#704: Planning family trips when there is one difficult traveler who complains about all of the plans.

I read this post, and I read some of the conversations going on in the comment section, and one thought sticks out to me: You have the option of simply refusing to plan any more family vacations.

It’s sort of a Nuclear Option, but ultimately no one can force you to be the Family Vacation Planner. If other family members cannot learn how to Internet, then they can try planning a trip by phone. If they cannot learn the skills involved in planning a trip, then they don’t need to go on trips. If they are adults, they should be able to make their own plans or be comfortable in their boredom.

There are certain ideas at play in the discussion that may or may not lower the overall level of stress for the vacation. You can allow plenty of Do Nothing Time in each day, and that may or may not result in Mom insisting on doing something absurd and then pitching a fit when you point out that the laws of physics do not provide the necessary circumstances. (I still support the inclusion of Do Nothing time. Sometimes, Nothing is the best thing to do.) You can try and appoint a Mom Buffer, and there may or may not be an individual in the family group who is capable of managing your mother’s assholery that way.

Because that’s what I’m getting, if the letter isn’t outright lying: your mother is an asshole. She wants to be in control, but she doesn’t want to do the work. She wants all the fun of spontaneity with all the security of advance planning. Experience should have taught her by now that she can’t have it both ways. You’ve suggested that maybe she can stay home, and she refuses to stay the fuck home. And she wants to hold you responsible when shit doesn’t work out the way she envisions at the very last, impractical minute. She isn’t polite about her frustration, either. Sounds more than old enough to know better, too. Asshole.

Furthermore, the letter sounds like the rest of the family (and just how many grown-ass adults are in this group?) are completely unhelpful in getting between your mother’s personality issues and your insecurities. This can happen. Sometimes an especially strong personality develops power over the family unit for no good reason, and everyone else can just forget about ever pointing out that the strong personality is full of shit. Your mother sounds like that strong personality. You can’t change her, but you can withdraw.

It may help to keep in mind, as some commenters have suggested, that you cannot make everyone happy no matter how diligent a planner you are. That may lower your anxiety level just a bit. But you know your family dynamics better than we do, and you know whether your mother will find a way to punish you for having stopped trying.

This is basically my approach to most family dysfunctions. “You can’t make anyone respect you, but you can pull away!” Sometimes the only power we have over someone is the power to deny them the joy of your presence. Adulthood means we can choose who gets to enjoy our company.

This may be why I spend so much time alone. I have plenty of hobbies, though, so alone is good enough.

Seriously, though, how are there no other adults in this family who know how to Internet? Join the goddamn 21st century or get out of the way of those who have.


Hi Captain!

I’m going to be going on a vacation with my family soon. We are visiting multiple countries in Europe. I have planned every detail of the entire vacation because I plan all the complicated travel that our family does. No one else knows how to internet and I’ve been on a lot of trips by myself and have a lot of experience with them.

The problem is my mom. My mom does not really like to go out, let alone go on expensive trips, but she’s going anyways because of the family culture and I already know she’s going to complain about everything. (She’s done it before, on other trips I planned.) I feel bad for her- we suggested to her that she stay home several times, but she refused- but I also feel very attacked and unhappy when she starts to criticize the things that I spent…

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Alyson the Incorrigible of House Miers; High Priestess of Sparkly Fractal Flames; Summoner of Creative Insults; Wrangler of Adverbs, Semicolons and Conditional Clauses; Bane of Euphemisms; Mixer of Genres; and Mother of Witches.