I don't know what has happened to my family. After all these years, I'm still shaking my head in disbelief. My sister is the only one coming for Christmas, and the thought of that makes me cringe. All she does is put me down and criticize how I do things while she does NOTHING to help my mother. I am so NOT looking forward to it. I'm going to try and focus on the positives...having my 94 year old mom still with us, my best friend coming to protect me from the wrath of my sister, all the great food, etc. I'm so tired of my siblings. We used to be a close family...all of us together on Christmas. I just don't know what happened..

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Sally, you don't have to tolerate your sister's criticism. If you're not comfortable confronting her, send her an e-mail and explain that her criticism is affecting you and until she reassesses her attitude, you feel it would be better if she doesn't come for Christmas.

Or if you allow her to come and she starts in, tell her"

(a) This is a holiday season and you would prefer that she restrain herself so that what family still gets together can enjoy themselves.

(b) If she feels you're such a poor caregiver, why doesn't SHE take over your mother's care?

To have to have a friend to protect you suggests to me that this sister has been overbearing and intimidating you for a long time. Perhaps you should ask yourself why you've tolerated it, and why she does it?

But find a way to explain to your mother first that you're going to stand up to your sister so she isn't upset by the confrontation, which should as much as possible be done so that your mother isn't present at the time.

Or make a joke of it. Set out a jar and tell her that every time she criticizes you she needs to insert a dollar bill in the jar.

I'm a big advocate of "put up or shut up."
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I've not enjoyed Christmas since I was a child. Mainly it meant traveling long miles to get home to be with parents who didn't really seem to want us there. My father was as warm as a lobster. My mother put on a fake act for a couple of hours. She made way too much food. 3-4 hours after arriving, it was like getting pushed out the door to go to our hotels. Dad kept checking his blood pressure and Mom set and talked about superficial things and how tired she was. Soon everyone was gone.

There didn't seem to be much point in this, especially when it meant traveling halfway across the country. My brother quit doing it. My mother, however, would chew the guilt in if I didn't come. I hated that, because really the only reason to come was so she could feel like she'd done Christmas. Whoever showed up would eat, then she would give us each a check so we could buy ourselves something, and soon we would leave.

I love the reason for the season, but I dislike the phony stuff that goes on. The family is like a group of polite strangers doing something that they feel like they ought to do... or face the wrath and hurt feelings of Mom. (And that is how I really feel. Making cookies and candies for others makes it a lot better, which is what I'm doing now.)
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I'm dreading it. I wish we could just have a quiet Christmas but instead my inlaws want to schlep to three Christmas parties.

Windy - I like the suggestion of emailing your sister and telling her in advance that you will NOT engage her criticisms at Christmas and if she can't be civil then she should find somewhere else to go.

I hate all the stress that Christmas brings out in adults. I wish we could stop pretending that our families are like a Currier & Ives Christmas card.

My traditions are almost gone. I can't remember the last time I went to Midnight Mass.

No prayer was said before the meal. No thanks given for those who gathered. The "it's all about the children" has been taken too far. Last year we stood around watching all the kids open up a ridiculous number of presents. It was as if the point of the gathering was to watch the kids tear into presents like a lion into a gazelle. Ugh. I wish it were over already.
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I wonder how many people/families, whether caregiving is involved or not, have reached the point of going through the motions of Christmas get-togethers "just because" but really would rather be doing something else.

I always hated the pressure to decorate, spend, buy, and do all the things that have become tradition, again "just because" it happened that way.

I really feel people should just spend any holiday the way they want...kicking back, shoes off, chilling out, doing nothing if they wanted to. Is it really as enjoyable when people feel they "have to do it" just b/c it's a tradition?

Of course, there's the intense marketing and the probably millions of dollars made from people who do adhere to the well developed social traditions. Retailers benefit perhaps more than some people.
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I am already in a foul mood for Christmas anyway and reading that a sibling, who does nothing, would have the nerve to criticize makes me spit tacks... Wonder what would happen if you agreed with everything that she says and then said, ' well, I guess Mom will be coming to live with YOU then?"
Bet that would shut her up.
At least you have a friend to back you up. Maybe, at some point, your friend could say, 'wow, your mom looks REALLY TIRED - so I think we should wrap everything up. Don't you agree, (sister)? ' Then, usher her out of the door!
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I'm the only kid left in my family. Brother and sister died 3 and 6 years ago. I'm dealing with parents issues from far away. I hated holidays with my family. My sibs lives were 20 year long, slow motion train wrecks. It was horrible to go home and have to deal with the latest nutso crap. My wife and I would stay in a motel, spend the obligatory time with my family then get the hell out.

I'm sure you and I are not alone. I bet this thread will get busy fast.
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While my relationship with my two brothers is dysfunctional at best - we are honest enough to admit we would rather not spend the holiday together. Christmas cards sent by mail is as good as it gets for us!
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Wow--a lot of us are feeling not very "merry" this year. Or haven't for years. This year is the last year I am pulling out all the stops for my family/extended family. It's gotten so crazy. I also hate seeing the "littles" rip into gift after gift like crazed animals and then throwing everything on the floor. They are getting ONE practical gift and one "fun" (but small) gift from me. And their stockings, but that stuff is mostly candy.
When my son admitted to me that he and his wife NEVER got their kids anything for Christmas because by the time all the grandparents, step-grandparents and cousin gifts rolled in, they felt they could get away with saying it was all from Santa. He and his wife are millionaires, and no, they don't OWE me anything, but last year, a few weeks after Christmas, my hubby asked "Hey, did we get something from B&B and didn't acknowledge it? No, they just didn't do anything. So, it's not just sibling stuff, it's family stuff and honestly? I haven't liked Christmas since 1980. SO much work, so many obligatory parties with people I don't want to see. Our family is in disarray this year, the family party is on Saturday, I am hosting it so I HAVE to go. Yuck. I've had 2 major surgeries this year, not one sib so much as called me. I don't feel well, I don't want to go to or do ANYTHING, but obligation calls. Next year, I'm giving "obligation" a fake phone number!
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I don't blame you at all for feeling the way you do, Carla. I have been so tired for days now trying to get the house cleaned for Christmas Day dinner which my daughter is cooking and bringing over this afternoon and now I'm sick as a dog. I've been fighting a cold for about 10 days and after many antibiotics, it seemed like I was finally kicking it when I stayed on my feet too long yesterday and now it's come back full force. All I want to do is go back to bed and stay there. I may cancel this dinner too. Midkid58, I feel the same as you. This will be the last time I go to this much trouble for Christmas because it's just too much work for me any more. Try to have a good Christmas with what you have and who you have over to visit and get past the bad feelings. Merry Christmas to all on this thread and I hope you have a blessed day.
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That's a good question, LivingSouth. But I think part of the answer stems from the way people naturally tend to overestimate their own contributions to an effort and underestimate other people's contributions. There's a discussion of this in the book "Blind Spots" that I found illuminating.

Nobody really knows how much I'm doing for my mother, because they're not doing it. So they tend to underestimate it, and view the occasional visit or phone call they do as a real contribution and even a sacrifice. I noted this Christmas that nobody knew what to get for my mother and one sister even called to ask me what I was getting her. If they actually spent any time around her they'd know what she needs and what things would make her life easier. In the past few years I've bought my mother a Keurig, an electric corkscrew, a set of Bluetooth headphones for her TV, and a foot scrubber that sticks to the bottom of the tub with suction cups so you can wash your feet without bending over or standing on one leg.

This Christmas I bought her a Clapper. They gave her gift certificates to restaurants and nail salons, which she can't use unless somebody takes her (and they don't offer). They're just out of touch with her day to day reality, And mine.
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