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ASK AMY

Christmas Eve brings competing traditions

Q. My late first wife has a sister who hosts a Christmas Eve dinner. I remarried after my wife’s death, and three of the five boys in our blended family, ages 18 to 27, attend their aunt’s dinner. (The other two boys, their stepbrothers, are also adults.)

The event tends to go past 10 p.m., resulting in tired participants for our Christmas morning, as well as no Christmas Eve together for our blended family.

My wife of seven years and I attended with the whole family the first year we were married, but have not attended since (the house is small, and we are trying to move forward with our own family traditions and create new memories).

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We asked the boys’ aunt a few years ago whether she would be willing to host her event on Dec. 23, so the three sons could attend with less impact on our own Christmas. The response was, “Absolutely not, Christmas Eve dinner is our tradition.”

The three boys who attend are old enough to make their own decisions, but they have expressed that they are caught between competing Christmas Eve events (we have even had negotiations about this event in family therapy).

We do not know whether to drop it or continue to express regret about this competing annual Christmas Eve event and increase the volume.

Your advice?

HALF A FAMILY ON CHRISTMAS EVE

A. My response is not what you want to hear.

Many, many families split their time and attendance over various holiday celebrations. For you to have all of your adult children with you on both Christmas Eve and the following day is unrealistic.

You have your own blended family celebration on Christmas Day. I suggest that you adjust the timing of your celebration so that all of your family members can regroup on Christmas morning, and not arrive at your home bedraggled.

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This aunt’s Christmas Eve tradition is longstanding, and because your sons choose to attend it, I think you should accept that, for them, this is an important aspect of their Christmas celebration. And so, you should let them have it, and, instead of hosting a competing event, you and your wife should scale back your own Christmas Eve and consider the way you celebrate it (with her sons) to be ... what you do. Develop your own intimate traditions with the smaller group.

This issue is obviously a big sticking point with you, but if you couldn’t work it out to your satisfaction in family therapy, then I’d say the adult response would be to accept things as they are, and to stop pushing.


Q. I have two grandsons who are worrying me quite a bit. One is 9 years old and the other is 5.

Here’s my concern: The 9-year-old weighs 140 pounds and the 5-year-old weighs 80. They are both almost twice the average weight for children their ages. Both boys are covered with marbled fat.

How can I address my concerns for their health with my son and his wife?

GRAMPA

A. According to statistics published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (cdc.gov), the rate of childhood obesity in America is truly alarming: “In 2017-18, the prevalence of obesity was 19.3 percent and affected about 14.4 million children and adolescents. Obesity prevalence was 13.4 percent among 2- to 5-year-olds, 20.3 percent among 6- to 11-year-olds, and 21.2 percent among 12- to 19-year-olds.”

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Obesity in children can lead to serious health problems, including diabetes and high cholesterol.

Yes, you should express your concern. You can start by saying, “I’m worried about the boys’ weight. Have they had a wellness check this year? Did the pediatrician bring this up?”

You can expect these parents to respond defensively, but if you are open and nonjudgmental about this topic, it might inspire them to continue to talk with you about it, and to work on solutions.


Q. Thank you for publishing the question from “Underperformer,” a woman whose husband was demanding that she submit to a sexual act she “hated,” and who refused to kiss her because she didn’t. I was shocked when I read the question, because I could have written it.

Thank you for breaking from your usual practice of urging couples to work things out, and for telling her, point blank, to get out.

I wish I had followed this frank advice years ago — I would have been spared years of escalating abuse.

SURVIVOR

A. The number of women responding with similar stories (well over 100) is, frankly, heartbreaking.

Amy Dickinson can be reached at askamy@amydickinson.com.