DEAR CAROLYN: We live in the same area as both my and my husband's parents. My in-laws aren't particularly interested in engaging us as a family with many children in tow, so we usually see them twice a year at their house. In the past, we've invited them to our home, but they opt out or swing by for a brief, 30-minute visit. My husband has told his parents we want to see them more, but they haven't really responded, which is obviously their prerogative. I get we are a big, loud family that may be stressful or unpleasant for them. I think even my husband has come to accept this, though it is still painful for him. Some of the children are old enough now to not be very interested in seeing them, either. We welcomed a baby this spring, and these grandparents haven't reached out. My husband expressed today that he wants to do Christmas at his parents' house this year. They are not socially distancing due to work. In the past I've been willing to do the Christmas visit, but I don't want to expose our new baby, young children or my high-risk parents, who we see a couple of times a month. Honestly, I don't think my in-laws or our kids will really care if we skip this year, but my husband does, which is understandable. Any advice?
Christmas Weary Already
CHRISTMAS WEARY ALREADY: With a pandemic and a new baby, Christmas is an easy "no." I can go full orchestral with sympathy for your husband but sickness doesn't care. No gratuitous mixing.
Maybe this will help, though: Christmas was the wrong "yes" to begin with.
Your in-laws apparently want no part of a loud pile of kids. I can have feelings about that, too — I think it's terrible to blow off the grandkids, including a new baby, even as I sympathize with noise and chaos sensitivity — but your in-laws apparently don't care. This is how they've chosen to be.
So that's what you and your husband have to work with.
Why why why, then, would you and he keep trying to draw them closer by the exact means that repels them? Why keep dragging the whole pile of kids there, or inviting the in-laws into the soup?
They live close by. Your husband can bring one child with him for a visit. One parent/one child at a time, masked and properly distanced, on a rotation, to give his parents a chance to know each one. With repetition, the visits can become personal and even mini-traditions — maybe with this one they get ice cream, that one they talk baseball, the other one ... who knows. Give them room to find out.
There's a risk here, obviously, that you'd be exposing each child to the full force of the in-laws' indifference. Maybe you've misread them and it's not the noise that puts them off, it's an utter lack of interest in being grandparental grandparents. But you'd learn that pretty quickly, no? And the older ones already have some emotional calluses, so after a blah visit you can share a group shrug and move on.
Offer this gift to your husband — no to Christmas, but a devoted yes to changing the way you think.