I’m Sick of My Stepbrother’s Family Ruining Our Dinners Together

I’m Sick of My Stepbrother’s Family Ruining Our Dinners Together


I come from a blended family. All my parents’ children are grown, with families of their own. Three out of the four of us that my parents had together live within an hour of our parents; my stepbrother (who is the eldest of us) and I both live less than ten minutes away. The grandchildren range in age from 1 to 16, though most are in their early teens. My parents started hosting family dinners when the grandkids were young. But as the kids have grown up, my stepbrother’s family kept having other things to do (neverending sports, Cub Scout meetings, etc.), and the dinners now only occur every three months or so, always on a weekend.

Nearly a year ago, my 14-year-old niece apparently decided to stop attending (there is an excuse for her absence every time). I know my niece doesn’t find these gatherings fun: all the cousins her own age are boys, and I’m sure she’d rather spend time with her friends. Still, we already schedule around her very busy sports schedule, and my parents have confessed that they really miss her at these get-togethers. And here’s the icing on the cake: her mom makes her a plate of food “to go” without asking if it’s okay. My mom and one of my sisters-in-law put a lot of time and effort into this meal and both are annoyed by this behavior, reasoning that if the kid doesn’t want to join us, then she shouldn’t get the food either.

I understand it might not be realistic to force a teenager to come to a family gathering, and I get that I’m not her parent, which further limits my ability to do anything about this. I’ve sent her texts telling her that we miss her (sometimes I hear back, but often I don’t). I’m just trying to figure out what can be done here to encourage her to attend or else to help my parents deal with their disappointment and my mother’s irritation at her daughter-in-law’s annoying habit of taking food home for the kid.

—Surely She is Capable of Feeding Herself


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