I'm slowly reading through the comments, and am finding them very helpful. And I'm feeling lucky, too, because it sounds like many of your parents felt like each time with you, or each big event, was very high-stakes. I don't. We're each going to see them all the time. Literally, as close to every day as practical with our jobs and locations. So there's no reason in my mind to fight or make them choose about holidays and events and stuff like that.
I grew up seeing my paternal grandfather at least twice a week, and going to his house and playing with him all day long. It wasn't until I was much older that I found out that my grandfather had been viciously mean to my mother and they had a hard time being nice to each other. So I grew up with that example, that even if my mother didn't want to spend time with my grandfather, she knew he was important to us and that he would never deliberately hurt us, and that he could be someone with us that he didn't have the ability to be with her. So she let us spend as much time as we wanted to with him. And she was able to protect us from knowing the tension and pain in their relationship until we were old enough to be able to understand it without taking it on ourselves.
The whole point for me is to stop them from being steeped in dysfunction, and let them grow up seeing functional relationships. Which is a segue into hydrogeek's comment, and what I hope we can talk about today:
"Sorta on this topic, though, it seems like the generation of people who are responsible for their kids and increasingly, their parents, have the short stick. I know this is nothing new, except possibly the fact that people are living longer and longer, so there are more generations alive at the same time. (We have 4 generations on 3 sides of the family right now!) While this is awesome in some respects, because my kids get to know their great-grandparents, it does cause this whole new set of stresses. Any chance of a post about that?"
Enu and other brought this up when we were talking about adult-child relationship a few weeks ago. And I don't have any answers. My parents are caught between elderly mothers and adult children going through major transitions. At the same time, I'm caught between my kids and my parents and our shifting relationships. If we all lived together it would be much easier to deal with the physical things (medical stuff, babysitting, etc.) but probably way more complicated emotionally. In general, I think my family has it pretty easy because we're all able to acknowledge each others' whole person as we deal with stuff.
But what do you have to say? What conflicts and tensions are you going through, being caught between conflicting needs? Are the problems mostly logistical or emotional? Is the transition of power and decision-making easy for your family, or a huge source of tension?