Family Members Are Dis-invited for the First Time This Summer
Dear Ms Doyle,
My cousins have a beach house that was destroyed in Hurricane Sandy. They have very SLOWLY, because of contractor delays, rebuilt a new house. In the past they have been incredibly generous with their hospitality and my family and I offered to donate a washer/dryer to the new house to help with expenses and the enormous amounts of laundry visitors cause. The problem is that my cousins have said that they do not want any visitors for this summer season. I understand the logic here: they want to get used to the new place but I feel slighted because we pitched in when they were in need and now we and other family members are excluded. Shall I just grin and bear it?
Has it been a long-standing tradition that other family members visit at the beach house? Has there been a general understanding about visiting every year? How were visitors’ schedules coordinated? By whom? Did the logistics usually run smoothly? I mean, this is a family, after all.
Since Hurricane Sandy has interrupted the tradition, perhaps the
owners need a season to settle in, as you say, or maybe they are taking the
opportunity to change the tradition and limit their visitors going forward.
Time will tell. If the owners’ intention is to curtail family visits in the years
to come, it might have been wise of them to graciously decline your generous
gift of the washer/dryer. I would advise waiting a year to see how things
Your question raises the more complicated issue of motivation in
giving and receiving gifts. It would be natural for you to assume that you
would continue to visit. But suppose you were never invited back, could you
think of your gift as housewarming/thanks for past visits? If they intend
to never invite you again, could they really have accepted your gift with a happy
heart? Perhaps they could. I suppose each of us might answer that question
differently. Assuming that is the scenario, I could imagine having a weak moment and
accepting the present, but feeling queasy about it afterwards. Eventually I
would want to make amends. Really, though, I shouldn’t be trying to
read their minds.
For this year, I don’t know that I would “grin and bear it” but instead try to think of the washer/dryer simply as your generous gift — which it is. Find a different vacation spot with your siblings to enjoy this summer. Maybe you’ll discover something new and wonderful for yourselves. Also, you might consider writing the owners a note congratulating them on the completion of the house — with no snark! Maybe next summer things will be back to the way they were.
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