Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Real Talk With Rachel:Making Sure the Dramatics Stay on Stage

by Rachel Kurzius

Dear Rachel,

My entire family (my wife, myself and our three high school and college-aged kids) have all blocked off time in our busy schedules to see a show at the Kennedy Center together and get a nice dinner before. We are very excited because we very rarely get a chance to spend time together as a family.

We just learned that my in-laws who live nearby have decided to also buy tickets to this show. Let me just say that my wife’s parents are no walk in the park and always make things very difficult.

We found that a bit annoying but it's a free country, so they can buy tickets to whatever show they want. But now they are trying to hijack our plans. They want to do dinner after the show instead of before and they keep nagging my wife about how this is their one chance to see all the kids together.

How do we tell them that they're ruining our special night?

Theater Crashee

Dear Theater Crashee,

Your plans sound fabulous. I am very jealous. You should do all in your power to avoid letting your in-laws trounce all over your special evening.

There's no need to tell your in-laws that they're ruining your exciting night, because they won't, so long as you're firm. You (more specifically your wife, because they're her parents after all*) can just firmly say, "No." Tell them you've already made plans that your family has been anticipating and that you won't reschedule. It's as simple as that.

You don't have to be heartless, though. Right after you smack them with that stick, I recommend giving them a nice carrot. Perhaps drinks after the show (with your high schooler drinking soda) or a similar activity. Don't even give them time to respond to the refusal before you offer them an opportunity to see all of you together right after the show. That way, you can all discuss what you just saw and there's no requisite amount of time your kids will need to spend.

From the way you've worded your letter, it sounds like you've been steamrolled by these folks in the past. Don't let it happen this time. You can accommodate the in-laws without having them completely rearrange your family’s vision of the evening.

And when you do spend that time after the show out for drinks with them, try to enjoy yourself instead of feeling resentful that they’ve snookered you yet again. You might be surprised by their theater reviews!

All my best,


*There is one exception to the “blood relation” rule -- if your wife doesn’t feel that she’ll be able to stand her ground against her parents, then you might want to be the one to present this compromise. You’ll only have one chance to do it without hurting feelings.


Rachel Kurzius revels in giving advice, and has provided counsel both as a columnist and a friend. She lives in Washington DC, where she works as a news producer. Real Talk with Rachel is published on All Life is Local and the Cleveland Park Listserv,, on Wednesdays. Need advice? You can write to Rachel via or advice @

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