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A family party from hell

My uncle is dying but my mother literally makes my wife sick. Can we all just get along?

Erm, unlikely, says our elder.

Dear EWC

Good morning, So, I have a family issue right out of a Spanish telenovela. My uncle has cancer. One of my other uncles is throwing a holiday party for him this weekend, in case he isn’t healthy enough to celebrate the holidays later, and he just invited me to it, and wants me to bring my family. I have a wife and we have a 6-month-old baby. So far, no problem.

The first thing you have to know from here is that my wife has asthma. The second thing is, that since she has asthma, our baby will likely develop asthma. When my wife is around smokers, she smells the tobacco, has trouble breathing, and gets dizzy and nauseous. The problem is my mother. She chain smokes, she gossips, she tells vicious lies, and she lives to create drama. We asked her not to smoke on days she’d be around the baby so my wife wouldn’t get sick and she did it anyway and lied to me about it, told me my wife was lying until I told her that I saw her smoke myself, and then she made excuses. Later on she invited herself to my house and showed up smelling like cigarettes and made a scene when I told her we were too busy for guests at the time. I told her to leave us alone after that and blocked her on my phone.

She will be at this party. I want to go to this party to pay my respects to my uncle. I don’t want to see my mother. If I bring the baby she will ask to hold him and my wife won’t like that. If I say my mother can’t hold the baby, she’ll make a scene, if I say she can, my wife will let her to avoid a scene, but will be super pissed at me because now she’s going to be dizzy and sick all day at the smell of her own baby. If I don’t bring the baby, but bring my wife, she’ll try to “reconcile” then make a scene when my wife says no. If I go alone, she’ll make a scene and say all of her troubles are my wife’s fault, and my wife doesn’t want her talking about her behind her back, when she has no idea what she might say. Lastly, if I don’t go, I might miss my last chance to see my uncle, and my whole family will consider it me pulling away from them, being snobby and selfish. They would say my mother was in the right, for showing up, and I was in the wrong for not. What’s the best course for me to take?

Cousin-B replies

Obviously, there isn’t a perfect choice. So the only thing to do is to make one that is best for you and your family. I will give you my opinion but the choice is up to you.

I would go to the party without your wife and baby. It is important that you pay your respects to your uncle. But taking your wife and baby when your mother is there will cause a distraction from the purpose of the party, which is to honor your uncle. I suggest that if your mother starts to complain, tell her this is not the time or place and you refuse to listen. Then walk away and try to avoid her as much as possible.

It is correct that your wife, because of asthma, and your baby, just because he is a baby, should not be around cigarette smoke—first hand, second hand or third hand.  Your mother is a smoker and addicted to nicotine. It is difficult for her to go any length of time without smoking but you are right to limit her contacts with your baby. However, there is no need to discuss this issue at the party.  If you feel comfortable with a “white lie,” you might even say the baby has a cold and you didn’t want to expose your uncle and you and your wife didn’t want to leave him with a babysitter when he was ill.

Your problem with your mother is more than the fact that she smokes. You find her unpleasant and prefer to avoid her. That is your choice. I am guessing that your mother is a very unhappy woman and has been so for a long time. Her problems are beyond your ability to fix them so limiting your contacts is your choice at this time. Perhaps, you could find a way to spend some quiet time with her one-on-one away from the rest of the family. But it is also possible that you cannot build a relationship with her. You are the best judge.

Letter #: 411735
Category: Family

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