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Calendar gridlocks aggravate schedulers

| Sunday, Nov. 3, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Dear Carolyn:

I have three children under 8. Last summer, my niece and nephew both participated in travel sports, which took up nearly every weekend.

I know each family should do what is best for them, but this affects our entire family. Our parents are getting older and cherish seeing all of us together. I tried to put together a Mother's Day brunch, but it was the first tournament of the year for both kids. For our parents' 55th anniversary, my sister said the best they could do is a family dinner on a Tuesday.

I wish I could explain to her that fitness and sports are important, but she is encouraging her kids to sacrifice family time. My kids are in sports, too, but they are not nearly to this level of crazed involvement.

Should I discuss this issue with her,? How much should I visit my parents to make up for her absence?

— Sister Overbooks

Please stop making this about your sister's priorities. Judging her will only escalate this into a much deeper, more hurtful feud. Not to mention guarantee that one of your children will blossom into a surprising talent at some Time Consuming Pursuit, and you will be snacking on your current outrage till your own 55th.

Instead, ask your sister to join you, calendars in hand, in finding dates the whole family can get together.

Even without travel athletes, it's typical for three separate families to have a hard time lining up their free time, and that gives you two choices. You can insist on special dates and open yourself to all kinds of frustration, or you can embrace the idea that sometimes Christmas will be in January and your parents' anniversary will come a month late.

You, after all, in a way are sacrificing family time by insisting that you honor your mother only on Mother's Day instead of choosing a workable date.

Re: Sister:

But it really means one family controls the dates because they are sobooked. We specifically keep a few weekends free to catch up on errands, relax, etc., but my family member gets annoyed when we don't jump at the few days (hours) his family is actually available outside of their sports commitments. Frustrating!

— Anonymous

Sure, the busier people do drive the schedule, but that's just life, and the bigger person doesn't bean-count.

Some pursuits are more time-consuming than others. Is that cause for judging? Some families have more kids and, therefore, more stuff on their calendars. Is that cause for judging? Some people enjoy active weekends more than they do relaxing. Is that cause for judging?

It's a no-win, so I strongly advise no-play.

In your case, the problem isn't overbooking, it's your family member's annoyance, which is bean-counting, as well. Dropping the huffiness is his bigger-person prescription, and he's not taking it.

Still, the response to that is to say, “Hey, we all do what we can — we'll make it work next time.”

Email Carolyn Hax at tellme@washpost.com, or chat with her online at noon each Friday at www.washingtonpost.com.

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