On the couch with Janet Ellis

Novelist, grandmother of four and ex-Blue Peter presenter, Janet Ellis, 62, answers your questions . . 

Q: I have just found out that I haven’t been invited on a family holiday. My daughter has booked a week away in France next year with her husband and two children — and his parents are also coming.

It came up out of the blue when we were all having Christmas drinks last week. The in-laws casually started talking about it in front of me. I was so offended — especially as they’ve been away together before.

Usually, we share childcare for the grandchildren, who are both under five.

My husband has told me to stay out of it, but I can’t help feeling hurt at being excluded. What do I do?

An anonymous reader asked for advice on being left out of a family holiday (file image)

A: Before the grandchildren arrive, most of us imagine that we will be the sort of grandparents who want to share the joy with everyone. But if a grandparent pops up, claiming First Smile, Most Inherited Traits, Most Quality Time Together, it’s hard to stay calm.

It’s great that you’re all able to get together for drinks. Sharing childcare is admirable (your lucky daughter!), but it doesn’t seem to have encouraged openness. It’s a shame there’s all this subterfuge behind your back.

Is there any such thing as a truly casual conversation? I have no doubt that your son-in-law’s parents knew what they were doing when they brought up the subject.

They were probably confident your husband’s head-in-the-sand attitude would triumph over any fuss you might want to make.

You didn’t object when they all went away together before, but I suspect you thought your daughter would reward your tolerant attitude with a treat of your own.

You’d hadn’t reckoned on her mother-in-law’s not-so-subtle muscling in. She must have suggested they repeat their holiday experience a while ago, with enough time to make plans.

You don’t want to make things awkward for your daughter, but you do need to tell her which part of this arrangement upsets you.

Janet Ellis (pictured) advised the reader to share her feelings with her daughter and to suggest occasions to spend time together

Janet Ellis (pictured) advised the reader to share her feelings with her daughter and to suggest occasions to spend time together

My guess is that it’s less about not being invited — do you really want to go on holiday with your daughter’s in-laws? — and more about not knowing about the plan in advance.

Your daughter may well have an agenda: having the grandparents around on holiday means extra childcare and babysitting. She might have been thinking that wouldn’t be much of a holiday for you.

But being with your grandchildren when no one has to rush out of the door and you can all relax together is delightful.

Tell your daughter you’d love to holiday with them next time, not because it’s your turn, or to make a point, but because it would be fun. Come ready with some suggestions.

As they get older, your grandchildren will discover what each set of grandparents has to offer, but you won’t want them being forced to take sides. Lead by example and keep the peace.

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