Dear Amy: My wife, children and I were invited to my sister’s home for a holiday family dinner with about 20 other relatives.
The dinner hour was made known to us in advance and, as we live several states away and had an unavoidable activity for our son that morning, we let my sister know that we would arrive as close to the dinner hour as possible.
Well, we hit traffic and were late by 30 minutes. We had been in near-constant contact with my sister throughout, so she was aware of the fact that we were running behind.
When we arrived, the entire group was outside the home, engaged in an activity, and we were told, “The leftovers are in the kitchen.”
My family ended up standing in the kitchen, picking at cold leftovers and making the best of it.
We stayed calm but internally we were upset that the group saw fit to eat without us, knowing that we were on the way.
I realize that the food was served when hot and that we were the ones who were late. Does the fact that the hostess invited us and knew we were running late justify our hurt at the group not waiting for us to participate in a family dinner, or are we overreacting to an unfortunate situation? Cold Turkey in Maryland
Dear Cold Turkey: I think it’s reasonable to expect a person to delay a dinner for a few minutes if you are caught in traffic and have let them know your exact ETA, which, these days, is very easy to do, down to the minute.
However, your expectation that your sister would hold a dinner for 20 people is impolite on your part. Some families run on a very tight timetable, where others are super-loose. You no doubt already know which category your family falls into.
You were the people running late. Your message to your sister should have been: “We’re so sorry. We don’t want to inconvenience everyone else; please go ahead, and we’ll catch up when we get there.”
I’m not sure why you and your family would choose to stand in the kitchen, internally sulking, when you could have taken your plates outside and enjoyed the fine Maryland weather along with your other relatives. Arriving late is one thing, but you don’t get to sulk when you do.