DEAR HARRIETTE: I woke up to a text message from my stepfather to all of my siblings about going to Scotland with him. My job is strenuous and I do not have many vacation days, and I would rather use them in a different way. How can I reject his generous offer to pay for a vacation for me? I know how kind this offer is; I just know I would not enjoy myself in the slightest on his strict schedule of “family bonding.” -- No Go, Dallas
DEAR NO GO: Can I play devil’s advocate here for a moment? While you currently don’t like the idea of this vacation, I wonder if you would reconsider it. This may be the only time that your entire family will travel together again. It is not easy to coordinate such a large group. Consider creating guidelines for yourself that include time alone. You can discuss all of this with your stepfather so that he understands your apprehension.
More, when on the trip, you can be clear that a part of each day you need to spend by yourself. Even if some family members do not like that, you can graciously stand your ground.
That said, if you are intent on not going, thank your stepfather for his idea and for his generous offer. Tell him that you are so sorry, but you cannot join. Leave out that you do not want to attend. There’s no reason to hurt his feelings. Clearly, he is trying to connect with all of you. Just say it’s not possible for you to join the family, and you wish them the best trip possible.
(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)