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Mom Refuses To ‘Downgrade’ Family Hike To Accommodate Son’s Out-Of-Shape New Girlfriend

Family group on a hike
piola666/Getty Images

When a new partner comes into the picture, some families will be incredibly welcoming and try to include their new member in everything.

But that can be hard if the partner doesn’t share the same interests, agreed the “Am I the A**hole?” (AITA) subReddit.

While finalizing their plans for Christmas, Redditor ViolinistOk9892 was surprised when her son expressed an interest in changing the family’s tradition of taking a morning hike.

When he continued to persist, the Original Poster (OP) wondered if she was wrong to tell him no.

She asked the sub:

“AITA for not downgrading the family pre-feast hike on Christmas morning for my son’s girlfriend?”

The OP’s family shared a long-term Christmas tradition. 

“Ever since I can remember, our family has always gone on a hike on the morning of Christmas. We did it all through my childhood, my husband’s family did it, and my friend’s families are similar, though for some it’s just a walk, or some go into the city and do an easy 5 or 10k run.”

“My son Porter has been dating Emily for the past 6 months. I’m happy she’s going to join us. They’re coming from the city about 3 hours away so they’ll be staying overnight.”

“I’ve met Emily before and think she’s a great match for Porter. I know there’s all that hoopla about the Mother-in-Law (MIL)/Daughter-in-Law (DIL) dynamic and I just have no time for any of that. If Porter likes her and she treats him with kindness, and he is the same, who am I to complain?”

But the OP was surprised when the couple seemed less than enthused by the holiday plans.

“I skyped with them on Thanksgiving, just making plans for who’s bringing what for Christmas, gifts, and such.”

“I also mentioned that she should remember to bring her hiking boots but we’ll have plenty of Yaktrax if the trails are icy.”

“She was visibly confused and asked what for, so I explained. She got quiet and asked if she had to.”

“I said no, of course she doesn’t have to, but we’ve always done this and I was surprised Porter didn’t mention it.”

The OP’s confusion increased during a later phone call.

“The next day, Porter called and explained that Emily is not in great shape and would struggle with keeping up, even on one of the easier trails nearby.”

“He said that maybe we can just do a nice short family walk in the neighborhood this year so she feels more welcome.”

“I said that maybe the two of them can hang back and enjoy a nice quiet morning before the festivities begin while the rest of us go for the hike.”

“I remember being young with Porter’s father and how special those early Christmas mornings always were.”

“Plus, this will be her first time with the family and it’s going to be a LOT.”

The OP wasn’t sure what to think.

“Porter got annoyed and said I’m not hearing him. He said that he really thinks we need to cut the hike down or make different plans.”

“I told him in return that this is a family tradition that goes back for years, and changing it for one person isn’t fair to the rest of the family.”

“We’re at a stalemate. I even said that if they hang back for the morning, I’d be happy to go on a nice walk with Emily and Porter later in the day during a quiet moment.”

“He said I’m still not hearing him.”

“AITA for not being willing to downgrade the hike to a little stroll around the neighborhood?”

Fellow Redditors weighed in:

  • NTA: Not the A**hole
  • YTA: You’re the A**hole
  • ESH: Everybody Sucks Here
  • NAH: No A**holes Here

Some agreed there were other options besides “downgrading” the hike.

“I think ‘she is embarrassed’ is what he is trying to say OP isn’t hearing. Anything other than the Emily being able to participate fully means she will be embarrassed, and so he thinks the entire family should accommodate her, rather than them (her) stand out because they aren’t participating.”

“What he isn’t grasping is that far more attention will be called to the fact that Emily is out of shape if everyone is asking why the hike isnt happening like it always does, rather than them just playing the young couple wanting some space card.” – TheDudette840

“If another family member or two decide to stay back for an alternative, like watching a Christmas movie, or playing board games, that could take the focus off her not being comfortable, and make opting out in favor of an alternative activity the focus.”

“This will keep happening as OP’s family expands with new spouses and children. It probably should start now.”

“I know if my partner’s family had what really feels like a mandatory activity that I wouldn’t want or wasn’t able to do, I’d just send them off to their family alone, and stay home. I’d dread the activity and worry about what people think of me for ‘ruining’ a tradition.” – cubemissy

“As someone who has lost over 250 pounds, I definitely couldn’t have participated in a 5-mile hike when I was obese, hell – I’d be out of breath from walking to my car in the parking lot outside work. These days I walk 5k every single evening.”

“But at my biggest, I still wouldn’t have dreamed of having everyone else adapt to me. Everyone changing their plans because I’m too fat to participate? No thank you.”

“If anything, that would just highlight exactly what they’re trying to avoid. Just say, ‘I think we’ll skip the hike this year, we want to have some alone time’ or whatever. It doesnt have to be complicated.” – RoundishWaterfall

“Heck, they could start on the big hike, hang back, spend some one-on-one time with each other, and catch the group on the way back. She doesn’t have to overdo herself and still gets to enjoy family time.”

“Or they could make breakfast for everyone to enjoy when they get back? Hot cocoa?”

“There are compromises to be made here without anyone feeling bad.” – Aurora_Gory_Alice

“I hate hiking and I’m not in the shape for it. Personally, I would be embarrassed if my boyfriend asked his whole family to dump their yearly tradition to accommodate me. I would either take the chance to sleep in so my boyfriend could go, or hang with my boyfriend alone if he didn’t want to leave me by myself.” – Kuromi87

“I had a really similar situation last summer to Emily when I went to Yosemite with my in-laws. They are all very fit and LOVE hiking. I’m overweight, but not completely unfit.”

“When we went to Yosemite, they wanted to do a 6-mile hike to a waterfall. I opted for a leisurely stroll through a historic cemetery and a few hours in the Ansel Adams museum which was heaven.”

“I cherish those moments alone when I’m on trips with my bf’s family. I love spending time with them, but I need time to recharge, too.” – UrSmarterThanILook

“My mom would just explain: She’s your girlfriend, honey, not mine. So you manage and you support her needs and let me please enjoy the holiday as I’ve done in the past. I don’t have a girlfriend to impress, okay?” – AndSoItGoes24

“NTA at all. I hate hiking so hiking on Christmas morning sounds like a special h**l to me but I’d love to just hang back with my boyfriend and steal a couple of hours to ourselves in the morning instead.”

“I wonder if this ‘downgrade the hike!’ is really coming from Emily or if it’s just what Porter assumes she wants.” – Primary-Lion-6088

Others also wondered if this had more to do with Porter than his girlfriend.

“I think Porter’s confused. You heard him and you’re offering two compromises.” – runbikerace

“I want to know why Porter didn’t mention this before now to his girlfriend. Instead, she’s heard it from his mom and is unexpectedly feeling not included. I don’t think his mom is at fault, I think Porter is and is frantically backtracking for not preemptively having a plan in place for him and Emily to do something on their own.”

“Or else Porter doesn’t want to miss out on the tradition, so thinks everyone should plan around him. I’m unconvinced that Emily is the issue here.”

“I can imagine being Emily and feeling like they are talking about a hike that needs some sort of special equipment, and my boyfriend didn’t think to maybe mention this was an expectation. I would be stressing about not making a good impression if I couldn’t participate in this family tradition that he didn’t bother to prepare me for.”

“He really should have been like, ‘Yeah, my family normally does a hike, but I thought we would do a romantic activity, just for us, and then see if anyone wants to join us for a gentle stroll later in the day.'” – LiliTu9Tails

“I bet Emily feels not just unincluded but unprepared, like she might not be as good a fit for Porter’s family as she may have thought if this was something so inconsequential that they mentioned it offhand.”

“There’s a h**luva difference between my loved ones who default to bringing hiking boots and those who don’t, and that’s a lifestyle difference.” – Crackinggood

“Even if no one was upset and no one mentioned not going hiking, it would still be the elephant in the room. It would be so uncomfortable for the girlfriend, knowing she was the reason they were all staying home if they canceled.”

“Plus, a little alone time to adjust to being in a new place is nice. If the girlfriend doesn’t feel pressured, or embarrassed by making everyone give up the tradition, she might be inspired to get in better shape before next year (if she wants to get involved in the hike, that is).”

“I’m not sure why Porter objects to staying home with his girlfriend for the morning. Perhaps he’s hoping for an end to the tradition because he doesn’t like it and is using her as an excuse.” – naughtyzoot

“I think it’s what Porter wants and he’s happy to throw Emily under the bus to get his way.”

“Maybe that’s why he’s so hung up on not being ‘heard.’ He doesn’t want OP to hear that Emily will struggle, despite that being what he is saying. He wants OP to hear that he doesn’t want to do the hike for whatever reason and expects the whole family to accommodate that, but he also wants it to be anyone’s fault but his that he wants that.”

“After all, as others have noted, it’s curious this never came up at any point once it was determined Emily was coming for Christmas. And six months isn’t a huge amount of time to be insisting the family change their tradition instead of Emily and Porter adapting it to suit them.”

“I don’t know. Maybe it is all just as Porter says but it does feel to me like this is less about what Emily wants and more about him being done with the tradition and that somehow meaning everyone else has to be done with it (at least in its current form) too.” – shadowofshinra

While the subReddit could understand wanting everyone to be involved in this family tradition, they also thought that giving Emily a way out could be much more helpful to her than changing the nature of the hike.

As some pointed out, the family would be more likely to gesture to Emily’s fitness level if the hike was changed for everyone, rather than offering Emily an alternative activity.

Written by McKenzie Lynn Tozan

McKenzie Lynn Tozan lives in North Chicago, where she works as a poet, freelance writer, and editor. She received her MFA in Creative Writing from Western Michigan University, and her BA in English from Indiana University South Bend. Her poems have appeared in Rogue Agent, Whale Road Review, the James Franco Review, Thank You for Swallowing, and elsewhere; and her essays and book reviews have appeared with Memoir Mixtapes, The Rumpus, BookPage, and Motherly, among others. When she's not reading and writing, she's in her garden or spending time with her family. For more, visit