes because it's too far away, so be it - or enjoy the smaller, more intimate setting - or don't go because your kids have a father and other grandparents around. Tell her you've already started for this year because you hadn't heard from her directly, but you're more than happy to let everyone have a crack at it in future years.

Then go pour a glass of wine and do what's best for you and your kids. After all you've been through with your ex and stepdaughter and your kids, as well as your move, and the pressures of being a single mom, you don't need to enroll in this drama class.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on


How did it come up? I'm trying to figure out a couple of things because I think that would be telling.

1 - did your mom come to you and say "Your sister is upset" because then your mom might be being kind of passive aggressive. If that's the case, your mom might actually WANT to host again. Sometimes in families, a well meaning child takes over festivities (as in my family) and the parent actually still wants to host things. Then another child complains and the parent uses those comments to try to stir things up. Is that happening here?

2 - why did your sister not come to you? I find that odd.

You could ask your sister to arrive a bit early and help you prepare. That's probably what I would do. Just have lots of wine. I would say 'I hear you have a lot of issues with how I do things. How about you help rather than complain to mom'. I tend to diffuse these situations with a bit of humor but just get it out there.

I do think that when people 'share' that people have come to them to complain, there's a bit of an ulterior motive in them sharing that info with you. It's not really kind to pass it along. You say when you 'pressed' your mother, she admitted you could improve - to me, that's not very gracious. Seriously - you're hosting, things like charger plates and deli trays - good grief, you're the host - people (even mothers) shouldn't comment, or they can bring the deli tray themselves. I know they all mean well (seriously, they do deep down) but family can be a bit petty at holidays.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

You are annoyed with your sister, but I'm annoyed that your mom stirred up drama instead of telling your sister to talk to you directly. You don't even know exactly what she said.

I would say nothing and completely let this go unless she says something directly to you. After all, right now it's really just hearsay/gossip/pot-stirring.

If she says something directly to you, then you can decide if what she has to say is helpful advice or just whining.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Oklahoma City on

She knew she could manipulate mom into doing what she wants. So that's why she skipped you. Tell your sister she is welcome to do it at her house next year, give you a heads up about the time and date and you'll be there. Otherwise she needs to hush.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Abilene on

I am a music person and this song came to mind...

And it's all right now, learned my lesson well. You see, ya can't please everyone, so you got to please yourself.

In your case you're hosting Christmas for your family. It's NOT about a clean house, perfectly decorated, or whether you have a dog or if things go smoothly. It's about love, sharing a meal, making memories, being together. Do your celebration, don't let what one person thinks deter you from a wonderful celebration. Maybe watch how the Grinch stole Christmas and picture your sister appropriately. 😊

People who are chronic complainers are hard to be around. Giving credence to her complaints validates her. Don't do it.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Minneapolis on

At this point, I'd let it go. I'd trust your mom put an end to the conversation as said she would tell your sister the original plan would stand. Maybe after Christmas would a time to have a conversation with your sister along the lines of, Christmas at my house may not be one hundred percent picture-perfect, or an exact replica of our Christmases at Mom's, but the point is that you are taking on hosting duties to be gracious to your aging parents. They deserve to enjoy being treated now as the guests after all the many years of the work they put in hosting. Wouldn't she agree? What's really important here? Tell her if she has any specific suggestions about next year, to please talk to you directly, because it's not fair to put your mom in the middle as the go-between

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Anchorage on

I would probably call her just to clear the air and make sure she knows not to drag your parents into the middle of things. Maybe just call her up and say "As you know I am hosting Christmas again this year and I heard you had some suggestions so I thought I would give you a call"......

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Wausau on

Ignore it. There is no air to clear. You can't battle a perfectionist and have it turn out well. Nothing will change. You're going to need to let it roll off your back, because you can only control how you think, feel, and react. At the moment, you are choosing to be insulted by a person you *know* has issues with everything not done her way.

What you do need is a plan for if/when she gets in your way instead of 'helping'. I suggest handing her a drink or a cookie and telling her to go sit and relax.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Santa Fe on

You are doing everything right. Your mom should have said right away to your sister, No, we are doing it at JB's house this year and it's already planned. She also should have stuck up for you...saying things such as "I thought her house looked great. She will get things smoothed out the more she does things like this...I think she did a great job. My, you are complaining a lot today. Remember, this hosting is really getting to be too much for Dad and I ...we are in our 70s now and things are harder. I'm thankful JB has a big enough place to host all of us. The important thing is we are all together, not how the house looks or how smoothly things run. Remember what is important in life." Instead your mom kowtowed to her and brought her complaints to you. 1. This just feeds her complaining when your mom gives in and 2. It created unneeded drama.

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