Carolyn Hax: Wedding attendance and family devotion

DEAR CAROLYN: A couple of years ago, when my two nieces married, I organized my two sons and flew cross-country to attend their weddings.

This year, my son is getting married and my sister is blowing it off. She said she’s too busy with her job as a teacher, but I note they’ve taken midyear golf vacations.

I am considering phoning her to say it’s a family duty, but my son’s fiancée said if they aren’t enthusiastic, then she doesn’t want them at the wedding anyway.

Should I guilt my sister into coming, or realize that our family isn’t as tight as I once thought?

– R.

DEAR R.: When you offer up “guilt (someone) into (something)” as one of only two choices, then you make mine the easiest job ever.

This is not an either-or question, though. Families are too complicated for that. So are people, finances, travel, careers and a few other relevant things.

Just for starters, while it’s wonderful and important that you and your boys rallied for these weddings – and while I completely get your hurt feelings – it’s not fair to unilaterally set “travel cross-country for weddings” as the bar your sister must clear to prove her family devotion.

You give your way, she gives hers, and over time, you both adjust your ends of the give-and-take as you deem fit.

Then there’s the fact that you can’t fully know what her circumstances are, nor can you extrapolate from those golf vacations. Maybe they’re broke now. Maybe cutbacks have her in fear for her job.

Then there’s the fact that guilt drives people apart faster than just about any emotional choice you can make. If it’s so important to have your sister there, or if you found her “no” dismissive, then call her to talk with, not lecture, her.

If her answer is still “no” after further discussion, then decide which befits a “tight” family – to judge or punish her for it, or to choose not to.

My advice? Keep the door propped open. Family priorities have a way of shifting with time.

DEAR CAROLYN: My husband and I have a 2-year-old daughter. Ever since she was about 18 months, I keep getting asked when we will have another child. Family, friends, acquaintances and even strangers ask me.

I normally wouldn’t let this get to me, but we actually have been trying to conceive for a year, and we’ve been heartbreakingly unsuccessful. How can I put an end to people’s questions without being rude?

– Trying to Wait Patiently

DEAR TRYING: “Oh, my, what a loaded question.” It is, and it shouldn’t be asked – or answered – and this is a way of making both of those points that is as polite as you need to be.