My extended family is in the middle of some rather petty drama about visits and such. My mother is having problems with the fact that she’s not connecting well with her grandkids, who she sees every few weeks, on average. My nephew and niece are both teenagers - I think my niece at 13 would have difficulty connecting with anyone in their 70s just because of young adolescence. My sister and kids live 30 minutes from my mother, and she is usually laying guilt trips about them never coming out to see her. (They do, only occasionally.) The kids have school, activities, sports, jobs, and so do my sister and brother-in-law, as well as taking care of my brother-in-law’s 80-something-year-old ill father, so they’re balancing quite a bit.

I realize my mother is lonely, and my sister and brother-in-law are hardly perfect- they are both sometimes tactless, sometimes very unreliable, and once or twice blatantly inconsiderate. However, for people who have their own family, they do always come to my mom’s for Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas - only one year did they suggest having it themselves. I live 500 miles away and usually visit about 3 times a year. This strikes me as quite a lot - most of my married friends trade off holidays and see their parents at other times of the year, but only every few years for Christmas, for example. Or their parents come to see them, which my mother doesn’t like doing. She says it’s not enjoyable, but I suspect it’s partially a control thing. She did say once that after my grandmother died, she thought the extended family would revolve around her. I told her that if that were true, how could she expect us to have our own families, given that her needs are supposed to come first? Roads run both ways, but I wonder how much attention should be paid to my mom’s complaints that she’s the one who has to go see them, given how far away some families are.

How often is normal for seeing your extended family, assuming you’re in touch?