Dear Extended Family,

It’s come to my attention that many of you have been using the LeClair Family Newsletter, written and sent out by my mother each holiday season, as your primary source of information on our life updates. Normally I ignore this habit of hers completely, but while I was home over Thanksgiving I happened to see a copy of it sitting in my parents’ dusty printer tray, so I decided to actually read it for once. Now, I don’t want to upset you when I tell you this, but the letter is filled with fake news.

You might be thinking, what do you mean “fake news”? What I mean is that my mother has been intentionally lying about how my siblings and I are doing, particularly those of us who are out of college and in our twenties, so that we seem to be doing better than we actually are.

For example, my mother wrote that Chris is “considering accepting a position at an engineering firm in Denver.” Unfortunately, that is a bit too generous. Chris actually still has yet to use his engineering degree, and currently works at a ski resort operating the chairlift so he can get a free season pass. Mom also said in her letter that he’s “more spiritual these days” which just means he uses incense to cover up the smell of weed in his apartment when she and Dad come to visit.

You might have read that Meredith is taking a few months sabbatical from her job at a startup to “do some soul searching.” I really wish this was the case, and I hate to break it to you this way, but actually she was laid off. As it turns out, people don’t need an app to help them decide which laundromat to use. She’ll bounce back but for now she’s spending most of her time rewatching Gilmore Girls and eating a lot of “cheese on cheese sandwiches” (that’s a cheese sandwich where you also use cheese as bread slices), which Mom has falsely referred to as a “cleanse.”

Now, I know it’s probably shocking to hear that my mother is an unreliable source of information on her own family. For some of you, she’s your sister. You trusted her! But the truth is that my mom has some biases and personal agendas that you all need to be aware of. Many of you are lawyers, doctors, and executives, and Mom feels the need to impress you at any cost. She even went so far as to say that I’m “on a diligent search for the one” when she knows very well that’s only true if “the one” refers to a house plant that thrives in low light.

Don’t get me wrong — I wish we were doing as great as Mom says we are! But I need to set the record straight on a few more things: Mom’s “new quilting hobby” is presently just a bag of fabric scraps; Dad ran uncontested on his “underdog campaign for city council”; Maisy the dog’s “classic mischief” has expanded to include eating the crotches out of everyone’s underwear; and I suppose it’s worth noting that the one factually accurate statement Mom made is that AJ is “a sophomore at Fordham.” But I think we could all agree that his grades could be a lot better.

The good news is that learning the truth is within your control. I urge you first to confront my mother by calling her on our landline. Your calls will make a difference. And second, you need to educate yourself. I want to empower you to seek out primary sources yourself, simply by asking my siblings and I how we are doing at the next family gathering. Talking to each other and really listening is the key to stopping this fake family news from spreading. Together, we can push my mother’s newsletter to be more honest and become better-informed family members.

Finally, I just want to say that I’m sure you’re all wary that you can’t trust my letter either. In a family where holiday notes are filled with faux pleasantries and airbrushed realities designed to maintain appearances, I understand that you might not know what or who to believe. But I want you to know that I’ve called each of my siblings to fact check what I’ve written. I value the integrity of this letter and I want you to consider me a trusted source of information about our family. Plus, I think we can agree that this letter is not being written for my own benefit.

I really look forward to putting the newsletters aside and having some great face to face conversations with all of you at the Christmas Eve party this year. I’m making eggnog!