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home : columns : dear harriette February 19, 2020

12/24/2019 9:24:00 AM
Reader wants to respect Jehovah's Witness mother-in-law

DEAR HARRIETTE: My mother-in-law is Jehovah's Witness. She explained to me that this means she doesn't celebrate any holidays. Her husband is a more mainstream Christian, so he does celebrate.

I'm so confused as to how to honor my mother-in-law and include her in our family festivities. In the past, I have invited my in-laws to come over during the holiday season, just not on Christmas Day. As they get older, though, I wonder if I should invite them to the dinner where everybody is present. I know they enjoy being together with everyone. But I worry that my mother-in-law might feel uncomfortable. What should I do? -- Being Welcoming

DEAR BEING WELCOMING: Talk to your mother-in-law, and share with her what's on your mind. Tell her how much you want her to be part of the large family gathering. Point out the obvious: You do not want to offend her religious values and practices in any way, even as you truly want her to be part of all that you do this week. Ask her what you can do to make her feel comfortable. Invite her to attend. She may choose to come for the entire event or maybe at dessert, which will be after the height of the festivities.

Ask her if she would accept gifts from the family, or if you should alert them not to have gifts for her. If you speak directly with your mother-in-law, you should be able to find out where she stands. You may be surprised at her answers. What happens too often when families do not share religious beliefs is that people stop talking and awkwardly create space around whoever is in the minority. End that uncomfortable practice. Your conversation with your mother-in-law may open up an opportunity for a closer bond with her.

DEAR HARRIETTE: I come from a large family, and it is our tradition to give gifts to everybody. I can't swing it this year. There are just too many people, and I have a mound of debt and just started a new job. What can I do to manage the family's expectations? Children alone represent about 10 gifts. With the adults, it's closer to 30. -- Cutting Back on Xmas

DEAR CUTTING BACK ON XMAS: You have a couple of choices. If you have the resources, get or make gifts for each of the children. Even the tiniest gifts will brighten young family members, because it shows that you remembered them. Even at the last minute, you can go to the dollar store to look for something that you can give to the 10 children.

For the rest of the family, consider something as simple as making greeting cards for each of them. A simple card that expresses your love for your family will make them smile and know that you are thinking of them -- without breaking the bank.

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