Virginia Ironside's Dilemmas

 

Last year Christmas was a disaster. We went round to my husband's mother and stepfather and his stepfather was so rude and critical of the children that I never wanted to see him again. This year we're going to have Christmas at home, and my husband wants to ask them, too. I'd love to see my mother-in-law, who adores the children, but the idea of having her husband in the house makes me feel ill. I don't see why I should have to put up with having my Christmas ruined again. How can I somehow make it all right? Yours sincerely, Dottie

 

Virginia says... You can first get the idea that it is "your" Christmas out of your head. It is not your Christmas. It is everyone's Christmas and in order for Christmas to be remotely tolerable, nearly everyone has to put up with some hardship. Your husband has to put up with you wincing every time his stepfather opens his mouth. Your mother-in-law has to put up with the presence of her husband – I'm sure his comments make her squirm – and your stepfather has to put up with the behaviour of what he considers your appalling children. So get out of your head that Christmas is perfect for any of us. It's not. If you can get through it without a major row, a tense atmosphere, or one of those tiny remarks that rankle through to New Year's Day, and with the children reasonably happy, then in my books you've been successful.

You've got to have the man round. You can't not invite him. However you could perhaps ask your husband to have a word with either his mother or his stepfather and say that you do get terribly upset if the kids are criticised and if he can keep the comments down, Christmas would be a lot nicer for everyone. That seems reasonable.

It might be that he won't be quite as rude because this year Christmas is at your house, not his. Or, if he does make sarcastic remarks, tease him unmercifully. "Ah yes, the old moaner! Wouldn't be Christmas without a bit of moaning, would it? Calm down, dear. It's Christmas, remember. Goodwill to all men. Come on. Get out the milk of human kindness or you won't get any turkey!" It'll infuriate him, but at least it'll get your gripes out in the open.

But best of all, of course, would be to keep your mouth shut and not rise to the bait. Say to yourself that this uncivilised prat is certain to says things that are totally unacceptable, and rather than be surprised and shocked when he says them, just expect them. That's how he is. There's nothing you can do about it. Hey ho. It's only for a day. You don't have to see him for the rest of the year. Let's face it, he's a sad, grumpy old thing. And why not get the brownie points by being a complete saint by putting up with it.

That way, even if you find steam rising from your head along with the pudding, when you're having a quick fag in the garden to calm down, at least you'll ensure that everyone else's Christmas isn't ruined as well as yours.

Readers say...

Do it for others

 

Christmas brings painful problems for those of us in second marriages and I feel for your mother-in-law as much as for you.

Try to lower your expectations for your own Christmas. Concentrate on those you love and reward yourself later.

Invite them over. Everyone but you will be happy about it and the children may not notice a bit of tension. They will have their lovely grandmother and she will have them. This is not about being a martyr. My own experience of many years suggests that, where children and other people I love are involved, I cannot live with a Christmas that makes any of them sad.

Julie Harrison By email

 

Don't invite them

If your children were upset by your stepfather-in-law last year, then don't invite them, as Christmas is, after all, really for children. Tell them you are having Christmas lunch out this year and that you will pop round to see them on Christmas Eve. Hopefully, this will limit the damage.

Anita Ashford By email

 

Next week's dilemma

Dear Virginia,

I'm 15 and my parents have just told me they want to separate. In one way I knew this was coming because they've been rowing so much, but I still feel terribly upset. I so love them both and I've tried to talk to each of them to persuade them to go to counselling, but they refuse and Dad gets angry with me for suggesting it. Dad's moving out after Christmas, and until then, the atmosphere is terrible. I can't bear being at home. But if I say I'll move out and stay with a friend until they've sorted things out, they both tell me I'm being childish. What can I do?

Yours sincerely, Michelle

What would you advise Michelle to do? Email your dilemmas and comments to dilemmas @independent. co.uk, or go to independent. co.uk/dilemmas. Anyone whose advice is quoted will receive a £25 voucher from the wine website Fine Wine Sellers (www.finewinesellers.co.uk)

Life and Style
Small winemakers say the restriction makes it hard to sell overseas
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
A comedy show alumni who has gone on to be a big star, Jon Stewart
tvRival television sketch shows vie for influential alumni
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Hope Fletcher
booksFirst video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
News
Clare Balding
peopleClare Balding on how women's football is shaking up sport
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Arts and Entertainment
Damien Hirst
artCoalition's anti-culture policy and cuts in local authority spending to blame, says academic
Sport
premier leagueMatch report: Arsenal 1 Man United 2
Arts and Entertainment
Kirk Cameron is begging his Facebook fans to give him positive reviews
film
News
i100
Sport
Jonny May scores for England
rugby unionEngland 28 Samoa 9: Wing scores twice to help England record their first win in six
Life and Style
fashionThe Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Arts and Entertainment
Jason goes on a special mission for the queen
tvReview: Everyone loves a CGI Cyclops and the BBC's Saturday night charmer is getting epic
Arts and Entertainment
Jerry Hall (Hand out press photograph provided by jackstanley@theambassadors.com)
theatre
Sport
Tony Bellew (left) and Nathan Cleverly clash at the Echo Arena in Liverpool
boxingLate surge sees Liverpudlian move into world title contention
Voices
Neil Findlay
voicesThe vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
Life and Style
food + drinkMeat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Reach Volunteering: Financial Trustee and Company Secretary

    Voluntary Only - Expenses Reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: A trustee (company d...

    Recruitment Genius: Senior Project Manager

    £45000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

    Recruitment Genius: Shopfitter

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join a successful an...

    Recruitment Genius: Digital Sales Account Manager

    £25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Digital Sales Account Manager...

    Day In a Page

    Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

    Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

    Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
    Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

    The last Christians in Iraq

    After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
    Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

    Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

    Britain braced for Black Friday
    Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

    From America's dad to date-rape drugs

    Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
    Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

    Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

    As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
    Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

    Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

    The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
    Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

    The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

    Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
    Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

    Flogging vlogging

    First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
    Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

    Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

    US channels wage comedy star wars
    When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

    When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

    When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible
    Look what's mushrooming now! Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector

    Look what's mushrooming now!

    Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
    Neil Findlay is more a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

    More a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

    The vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
    Bill Granger recipes: Tenderstem broccoli omelette; Fried eggs with Mexican-style tomato and chilli sauce; Pan-fried cavolo nero with soft-boiled egg

    Oeuf quake

    Bill Granger's cracking egg recipes
    Terry Venables: Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back

    Terry Venables column

    Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back
    Michael Calvin: Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

    Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

    Those at the top are allowing the same issues to go unchallenged, says Michael Calvin