About these ads

#478: RSVP/Invitation Etiquette

Cap’n! 

I have a question about RSVP etiquette and other people’s family drama.

Two other friends (A and B) and I are throwing a baby shower for a third friend (C). We’re inviting friends and any of C’s extended family who live locally and decided to throw it at A’s place, because she has the most space and the most central location. When we started getting RSVPs, a few people asked if kids were welcome, and after a discussion, A decided she wasn’t comfortable opening her home to small children she didn’t know. B and I suggested an age restriction and she agreed, so I handled these RSVPs as diplomatically as possible. And most people were really great about it!

BUT! A rather dramatic relative of C’s sent me an email RSVP with a kind of wheedling “Can my 4-y/o daughter come? She looooooves showers.” I sent her my usual response: “So glad you are coming! As for kids, we do have an age restriction — no kids under 10 — because A’s home isn’t very child friendly and we want everyone to have a safe and fun time, hope this answers your question!” I thought her response was kind of snitty (“WELL, my child is VERY WELL BEHAVED but I guess I can’t argue”). I let C know in case this relative took it out on her, and she didn’t think it would, but thanked me for handling it.

Today, C’s relative sent her a really long and dramatic email, essentially guilt-tripping her for our decision not to let kids at the shower, and saying that their grandmother (who is coming) would be very disappointed in C if she let us ban her child from coming since she never got to see her, and why won’t C intercede? C’s response nicely but firmly backed me and A up, and she let us know in case her relative made further trouble for A, B, and me.

I am so irritated that this woman went behind my back and hassled my sweet, 8-mos pregnant friend AND made sweet, accommodating A feel like a shit all in one swell foop. 

So, what the hell, Captain? 

1) Is it unreasonable not to welcome children to a baby shower? I love kids — I am a teacher and a doting auntie, after all — but I think we are within our rights here to make this grownups only.

2) If this woman contacts me again, what can I say that is both polite but firm, without contributing to further family drama for C? I literally do not know this relative. 

3) No, seriously, WHAT THE HELL?

Let me tell you “What the hell”-

You guys handled this correctly by figuring out your own boundaries and making them clear to people, and your friend C. handled this correctly by backing you up. Traveling Grandma wants to see four  year old on her visit? Not your problem. Grandma “never gets to see her?” REALLY not your problem, or C’s problem. Mother of four year old needs to possibly make childcare arrangements so that she can attend? Not your problem.* If the mom of the four year old decided that she doesn’t want to go to an event unless she can bring her daughter? Cool. Not your problem. You guys focus on throwing a nice party for your friend, and let other people work out their family stuff. I assume that as a family they know how to call each other and arrange get-togethers, and C. sounds like she’s pretty great at the boundaries stuff.

If this lady contacts you again (!), one strategy is just to ignore it. She’s been told “no,” what, at least two or three times? And there is nothing you can say that won’t create drama – she’s already creating the drama and that’s not on you. I mean, is this a 24-hour shower, with all participants locked into a room for the duration? There is no time that Grandma couldn’t visit with the little girl before or afterward? Someone is lacking perspective here, and it isn’t you.

What you actually need to prepare yourself for is this: There is a strong chance that she will bring the little girl anyway. A coloring book and a set of washable, non-toxic crayons might be a better investment than asking a guest (no matter how importunate) to leave a party, even if you’d be within your rights to do so.

I hope it’s a good time, and that it is drama-free.

In general, when someone invites you to an event and stipulates some things about that event (start & end time, location, dress code, financial expectations, are kids welcome, etc.) you get to decide if this is in fact the event for you. It’s okay, if the invitation doesn’t specify either way, to ask for clarification. For example, the people who initially asked you if children were welcome were not out of line! My friends with small children are pretty great at saying “We’d love to come if we can get a babysitter” or “Could we do it at our house instead, so we don’t have to get a babysitter?” and everyone works it out. Sometimes I have this issue not with kids but with money, as in, I’d love to go to that amazingly-planned bachelorette dinner, but $50 + drinks + cabfare home to the Sunny South Side isn’t in my budget right now, so I must decline and trust that I will see my friends another day/another way. I think the people who get really hung up on This Particular Event are people who don’t trust the strength of their relationships and treat every interaction or event like a referendum on how much they are loved. That’s not something you, kind not-related-to-these-people party thrower, can really solve for them. Parties shouldn’t be guilt-fests.

*I’ve known marrying couples who have guests with kids coming in from out of town for the wedding to help arrange childcare so that the parents can come to a no-kids party, which is a very nice thing to do if you can swing it! But it’s not a requirement, and it’s definitely not even close to a requirement here.

About these ads
314 comments
  1. Michelle said:

    “Sometimes I have this issue not with kids but with money, as in, I’d love to go to that amazingly-planned bachelorette dinner, but $50 + drinks isn’t in my budget right now, so I must decline and trust that I will see my friends another day/another way. I think the people who get really hung up on This Particular Event are people who don’t trust the strength of their relationships and treat every interaction or event like a referendum on how much they are loved.”

    Ouch. Yeah, pretty much this in my case. I’ve often noticed how I feel compelled to attend every get-together my generally-wealthier-than-me friends put together, even when I can’t afford to, and that’s probably a good part of why. I spent a good part of my early adult life feeling lonely for various reasons, and now the thought of not going to something I’ve been invited to is anathema. It’d be good for my mindset and great for my wallet if I could get over this and remember I’ve got real friends now.

    • JenniferP said:

      A good thing to keep in mind: They will miss you, but have a good time without you. They will be happy to see you next time they do. Both of these things can be true! Awkwardness comes when you try to bend the event to your needs (either asking them to change venue or going but worrying about money the whole time) instead of just deciding yes/no and committing fully to that.

      Also, the first-ever question on the blog was about this very topic!

    • Jake said:

      I think it can be okay to even be upfront with your friends about why, because that sets the boundaries for your suggested hangout. I’ve had the following interaction:

      Friend: “Hey, wanna come to $expensive_event?”

      Me: “Sorry, I can’t make it to $expensive_event. Oh hey, let’s hang out on $other_day instead”

      Friend: “Cool, we moved $expensive_event to $other_day! Now you can make it!”

      Me: ….

      Don’t let that happen to you! Tell your friend why expensive event doesn’t work for you!

      • Sheelzebub said:

        This. “I’d love to, but it’s out of my budget” is a perfectly valid answer.

      • JamesK said:

        My personal dilemna is that our group of friends always meet in a city which is about one and a half hours away from where I live by public transport, so we end up meeting up perhaps every other month BUT when we meet up it’s preplanned and so difficult to rearrange. Still trying to work out exactly how to negotiate that one – I suspect it will mean meeting up less often (which is sad).

        • Jake said:

          I’m sort of in that situation too. Two and a half years ago I moved to a city that’s a couple hours away from all my friends by transit. My solution was partly to see my friends less often, and partly to make a real effort to meet new people in my new city so I wasn’t lonely all the time. It’s sad to be apart from my old friends, but after two years of really working at it, I’ve managed to make some pretty cool new friends.

        • Shannon said:

          I have this same problem with my friends. I live in a suburb outside of Tulsa, Oklahoma that is AT MOST 15 minutes from where any of my friends live. You would think I lived in Arkansas. I try to have get togethers at my house and barely anyone will come because “I live too far out.” I’ve found that the best way to see my friends (and some I’ve kind of drifted away from that I didn’t feel were reciprocating the friendship) is to be the one to initiate plans. Also, don’t be afraid to be honest with your friends and ask that they try and meet you half way somewhere every once in a while since you have to commute so far in order to see them. Friends that truly want to see you will make every attempt to make fair compromises. Do you have a friend in town that you could stay with for a night? Sometimes just not having to deal with a looming hour and a half commute at the end of the night is enough to ease the burden of making the trip each time.

      • FarmerStina said:

        I totally kept reading $expensive_event as Sexpensive_event and it made me giggle. Why yes, I am 12 years old at heart!

        • Leela said:

          Oh, good, it wasn’t just me. I’m blaming the Benadryl.

          • redgirl said:

            Nope, me too. And I’m not on Benadryl.

    • “Sometimes I have this issue not with kids but with money, as in, I’d love to go to that amazingly-planned bachelorette dinner, but $50 + drinks isn’t in my budget right now, so I must decline and trust that I will see my friends another day/another way. I think the people who get really hung up on This Particular Event are people who don’t trust the strength of their relationships and treat every interaction or event like a referendum on how much they are loved.”

      Er, yes, I am feeling pretty much exactly this at the moment.

      I am having a party in about 6 week’s time to celebrate 10 years cancer-free, and every time people say they’re not coming it really hurts. And part of why it hurts is because I do feel really lonely at the moment because of other Life Stuff and also depression.

      I know the right thing to do is just resolve to have a good time with whoever comes, but I am really struggling to get to that point.

      • ona555 said:

        I am really sorry that you are struggling right now. Many congrats on 10 years cancer-free!!

      • JenniferP said:

        Congratulations, and I hope you can reach out to friends and hang with them in small groups/one-on-one and get the togetherness you need even if that one event won’t fit their schedule.

        • Thanks, and of course people are perfectly entitled to come or not.

          It’s just really hard not to do the neediness dance and If You Loved Me You Would Come.

          • Katepreach, congratulations!!! That is a BFD.

            I am in a similar place right now…I just bought a little farm in a far away state, and am throwing a big shindig this summer to celebrate the huge step I’m taking. I’m having a really hard time not focusing on the people who AREN’T coming instead of being really excited and grateful for the folks who ARE coming.

            And goodness gracious, I am the Lord of the Neediness Dance. I even pulled out the “If this was a wedding reception you’d come! But I’m obviously never getting married [overly dramatic hyperbole] and apparently we only celebrate the REAL accomplishment in life: getting married!”

            If you’re interested in some mutual internet support, you can email me at revolverklc [at] gmail. :)

      • Congratulations! I hope you can hang out with everyone you want in the best possible way.

      • sb said:

        If it’s the sort of gathering where this would be appropriate, could you set up a computer so people who can’t attend can skype in with good wishes? (Or old-fashioned just have them call at a specific time, but skype in a corner somehow seems less intrusive to the on-site folks?)

    • LPOPP said:

      Slightly off topic, but has anyone seen the episode of Portlandia where the couple goes to a bank to get a birthday party loan?

      • Katie said:

        Now I have! Thanks for that. :D

  2. LauraD said:

    I’ve seen similar family drama play out with adults-only wedding receptions. Your friend has kindly offered to host an event and has every right to say that she is not comfortable having children in her home. If this relative wants her child to see her grandmother there is nothing stopping her from making those arrangements. If she reallyreallyreally wants to come to the party she can make arrangements for child care. If she wants to visit the mother-to-be with her daughter she can make those arrangements with your friend. None of that is your responsibility and this relative is absolutely out of line for trying to make it your problem. None of you should feel guilty for sticking to your boundaries.

  3. I find it amazing that so many of your friends respected the R.S.V.P. request.

    • neutrotic said:

      One hundred million thumbs up for this reply. Forget invitees asking for special exceptions/accomodations. Just getting everyone to actually respond or confirm by the RSVP deadline is a miraculous feat we have yet to achieve. And I loathe having to send out those “friendly” reminders about RSVPing so we know how much food to buy. They always feel nagging and pathetic, no matter how bright and cheerful I try to make them, because what I’m really thinking is “You’re just waiting until the last minute, in case a better invitation comes along, aren’t you?”…or something similarly paranoid (but still possibly true).

      • Emmers said:

        Hmm, I just take people at their word, and if there’s not enough food for the non-RSVP’ers, I would send them to the grocery store to buy more. Problem solved! :-D

        • Emma said:

          See, yeah, that doesn’t always work. I’m an event planner for my day job, so I deal with this problem both professionally and personally.

          Not RSVPing makes it extremely difficult for many kinds of events to go smoothly–particularly if reservations or food purchase is necessary. And it’s not the planner’s fault that this is true. Restaurants in the city where I live often won’t seat a party until everyone is there–so you need an accurate headcount (and punctual guests). And while you may only have events involving the kind of guests you feel comfortable sending off to the grocery store, that is not the only type of guest there is.

          It’s lovely that you are able to be so flexible, but when someone invites you to a party and asks that you let them know if you can come in advance, it’s rude not to do that.

          I think the lack of RSVPing is the flipside of “If you love me you would come.” People don’t want to directly deal with whatever fall out there may be from saying no, so they say “maybe” or say nothing at all.

          But, put simply, it’s not the planner’s job to deal with everyone else’s stuff. They planned an event–their job is done. Everyone else just has to decide whether to come or not. You don’t call the movie theater and say, “I’d really like it better if this showing was at 5:15 instead of 5:30, and can you please change the rating to PG13 so I can bring my kid?”

          • Emmers said:

            Oh, those are all really good points – most of my hosting is extremely casual and at my house (or someone else’s), so things like restaurant reservations are not a problem. But you’re absolutely right that that’s not the only kind of event – and people hosting those kinds of events really *do* have the right to lay down the law about it, even if it makes people feel awkward. Or perhaps *especially* if — maybe the awkwardness will force the slackers to shape up for once.

            Part of my social circle *does* have trouble making decisions or RSVP’ing, so I do tend to avoid events (hosted by others) that involve restaurant reservations, just because of the immense amount of drama generated.

            And for this — “You don’t call the movie theater and say, “I’d really like it better if this showing was at 5:15 instead of 5:30, and can you please change the rating to PG13 so I can bring my kid?”” — because that happens, when I want to see that group of friends, I tend to make an executive decision (sometimes I discuss it with 1-2 other people first) and *then* invite people. It’s not “hey, let’s hang out this weekend and maybe see a movie,” it is “hey, Husband and I and OtherFriendlyCouple are going to see Movie X at 5:30 on Saturday. If any of you want to come, we’ll see you at the theater!”

            So, yeah – thanks for the perspective update. I didn’t really think about ways this *does* affect my own life.

    • redgirl said:

      This! My husband and I had a party to renew our wedding vows since we couldn’t afford a wedding when we actually got married. I shelled out several thousand dollars for the event and specified we didn’t want anyone bringing gifts or anything–this was something we could afford to do and just wanted to celebrate with friends. But SO many people didn’t RSVP to the invitations, which made it really difficult to plan the catering. And one person didn’t RSVP, but wound up showing up (late) with THREE extra guests.

      • Thomas said:

        That is indeed strange and I’d probably feel miffed if it happened at a party of mine, depending on who they are, but at a party costing several thousand dollars, three extra guests shouldn’t be a problem, unless they’re horrible people.

        • BitterAlmonds said:

          The problem isn’t necessarily that they’re a burden on the hosts’ resources, it’s that the prodigal guest ignored the boundaries set by the hosts. Whether or not it was intentional and whether or not it the hosts could afford to have four extra unexpected guests it was still very rude.

        • Emmers said:

          Uh, 3 extra guests *is* a problem if the catering is sit-down-dinner style. If it’s a buffet, then yeah, it’s just about that person’s shitty boundaries, but if it’s a sit-down dinner, there will literally not be enough food (or potentially the right type of food) for those people.

        • Bunny said:

          Can I also point out that “they’ve got money, they can afford it” is a pretty shitty excuse to use to be rude and trample another person’s plans and boundaries?

          I mean, I know it’s not the point but “can afford it” and “can afford whatever totally unplanned and unexpected changes people feel like throwing their way” are two different things, especially if so many people failed to RSVP to begin with.

          I mean, presumably a wedding vow party is supposed to be an opportunity for the couple to celebrate with their friends and loved ones, and not really an excuse for 3 random people to turn up for free food and a party? Which is what it’d feel like to me if I invited someone to a Thing and they took the invitation to mean “you plus whoever else you feel like bringing along”.

          Not speaking from experience – I’m dirt poor – but I know I’d be pissed if someone pulled that crap with me.

        • miss_chevious said:

          I really disagree with this. I threw myself a very lavish birthday party a few years back and knowing how many people to expect was *very* important. Even expensive parties have budgets and require headcounts.

          Also, invitations are meant for the people that they are sent to, not the recipient and whoever else decides to tag along. This is true whether it’s a wedding invitation, or a birthday party, or a shower or a small causal dinner. Unless the invitation specifies “bring whoever you want,” it is limited to the people it was sent to.

          • manybellsdown said:

            And the more expensive the venue, the more rules they probably have about bookings! My 40th birthday party was at a nice restaurant that had a hard limit between “number of people that can book a large table” and “number of people that need to book a private room”. If 3 random people had shown up, we would have gone over the “large table” limit and been required to fork over extra for the private room. Which has a bar, and is thus 21+. Which would mean my teenage daughter would have had to go home.

            So it’s not necessarily just a money issue.

          • miss_chevious said:

            Exactly, manybellsdown. The expensive places are more likely to (a) have policies and (b) enforce those policies.

          • jessalae said:

            Also, invitations are meant for the people that they are sent to, not the recipient and whoever else decides to tag along.

            Ugh, so much this! I had a holiday party a while ago that was pretty casual, but I was making food for everyone, and had bought enough ingredients for the people who said they were coming. One of my friends who was invited and had RSVP’d showed up along with her housemate, who was not. I like her housemate, and I normally don’t mind hanging out with her, but it really bugged me that she and my friend both thought it would be fine for her to just show up without asking or notifying me beforehand.

          • Emmers said:

            ” Even expensive parties have budgets and require headcounts. ”

            Really, *especially* expensive parties have budgets and require headcounts. If you’ve budgeted for $major_event for the past year, then no, you really *can’t* just add someone.

            Also +1 to “they can afford it because they’re rich” being a shitty attitude.

    • Pamela said:

      YES. We got exactly zero RSVPs for our WEDDING. Maybe because I asked for it by phone or online? I don’t know. Luckily we just did cake/candies so it wasn’t as big a deal, but still pretty upsetting. If we had gone with a real meal I would have been SUPER pissed.

    • caryatid said:

      when you extend an invitation, leave out one key piece of info – like time, or place. then people HAVE to let you know if they intend to come.

      problem solved!

      • …But then people also do not have enough information to decide if they want to come.

        Also, it’s not cool to play mind games with people.

  4. “What you actually need to prepare yourself for is this: There is a strong chance that she will bring the little girl anyway. A coloring book and a set of washable, non-toxic crayons might be a better investment than asking a guest (no matter how importunate) to leave a party, even if you’d be within your rights to do so.”

    Such an event, for me, while handled in that way at the moment, would likely ensure no such invites get tendered in that direction any more, particularly for events with specific restriction clauses such as “no children”. And if the whining about not being invited ensued, it would be shut down with “you ignored a specific host request of ‘no children’ for the last one you went to, I have no guarantee you will be a good guest as a result.”

    • I like your ideas very much, and would also like to subscribe to your newsletter.

  5. EJ said:

    We had a “No children” wedding which was hard since we had a lot of family coming from out of town but we didn’t really feel bad about it. After all – it was OUR wedding. We did research and arrange for babysitters which was appreciated. One of my aunts asked last minute if her child could come and even though I said “no” she still showed up. I think sometimes parents forget that not everyone is as enamored with their child as they are and my aunt was embarassed when the babysitter showed up to take her child away. They left shortly after.

    • JenniferP said:

      You can be totally enamoured of kids, including those exact kids, and still want certain parties to be adults only. As a child, I loved getting dressed up and going to family weddings. But I always reached a GOD SO BORED WHERE ARE MY BOOKS place. I also totally understood “sorry, Mummy & Daddy will be back later!”

      • Badger Rose said:

        Yeah, this.

        I love kids. I really do. Including other peoples’ kids! At kid-friendly mixed-age events I am often the one kneeling on the floor playing with them.

        But that still doesn’t mean I want them at a non-kid-friendly event (whether it’s non-kid-friendly because the place is unchildproofed and it will be dangerous to them/they will be dangerous to it, or just because the kids are going to be bored stupid and therefore understandably short-tempered).

        • Randomosity said:

          Yes x 1000! I have stairs that don’t have walls on both sides. I got very nervous when my friends brought their toddlers over because I was afraid they’d fall off the stairs. I can’t childproof those stairs.

          The good news is that the parents were attentive and watched their children AND brought their own toys so the kids wouldn’t get bored. I also have super friendly cats and the kids made friends.

      • redgirl said:

        Yes! Heck, I love my own kid, but sometimes I want to go out to adult events without him. I can’t even imagine being angry at friends who throw a party and request it to be adults only. If I couldn’t find a sitter I’d simply decline. I can’t imagine ever asking someone to make an exception for my kid.

      • I once knew a couple who, when their darling daughter was born, promised themselves that if they could not bring their daughter to an event, they would not attend.

        That lasted about three years, when they hired my friend, on retainer, to babysit for them on a regular basis. I guess the toddler years proved a bit too much for them, and they realized that getting a break from Precious now and again is a GOOD thing.

        I’m all for providing out of town guests with information on bonded baby-sitting services, or even the names and numbers for your own trusted baby-sitters.

        • AmyB said:

          I have days when I wish I could throw a child free party. I wouldn’t invite anyone though…

      • Shannon said:

        Completely this! And honestly? When I was a kid getting a babysitter was FUN. It meant a night of movies and playing barbies with the sitter. My parents never acted like them going out and me staying home with a sitter was a big deal, or that they were ABANDONING THEIR CHIIIIIIIIIILD. Please parents. Teach your kids to be fine without you. You’ll end up with a healthy and adjusted child. Plus you might even keep your sanity through parenthood.

    • MissWhich said:

      My mom re-married when I was 13, and my grandmother threw her rehearsal dinner with the stipulation that I (nor anyone under the age of about 30) was not allowed to attend. My mom was enraged and apparently regrets not telling her mom that she’d throw her own damn party, but I honestly didn’t care a bit at the time. I said “have fun” and read a book all evening, which I preferred, but I was sorry that my mom was so upset!

      • redgirl said:

        Yeah, kids usually are not as excited about going to boring adult events as their parents are about having them there. Still, it seems kind of silly for your grandmother to exclude the guest of honor’s child!

        • MissWhich said:

          Very silly! But she’s super old school and of the “children are meant to be seen and not heard” mentality, so I don’t think it would have particularly fun in any case.

          • What about young adults, from age 18 to 29? Some people actually achieve the status of CEO or Opera Diva Star by that age. To be told they were “too young” to attend a wedding rehearsal dinner would be gravely insulting, and I would not fault one of those slighted relatives, if they excluded Granny from their own wedding receptions, on the basis of her being “too old.”

            Excluding minors? Yeah, I can see that. Excluding adults under the age of 30? NOOOOOO. That is NOT “old school.” That is, and always has been, incredibly rude.

            Even in the middle ages, once a person reached the age of being socially out in society, that person was ALWAYS considered out in society, and not to be relegated to the nursery. Granny’s manners were way out of line.

            I wonder what Miss Manners would say about that? She always has such a witty response, and now I’m quite curious. I don’t suppose you’d consider writing to her and telling her your story?

    • Carbonated Wit said:

      I love having the babysitter come to take the child away. Well done!

    • Q said:

      Man, how shitty would that be for the kid? Depending on how old I was at the time, I likely would’ve been able to figure out that I wasn’t exactly wanted there. Plus, it sucks being the only kid at an event that’s clearly for adults.

    • CassJ said:

      Been there, done that. Except, the babysitter was onsite at the wedding, and was watching ONE child. My husband’s cousins (who brought their under 2-year-old child) thought that after the ceremony, that it was OKAY for them to bring him into the reception area. The gal we hired for babysitting didn’t know how to handle the situation and even my mother-in-law stepped in to tell them that what they were doing was not okay, but they were instead rude back to my mother-in-law.

      Fortunately, he was not disruptive, but it was clearly unfair to the rest of our family who had left their children at home at our request. And fortunately, we’ve never seen that side of the family after our wedding.

  6. I feel like it should be okay to release your Rageosaurus if the woman brings her child even though she’s been told “no” multiple times. I think some people rely on others to be nice and not “cause drama” especially in front on children. And so they get their way at the cost of others. You shouldn’t confront her mommy in front of the kid IMO, but you’re entitled to stand up for yourself, A, B & C. There’s usually a discrete way to do that.

    Basically: yes, you’re entitled to get annoyed! Good work on setting boundaries!

    • Actually, you can handle it sans drama, if she shows up with the child in tow. You MUST be the one to answer the door for each guest. When the guest arrives with a child, you simply stand in the doorway, inform the woman that she has been told that this is an adults-only party, and you are so very sorry that you cannot admit her and Precious at this time. Then close the door.

      She may get dramatic, but it will all be outside, so not your problem.

      Of course, if you let other people answer the door, or institute an “open door” policy, that will not work. But with three people hosting, you should be able to have someone on door-duty at all times.

      • Zillah said:

        My concern about this approach would be how it might make the child feel. Their mother might be a jerk, but they shouldn’t suffer for that.

        I would probably make sure I had the number of a babysitter – preferably one already watching someone else at the party’s kids – on hand, and then I would go with, “Oh, I’m sorry, you must have misunderstood! The babysitters aren’t picking the kids up here, you had to make your own arrangements. Don’t worry, it’s not a big deal – just call this number, [x] is a very sweet person and told us (s)he’d be happy to take on another kid if someone else’s arrangements fell through, and her/his prices are quite reasonable.” (Make sure that this is true, though.) Then finish it up with a, “We’ll see you in a bit!”

        In my experience, the fewer openings you give people to object, the more likely they are to go along with what you’re saying.

  7. Pterinochilus murinus said:

    The “loooooves showers” bit sends chills down my spine. Actually everything about this person’s interactions does. My spider sense is telling me that this is a person who cannot cope with not being the guest of honour at every party she attends, and who will use her daughter as a prop for this role.

    • Ve said:

      Exactly, I got a similar vibe.

      Plus, in all honestly…what’s there to love about baby showers, especially as a 4-yr-old?

      • doodleoo said:

        Yeah, seriously – my kid is 3 and would be bored out of her mind in ten minutes. Someone else getting all the presents? Stuff that’s tinier and cuter than her? Meh.

      • redgirl said:

        Seriously. It’s not like there is a baby there yet to coo over. My experience with baby showers is it’s a bunch of women sharing stories about labor, c-sections, episiotomies, breastfeeding, etc. How is this exciting for a 4-year-old?

        • Shannon said:

          Hell I’m 29 and I refuse to attend baby showers.

          • I’ve never liked showers. In my family, they were mandatory. If you were female, you went and canceled other plans if necessary. No excuses for not attending. I was bored out of my mind because the only acceptable topics were:

            1. babies
            2. who’s getting married (wedding showers only)
            3. wedding plans (wedding showers only)

            If I tried to bring up any other topic, it was shut down immediately. Everyone would look at me as if I told a fart joke to the Dowager Countess and change the subject back to one of the three acceptable topics. After a few attempts to not be bored, I gave up.

            Then I discovered that my friends don’t follow the rules. They actually talk about a variety of topics that most people can be interested in. Those showers I actually enjoyed.

      • Cake. Which is really the thing to love about any party. Unless there’s no cake, in which case is it really a party?

        • Ve said:

          Ain’t it the truth.

        • VA said:

          I saw a print that said “A party without cake is just a meeting.” Truth!

      • When I hit that part, I IMMEDIATELY saw the 4 year old attempting to open/opening all the gifts. In my experience, THAT is what 4 year olds tend to “love” about showers of all varieties… they’re inclined to believe that AT LEAST SOME! of those gifts must be for them. All the more reason for an adults-only shower!

      • I never attended a baby shower until I was an adult. At my first baby shower, I realized why. That was when all the older women started telling about their labor experiences. “I was in labor for 32 hours.” “That’s nothing! I was in labor for three solid days!” “Well, my baby got stuck half-way out. They had to shove it back in and then cut it out!”

        I was feeling somewhat traumatized by all this, and realized it was not for a child’s ears.

        My first bridal shower was somewhat similar, only it was all talk of the wedding night. Boy, did I learn a lot that day!

        Since then, the showers I have attended have become much tamer (except for the sex-toys bridal shower – WOW!). However, I would not dream of insisting on bringing a child to either type of shower, just in case “the conversation” broke out.

  8. dancerdc said:

    I can see both sides, it depends on your culture. Baby showers seem inherently family-oriented, informal, mid-day events. The children you’re excluding are hopefully going to be the new arrival’s playmates and cousins. You could have also handled it by warning parents that the house would not be childproofed and encouraging people to keep their visits brief/ keep a tight rein on young children, without making it a rule in concrete. I know 4 year olds who are well controlled and 12 year olds who aren’t, so age isn’t really an accurate measure.

    From my culture, there are usually “adults only” baby showers with coworkers and same-age, college-type friends, and there are usually “everyone welcome” baby showers with the extended family, and you’re attempting to mix metaphors. Since you’re already well down that path, maybe there is someone in the extended family who would be able to host a more kid-friendly event, and A and B could focus on food and decorations? Maybe you could move the event to a park or other outdoor location? Maybe you could tell the relative to bring the daughter but “promise not to tell the other parents”? I know you’re irritated by her methods, but can you take the high road here?

    • … or maybe she could throw the party as she already planned? And made clear to all invited?

      I’m trying not to be too snarky, but you go right from:
      1) Saying “In my culture ….” thus acknowledging that cultures differ, to
      2) Telling the OP that she’s Doing It Wrong.

      I think the OP is handling it just fine. And the Captain is right on as usual.

    • meh said:

      You don’t reorganize an event to accommodate one pushy person who can’t respect a simple no without making guilt and drama. And it’s pretty rude to tell LW to take the high road by undermining the appropriate boundary setting she and others have been doing in this, as though they are not behaving as they should, instead of doing normal things and happening to encounter an unreasonable person. Showers get to be whatever the people planning them want them to be, they don’t have to conform to one of two ideas.

    • BlackHumor said:

      I do not think “giving into ultimatums” is the high road.

      • MuddieMae said:

        Indeed. The high road will be letting the woman attend if she does show up with her daughter anyway. I would have a hard time resisting the urge to shut the door in her face.

    • DFTBAwkward said:

      If the person who the party is intended to honor (C, in this case) is totally in favor of the rules and boundaries set by A, B, and LW, and is indeed attempting to enforce them, then excluding children from the party is a perfectly acceptable thing to do. LW is not “taking the low road” here at all. And you know? If C’s relative or C’s grandmother wants to throw a family shower where all children are welcome and it’s in an outdoor space and it’s super informal, and C wants that party and doesn’t think the children would be too overwhelming or the outdoors would be too uncomfortable in her advanced pregnancy, well, they can throw that party. But that hypothetical party is not THIS nice party that LW is throwing for her friend. LW is totally entitled to set reasonable rules and boundaries. This is not bad behavior. LW IS taking the high road by being respectful to the wishes of A,B, and C, being polite but clear to the relative, and by setting a standard rule that applies to everyone instead of doling out exceptions to those who whine loud enough.

      • shevek returning said:

        “If C’s relative or C’s grandmother wants to throw a family shower where all children are welcome and it’s in an outdoor space and it’s super informal, and C wants that party and doesn’t think the children would be too overwhelming or the outdoors would be too uncomfortable in her advanced pregnancy, well, they can throw that party.”

        So much this. Someday C’s relative may throw her a baby shower at which the whole family can interact and young children can enjoy a whirligig of babies, excitement and cake. (Not a literal whirligig of babies and cake: that would be a health and safety nightmare.) Someday she may be able to organise a trip for her daughter to see her grandmother and there will be much rejoicing. BUT IT IS NOT THIS DAY.

        • Logos said:

          :D Now I’m picturing Aragorn brandishing a gift from Baby Gap. Best comment ever!

          • thecynicalromantic said:

            You mean, from the Baby Gap of Rohan?

            *ducks*

          • I thought it was Gap of Gondor?

            I love your speech.

          • Emmers said:

            “Was so disappointed to learn there is no Gap in Rohan.” :-D

        • miss_chevious said:

          I would pay to see the actual whiligig of babies and cake. Just sayin’.

      • I always think of “taking the high road” as refusing to give in to drama and remaining polite and civil. Which is exactly what LW is doing. She’s expressing boundaries in a way that any reasonable person would have no problem with.

    • Bunny said:

      Thing is, about taking the high road – in this instance it doesn’t sound like they chose to exclude kids because they just didn’t want them around, but more an issue of practicality. The location available to them with the best space (A’s house) also happens to not be a kid-safe space. A shouldn’t have to reorganise their entire house to accommodate the risks involved in inviting children over for a single party, and the group shouldn’t have to reschedule or move the shower, inconveniencing every person who has RSVP’d already, for the sake of a single invitee who’s behaved in this manner.

      There’s taking the high road, and then there’s bending over backwards and potentially making things difficult for a lot more people, just for the sake of one person’s wants. Not needs, mind you, but wants.

      I wonder if appealing to the Aunt’s sense of fairness might help, though, if she continues to push the issue? Am I being too idealistic in hoping that she might be willing to back down if it’s pointed out that:

      1- None of the other parents will be bringing their child, and some parents who may otherwise have come might have declined because of the no-kids requirement, so it’d be unfair to have all those people make other arrangements, only to find someone else flouted the rules.
      2- The parents who did arrange babysitters and came to the shower might just, maybe, be looking forward to being able to enjoy an adult event where they can have some drinks and relax and not have to be mum.
      3- As there will be no other children, there will be no one around for cousin to play with. And as this is a shower for a specific adult, attention will be focused on that adult and not on the child. As much as she enjoys showers in general, she probably won’t have fun at a shower explicitly catering to adults where people are not expecting a child.

      • “2- The parents who did arrange babysitters and came to the shower might just, maybe, be looking forward to being able to enjoy an adult event where they can have some drinks and relax and not have to be mum.”
        SO MUCH THIS.
        That is all.

    • I don’t really get where this advice is coming from. Unless I’m missing something, it seems like it basically boils down to “Wouldn’t it be better and less drama-making for everyone if you just didn’t have that personal boundary?” Which is surely the exact opposite of what the Awkward Precepts are meant to teach…? *headscratch*

    • JenniferP said:

      I think that people who are doing a nice thing by arranging a party need to let go of the idea that there is some perfect party that will please everyone. One four year old (who I promise you, will not remember whether she went to that particular party) vs. the sanity of the planners/rearranging your entire house for one event (that you are doing as a favor)? You get to choose what you can live with. The person who the shower is in honor of has already said she’s cool with the no kids under 10 rule, so why the pressure to change everything?

    • You know who should be taking the high road?

      The woman with the kid.

      The party was pre-planned as no kids. Numerous people already RSVP’ed. C obviously has absolutely no problems with the pre-set rules. Making changes now for one person?

      Did you even read the letter, dancerdc?

      Also… I’m an anthropology student. I use cultural relativism in my daily life.

      So you can shove off with that “in my culture” crap. In our culture, all four of them are perfectly entitled to have an age-restriction. They are not required to make last-minute changes to a pre-planned party with other guests already confirmed to accommodate one woman and her child. In our culture, it is the woman who’s wrong, not the LW.

    • Taking the high road is one thing. Letting people run you over on the high road is another.

      • griffykate said:

        +1. Embroidered on a cushion, please. ^_^

      • Datdamwuf said:

        +1 I vote this onto a t-shirt!

    • redgirl said:

      I totally get that many other cultures welcome children to events where others would prefer to exclude them. If I went to someone else’s wedding or party and it was full of little kids because that’s what their culture prefers, I’d have no problem with it, because I’m a guest. But I think that that the person going to the effort and expense of hosting a party has every right to throw one that fits their OWN cultural rules. And a good guest should respect that.

    • Erika said:

      Why on earth should the OP *completely change* everything about the party, from location to food to decor, just to accommodate one pushy woman?

      That might be done in YOUR culture, but this is HER culture. She doesn’t have to change her party to be like one in your culture to give in to one person–who most likely has more in common culturally with the OP, anyway and should know better.

      The OP did a really great job of setting and enforcing boundaries. Way to go, OP!

    • LW #478 said:

      Thing is… C has a really, really complicated family dynamic, which is part of the reason A, B and I stepped in to host and organize, with the blessing from C’s mom who added that a friend-hosted party would put ALL family members on their best company behavior. C gave us the list of family members (both hers and her husband’s) and friends from work/her grad program who would like to come, her mom offered to pay for food and bring extra seating, and the three of us went ahead with the rest. I wanted something that would be welcoming for the vast and varied groups of people who love C and wish her well, and for the day to be as relaxing and fun for C as possible, because she is one of my very best friends, and I know how hard it is to navigate complex family feelings, having to do that on the reg myself…

      A park would have been a great compromise, but I live in a region where planning a party for May is tricky. It could be 100 degrees out, or we could have twelve inches of snow on the ground. Or it could rain for days. Such is the nature of living on the prairie. If she were due in July and I could throw the party in June, yeah. A park would have been gangbusters, and people would be responsible for their own kids. But A’s home was the best option, and she didn’t want to be liable for a child she doesn’t getting injured. Hence, the age restriction.

      Also, by the time the relative sent the email throwing her fit at C, it would have bonkers to try and find a park that would have space on such short notice. Most parks in my city require MONTHS of advance notice for events with more than 20 people, which this one was.

      Plus, the event was a 3-hr luncheon on a Saturday afternoon, not an evening grill-out that went until all hours of the night. Lunch, chat, games, presents. The end. And, yeah, like most showers, it was largely women sitting around, talking about placentae and episiotomies and cracked nipples and other terrifying things that make me never want to have sex again.

    • LW #478 said:

      Also, generally in my own culture, if someone I don’t know very well invites me to a party in honor of someone I do know very well, I am polite about the whole thing and I do not do anything to make the honored guest cry.

    • annalee said:

      You could have also handled it by warning parents that the house would not be childproofed and encouraging people to keep their visits brief/ keep a tight rein on young children, without making it a rule in concrete.

      This woman has already demonstrated that she doesn’t listen, so I doubt she’d listen when asked to do the things that good parents do as a matter of course. Do you think someone who throws tantrums when asked to respect the host and her home is likely to have raised a child who does any different? That’s not a wager I’d take.

      I’m far grouchier and less diplomatic than the Captain, but if it were me, at this juncture I’d be dis-inviting the guest entirely, on the grounds that someone with that little regard for the host clearly didn’t mean to accept the invitation in the first place. She’s very likely to show up with either her child or her garbage attitude, and either one is likely to place undue stress on the hosts and the guest of honor.

  9. ‘A coloring book and a set of washable, non-toxic crayons might be a better investment than asking a guest (no matter how importunate) to leave a party, even if you’d be within your rights to do so.’

    As much as I get the practicalities of this… urgh. Talk about undermining their own boundaries – this would give Drama Queen Relative a clear message that, hey, at the end of the day if you blatantly transgress a clear boundary you’ll be not only allowed to get away with it but accommodated in doing so.

    I know it isn’t A’s job to teach this woman appropriate manners, but somehow it seems particularly wrong to encourage her to put herself in a position of potentially *validating* the woman’s bad behaviour by showing herself to be expecting and making arrangements for it. Even if A doesn’t feel up to saying “I’m so sorry, but we did make it clear that this event wasn’t for small children, and I’m afraid it won’t be possible for you to come in” face-to-face – which I appreciate might be beyond her – she can, at the very least, expect this woman to cope with the consequences of dealing with a bored child at an adult-only event without trying to make it easier for her.

    • JenniferP said:

      True enough! I am squirming at the horror of having to kick her out in front of everyone, but it might be necessary. “Wow, you really brought her. Well, this is awkward, but we’d still like to keep this an over-10 event, so sorry to make you turn right around after you’ve come all this way” + slam door?

      Ugh. People.

      • thebewilderness said:

        That is the problem, isn’t it. A friend is not going to want to do that to a friends family member. So what happens if she violates the boundary is that everyone will act as though there is no problem, help her attend to the needs of the four year old, and she will go away believing that no one minded her violating those boundaries.
        For this reason I think a follow up by or with the family members might be in order if she RSVPs yes.

        • And if she does RSVP yes, respond with the following: “I’m delighted you found a sitter for Sally! I’m looking forward to seeing you where we can all relax and not have to watch little ones.”

          And if she says: “But I’m bringing Sally. She just loooooves–”

          You say: “Oh. Too bad you can’t come. I was hoping you could have gotten a sitter. We’ll miss you. I’m sure we’ll all see you at Next Event.”

          I’m imagining you have a home that’s large enough for a group to sit around and talk but not so much space that an active child can run around without breaking things. The party will be no fun for anyone if everyone has to be on their toes making sure the kid doesn’t get hurt or break something. People like your drama llama are often the kind of people to let the rest of the guests mind the child – all without asking them.

          • Elikit said:

            I like that method.

            You could also try the faux-joking passive aggressive point-belabouring method of, “Glad we’re all on the same page about no kids under 10. It sure would have been awkward to have turned you and Sally away at the door. Ha ha! Having you show up with Sally only to have to turn directly around and head off again! So much awkward, right?”

            (Note: I do not actually recommend this method.)

          • I really like this idea. I’m also thinking it would be a good idea to follow up on all the invitations you sent out to make it clear to everyone that the event has an age restriction. Otherwise there may be people who just assume it’s kid friendly, and that could be a bit of a mess too.

      • av said:

        Seems like uninviting Dramatic Relative from all future parties if they do show up with the kid is a much easier and more effective way of enforcing the boundary than turning them away at the door. It’s easy to imagine Relative would blow their top – I traveled all this way and went to all this trouble only to have you treat me like a stranger? etc etc
        You’d be accommodating an unreasonable person in the short term – in order to save yourself from a massive stressful headache.

      • *High Fives*

        Yeah, with all due respect I like this addendum so much better than the advice to prepare to accommodate the pushy relative and her four-year-old. If the pushy relative RSVPs I agree that it would be wise to respond with a variation of “So glad you found a babysitter so you can relax and have a cocktail at the shower. See you there!”

        AND

        The party planners and guest of honor should huddle and be prepared to turn away this pushy relative and anyone else who brings a kid under the age of 10. As for not wanting to hurt the kid’s feelings, while I understand that, I disagree. In life we don’t always get what we want. I’d feel bad if the kid felt sad; but ultimately that will be a mess her mom created. The pushy relative will need to sort that out with her child after they’ve left. The possible hurt feelings of the four-year-old is not a burden for the party throwers to carry. Especially not to the extent that it may ruin the party they have worked so hard to plan. In fact, the pushy relative may be counting on this as the X-factor to shoehorn herself and kid into the door. It is amazing how boundary breakers will use other people’s desire to be decent against them. When defending your previously stated boundaries you have to be okay with possibly being perceived as a bastard coated bastard with bastard filling.

      • stayce said:

        I hear you, but (at least in my family) it would be a much, much bigger thing to turn away a relative and their kid at the door than to stock up a few Child Entertainment Devices and deal with it as it comes. That could turn an issue that–while definitely annoying and disrespectful and I get why you’re stressed about this– into a big deal that LW’s friend C will have to deal with up to and during her wedding.

        If this relative is known for being dramatic and boundary-pushing, I bet the other, better-mannered relatives will understand and sympathize. You can always smile big and say “Dear Relative brought her four year old as a SURPRISE! HOW DELIGHTFUL” to everyone. Are you guys possibly in the South? You could just say “bless her heart” and everyone would understand exactly what you mean.

        • JenniferP said:

          Right, I could not kick them out. Too awkward!

          • Just to clarify: My problem wasn’t with the thought of A feeling unable to turn them away at the door when it came to the crunch. (She’d be perfectly entitled to do so, and I wanted to make that point, but I also get that that might not be something she feels up to doing, and that’s also OK.) It was with the idea of *getting in things for the child to play with* in case her mother brings her anyway.

            It’s one thing to cave and let her in, but handing her the crayons that you got specially for this person who wasn’t supposed to be here? You’re telegraphing to the mother either that you were expecting her to break the boundary, or (probably a more likely interpretation for someone that self-centred) that you were lying in the first place about not being prepared for children and were just trying to keep her daughter out to be meeeeaaaaaan.

            If she brings daughter and you can’t face turning them away, you can still leave the responsibility of entertaining the daughter very firmly where it belongs – with the mother. Let her deal with having to keep a 4-year-old out of stuff in a non-child-friendly house. (Obviously, you *can* put away your more delicate items beforehand.) If child is running round and in danger of breaking things, you can say “Looks like Child is feeling a bit too cooped up and needs a break. Here – you take her outside for a bit, and we’ll see you later when she’s burned off some energy.”

            As for the “how delightful that she brought her daughter as a surprise” line, I think that’s kind of unfair to the people who stuck to the no-under-10s rule, went to the trouble of finding and paying babysitters, and then get the message that really it would have been quite delightful if they’d flagrantly broken the rule. (OK, I’m not from the South – maybe I’m missing a nuance!) I’d go for something like “Relative didn’t realise that we had a no-under-10s rule” (and, yes, you get to do it in pointedly ironic tones).

          • Badger Rose said:

            @Dr Sarah

            See, I guess I look at it a little differently–it’s about damage control. I’d rather go, “Oh, hm, I see you brought little Suzie… well, uh, we didn’t really plan for this but fortunately I have this spare coloring book so she can sit at the kitchen table and quietly color during the party,” than have little Suzie be bored, whiny, restless, etc., during the party. You don’t have to make it clear you got the stuff for her–for all the mom knows, you have a nephew or little cousins or something. And the coloring book makes it possible to continually redirect the kid. “Oh, hi Suzie? Did you want a cup of punch? Cool, now you can go back and color some more. [Suzie's mom], can you get her the punch and take her back to the table?”

            If this was a friend of the party-holding people, I’d go with a different tactic, because it might become a recurring problem, and yeah, it’s worth nipping that in the bud. But if it’s someone I will probably never see again in my life (like the relative of a friend), I’m going to be inclined to go with the ‘damage control’ tactic. Having the kid be bored and restless isn’t exactly a win for the party-thrower if they then misbehave, after all.

          • Elizabeth said:

            I don’t know if you have other children in your life, but a slightly-worn coloring book with half of the pages already colored in is probably better than a new one for this purpose. Similarly, five half-crayons with some “important” color like green missing from the palette.

      • AmyB said:

        What about: oh, you brought (child). Well, that’s fine I guess… But you may want to leave before (in 20 minutes) when the live birthing video begins/when the stripper gets here/when the dildo game comes out/when we all get very, very drunk/before she gets thirsty, because we only have vodka to drink/when random other inappropriate for children activity occurs.

    • meh said:

      Maybe they can segregate her instead? Oh you brought child anyway? well the house isn’t safe, but there is a room upstairs. We don’t have time to watch her, and obviously she can’t be left alone so far from everyone else. You can go play with her in there. We’ll make sure to send you up some cake.

      • Jake said:

        I really like this idea. It enforces the boundary without being super mean. I especially feel like turning them away at the door might create a situation where the 4-year-old hears and understands that she’s the reason they’re getting kicked out, and that’s a shitty thing to do to a 4-year-old. But kids are used to there being a special kids’ room, so if they’re just stuck there by themselves all afternoon that will be shitty and boring for the mom, without punishing the kid.

        • Bunny said:

          Of course, the problem is that once she’s in the house, you can’t really enforce this workaround if she doesn’t consent to it. What’re they going to do if Aunt refuses to go upstairs or stay in the separate room? Physically block her from joining the party?

          It could create so much more drama. I think this might be a time to see if some other members of the family might be willing to step in and have a word with the aunt. It sucks, but if the grandmother that aunt is apparently so worried about is willing to give aunt a quiet talking to (No dear, I love you and your daughter very much, but this party isn’t about either of you. Arrange a sitter or stay home. Maybe if you really want niece to see me, we could arrange something together for a different day.), maybe aunt will take it a bit more seriously.

          • meh said:

            I’d go with asuming she’s behaving as she should if she tries to join the party. If the refuses to go upstairs, go “oh, you’re just stopping in to say hi? Let me get you some cake for daughter to take with her.” If she comes down go “Oh, how is daughter doing? Let me get you some cake to take back upstairs to her before the rowdy stuff happens.”

    • Elikit said:

      I’m now picturing someone drawing the short straw and having to be shower bouncer standing outside the closed front door, endlessly repeating, “Thanks for stopping by. It was nice to see you” until drama relative and child go away.

      How painfully awkward would that be?!

      I’d still assume she’d be rude enough to come and have a game plan set up for that possibility/eventuality. I mean, I’m enough of a hard-ass to want to turn them away at the door and make it abundantly clear to Drama Relative that her shenanigans is unwelcome.

      But really, practically speaking, who among us would be so hard as to turn away a four year old in a party dress, likely unknowingly dragged there by her mum expecting a party? You’d feel like a villain. I mean sure, you might “win” that one and “teach Drama Relative a lesson” but yeesh, how cold do you like your comfort.

      • ks said:

        That woman is definitely going and she will definitely take the kid, RSVP or no. I’d bet all the money in my bank account right now (not much, but still, that’s how confident I am in this). So it probably would be best for LW and friends to be prepared for it. Whether that means accommodating the kid, being super southern and saccharine about it, or turning her away at the door is up to them.

        I’m of the super southern and saccharine bitchy camp myself, but the message would definitely get across.

        • annalee said:

          That “she’s probably going to gate-crash” vibe we’re all getting is probably because the “My way or I’ll cause a scene” ploy of showing up with her child in tow isn’t much farther along the emotional blackmail continuum than she’s already gone.

          I like the advice of telling her ahead of time that it won’t be tolerated. It might be enough to keep her from trying it.

          (Though at this point, I also think the hosts would be well within their rights to just send her an email saying “Given how you’ve behaved about a simple request not to bring your child to a stranger’s home, it’s clear that attending without her must be an extreme hardship for you. We’re sorry you won’t be joining us.” Followed, as necessary, by “we’re sorry, the guest list is closed at this time.”)

          As far as the drama? If the rest of C’s relatives asked nicely and arranged sitters, they clearly know how to behave. Like most families with a drama llama member, they’re probably used to the metaphoric llama turds on the floor, and they probably don’t hold them against the host or the guest of honor.

    • Badger Rose said:

      This seems to be to be in the category of “what would be less horrifying to the LW.”

      If it would be less horrifying to the LW to say, wow, sorry, I thought I made it clear no kid, this is still an over-10 event, so… bye? Then that’s absolutely fine and that’s what LW should do.

      But I couldn’t do that, and I am not exactly a doormat. I mean, it would throw me completely out of the giving-a-party groove, to do that, especially–god knows–in front of people who know Boundary Violator and who maybe don’t know me well, or at all. (Such is the awkwardness of a shower.) So it’s a little hard for me to say that the LW absolutely should do that.

      So if, should kid show up, it would be less horrifying for LW to do the coloring-book-and-washable-crayons thing, I think that’s also nothing to feel ashamed of. This is, if I’m reading it right, not someone who is a friend of LW or who they are going to have to deal with again probably, right? So making a stand in order to set your boundaries with someone you will probably never have to deal with again anyway may not be the best use of emotional energy.

      I’d say: if it would make LW feel better to turn away Boundary Violator, they are 100% in the right to do so. But if that would be horrifyingly awkward, they shouldn’t feel bad for not doing it. If that makes sense?

      • That’s a good point. I guess ultimately the best thing to do is to brainstorm options for LW, without necessarily saying that there’s any particular road they *should* take. Stuff’s complicated. LW gets to make this decision based on what they and the other party-throwers are most comfortable with.

      • Jake said:

        +1

        • + 2! It is totally LW’s decision, not ours.

      • VA said:

        If I were LW, the question I would ask is, “What would be less horrifying for C, who is the guest of honor and whose relative this is?” Maybe the party hosts can have a conversation with C asking what she’d prefer they do if Aunt Awful shows up with the kid – send her away or accommodate. I personally would be really upset if I were C and my friends refused to let my aunt + kid in the door, even though I completely agree that the aunt would be in the wrong and is violating a clearly set boundary.

        My understanding of the letter is that the hosts aren’t likely to ever encounter this aunt again, since she’s not their family member. C presumably has more at stake in terms of preserving goodwill in the family, and I think she should get a say in how the situation should be handled if it arises.

        • Badger Rose said:

          You’re absolutely right–I was conflating C with LW due to brain fuzziness at the time.

          • Oh, too true. And don’t forget, it’s A’s house.

            I guess this is more of a group decision. However, it certainly should be made in advance, and they should all agree to back each other up on the final decision.

      • Solestria said:

        Agreed. I also think that all of them might do well to discuss in advance how they’d like to handle this eventuality, so C doesn’t have to deal with more drama than she’s comfortable with in the family, no one has to make awkward calls in the moment, and they can present a united front in whatever boundaries they choose to enforce should this pushy relative persist.

    • Veronica said:

      My sister’s pretty good at boundaries, so the way she generally handles these situations is this: she’ll buy the crayons and let the kid stay for the party, and then the day after, she will call/talk to the individual in question and confront them about their behavior afterwards to make it clear that Their Behavior Was Not Acceptable (TM). In this way, she avoids the on-site drama that may ruin the event and give Entitled Adult a cross to nail themselves to, while still acknowledging that her boundaries are to respected and that Entitled Adult was out of line. If she feels Entitled Adult doesn’t accept responsibility for their conduct to her satisfaction, she will then lay down the law about saying goodbye to any future invitations.

      • Oh, I like that a lot.

      • Badger Rose said:

        This makes a lot of sense to me. It avoids the painful awkwardness of turning someone away (and possibly making the kid feel awful when they actually aren’t responsible), there’s no big painful scene involving family and all the fraught stuff that goes along wit that, and you get the damage-control advantages of setting the kid up with something quiet and distracting to do… but without letting anybody completely off the hook for bad behavior.

        Seems like this would also work for the non-RSVP-ing guests problem mentioned elsewhere (well, most of them): you don’t have to turn someone away at the door (which is really hard to actually do!), and you also can pick a time when you feel calm enough to have a discussion about “can you let me know if you’re going to come next time–we love to see you but we need to know how much food to get/how many chairs to set up/etc.” without having to do it right in the heat of the moment.

  10. How about finding a neighbor who can be a last minute emergency babysitter? And then if the aunt shows up, say, “oh how embarrassing that you could not find a sitter. Here let me call Janet, she charges ten dollars an hour. ”

    And then “I am sorry you seem to have misunderstood! I will call Janet now.”

    “I am afraid I must insist.”

    If she throws a fit, let her, she embarrasses herself, not you. And get Janet paid up front. Let her tell everyone what a terrible person you all are, whatever. You can hold your line without letting her in.

    • That seems like a very clever solution. Well done!

    • Bunny said:

      Second! I really like this idea. Enforces the boundary without explicitly turning her away at the door, and leaves her to make the choice whether to accept the babysitter and actually, y’know, respect the reasonable boundaries set by the host, or act up.

    • Sarah N. said:

      Make it more than ten dollars an hour though. Find a nice, qualified person so the rude guest sees just how much you care and make sure they get paid appropriately – which should be more than ten dollars an hour. Fifteen is probably good. It will most likely make the rude guest squirm, because people like to pay even qualified babysitters and nannies less than minimum wage whenever possible, but it is a fair amount.

      • niepolski said:

        Definitely more than $10, in some places it might be closer to $20/hr. Plus, I think that if the sitter won’t know until the last minute a higher rate (or last minute fee?) would be appropriate.

        • Perhaps you can put her on a retainer for the day, for a smaller fee. That way, you can be sure she’s available, she gets something for the trouble of making herself available at that time, and you get some peace of mind.

          It’s a worthy investment.

    • rebekah said:

      this is my recommendation also. Most babysitting staffing agencies will arrange something like this for you if you call and explain the situation. It’ll end up being an extra $30 bucks or so if she decides to leave her daughter at home, but if she doesn’t you give her the option of paying the babysitter or leaving.

    • Burnt Umber Ella said:

      Or perhaps not last minute. I know a lot of babysitters (myself included) can’t always be on hand at a moment’s notice. Calling the sitter sooner and explaining the situation (however vaguely) lets them either set aside time in advance or tell you they have plans, which lets you get another sitter. And if nasty relative actually shows up without the kid (!!) you can cancel.

    • Zillah said:

      This is pretty much what I was thinking, too. Have a sitter lined up and act as though it was just a huge misunderstanding. This person may well show up with their child and will probably be banking on your not stopping them because it will be awkward and they will have momentum and you will just go along with it because it is too awkward to do anything else.

      So turn that on its head, and use the same tendency to your advantage.

      For example:

      Beforehand, secure a babysitter who will be free to step in last minute if something comes up. It could be useful for other guests besides this very annoying mother, in case their arrangements fall through or they really misunderstood the invitation.

      Then…

      [Person shows up with kid]

      LW: Oh, I’m so sorry! You must have misunderstood – we’re not providing a babysitter, you needed to make outside arrangements. That’s okay, though – we have a neighbor who’s really a very sweet person who mentioned being happy to step in if someone’s arrangements fell through, because we wouldn’t want you to miss the party over an understanding! Here’s her number – she’s great with kids, I’m sure [child] will have a great time with her. Her rate is $20/hr and she requires the first two hours up front. It’s a little high because this is so last minute, but I’m sure you’ll agree that it’s only fair. Why don’t you go ahead and call her now?

      Then hover while she does so.

  11. anewleaf said:

    When my adopted son came home, we had a big party and invited a lot of people who were close to us. We didn’t invite a friend from a former friend circle (there had been a falling out with the circle, although the friend was a totally nice fellow). After all, we hadn’t spoken in over a year, and there were other folks who had shared our adoption odyssey. Nevertheless, he was very hurt. We made some effort to hang out with him after the party, but it was truly surprising how personally he took it. It was news to us that he even cared. As I said, despite reaching out to him hoping to retain a friendship outside the group, he hadn’t spoken to us in over a year.

    Come to find out, he considered party-invitations to be the formal assurance that we still liked him. He felt bad about the falling out, but felt paralyzed to reach out to us without inciting ire from our former circle. With regret, we realized we had no quarter for him. Our lives had moved on without him. We assured him we still liked him, and if he wanted a friendship, we were, after all, right here. But we never heard from him. It was a pity his cowardice left him feeling like WE abandoned HIM.

    • Manatee said:

      Bullet dodged. It sounds like you were perfectly generous here. I’m becoming increasingly ok with letting grown adults sulk and lick their imaginary wounds in the hope that it will manipulate me into tending to them, as long as they do it somewhere that is far away from me.

    • Nerdlinger said:

      Wow. Weren’t formal assurances of Like = you reaching out to make effort to hang after the party, yes?

      I feel like that kind of behavior (the sulking and paralyzing from him) was more akin to a 5-year old, when it seems more apropro to “invite everyone in the class.” If all my friends now needed formal invites to Every Event in my life to assure my Like of them At All Times, I think it would make me utterly crazy. I thought the way you handled it was super generous (and kind)!

      • Even when I was five (okay, maybe seven or eight), I didn’t understand the invite-everyone thing. My mom just had me send cards in the mail if I wasn’t inviting everyone (so the non-invitees didn’t have to watch me ignore them), and when there were parties I wasn’t invited to, she explained that A) they were parties specifically for a particular subgroup that I wasn’t part of, and that even though each individual in the subgroup liked me, I wasn’t part of that subgroup, and was welcome to hold my own subgroup party if I wanted (except she used child-appropriate language) or B) they were a theme party the host knew I wouldn’t like. Before I read Harry Potter, I hated Harry Potter parties and made them miserable for everyone, so I didn’t get invited. I think this is totally fair.

        I mean, my feelings were hurt, but I survived and I DID understand eventually. I also wasn’t allowed to be a dick about it.

  12. Emmych said:

    Yup, I agree that you handled that totally well.

    I’d also like to chime in and say, yes, your “what the hell” feels and irritation are totally legit! You have no need to question their validity — I read this and rolled my eyes at McSnippy. She was friggin’ rude and entitled! Fuck that noise, man. Fistbumps for acting like the grown up here and not letting her rudeness wear you down!

  13. Jolly said:

    I would just try to have one of the planners getting the door when guests arrive. That way, if the door opens and there is a 4 year old out there, you can quietly step out the front door and intercept her with a calm but firm “I’m sorry, but you knew this was an event for adults, I can’t let you in. I will be happy to pass along well-wishes from both of you, and I know that C would love to make plans for the three of you later, but I’m going to have to tell her you stopped by and couldn’t stay.”

    • I like this idea much better than having entertainment ready for the kid, which I think sends the message that they weren’t really serious about the whole no-kids thing. I’m no expert on this stuff, though.

  14. solecism said:

    This sounds similar to the wedding scenario where known problem relative will show up and inevitably metaphorically bare ass in public. Having a mitigation plan in place is a good idea for sure. Deputizing friend D to act as buffer/minder/escort off premises may be an option here too. Whether said person whisks away child, or parent and child, I suppose depends on the circumstances. It would be especially handy to have something up front about this being a nonoptional babysitting service and here are the rates for the drama llama who failed to arrange this despite the clearly stated information.

  15. IsolatedMom said:

    The mom of the 4-year old sounds pushy and difficult. And some events really are better when children aren’t present.
    But I hope people realize that child-free events should be rare, unusual things. It sucks that people who have kids, and who don’t have access to trustable babysitters, are so easily excluded because their child-free friends think they have a right to live their lives without interacting with children.
    I would never insist on bringing my child to an event that was clearly announced as a child-free event. But when most of my friendships turn into “girls’ nights out without kids” (when I have to negotiate with my hard-working partner to deal with the kids without me for an evening) or “child-centred playdates” (with friends who happen to have children) I feel like life just sucks for parents. Can’t adults have fun times while a child or two occasionally interrupts the fun but everyone tries to keep them happy while the cocktails are going around? Badly behaved children (i.e. all children, from time to time) get taken home (and parents who can’t tell that their kids are ruining the adults’ fun are a real problem). But planning all fun events with the idea that children are unacceptable members of society seems unfair.
    That said, I would of course prefer if a party invitation was clear that my kid wasn’t welcome so I wouldn’t embarrassingly bring her along by accident.
    But every kid-free invitation I recieve feels like a kick in the teeth when it means I can’t go, but the child-free people can. I didn’t think having a kid would doom me to socializing only with fellow parents.

    • MuddieMae said:

      This seems like one of those vague Facebook posts that are clearly directed to one or two specific people, but don’t identify them by name.

      If you are having a problem with the way your friends without kids have adapted to you having kids, have you tried talking to them directly? I would rather hear something like that from friend than blanket statements declaring that I must think children aren’t acceptable members of society simply because I’m not comfortable with them being in my home.

    • Epiphyta said:

      It sucks that people who have kids, and who don’t have access to trustable babysitters, are so easily excluded because their child-free friends think they have a right to live their lives without interacting with children.

      WOW. How did you get that from “A decided she wasn’t comfortable opening her home to small children she didn’t know”? Ten years old and up is fine; possibly small humans she does know under different circumstances are fine. But a party for a friend with people attending she doesn’t know and whose preschoolers’ responses to the busyness of a party she can’t predict? Yeah, she gets to draw that line.

    • Elikit said:

      “But I hope people realize that child-free events should be rare, unusual things.”

      I’m sure it would make your life easier if this were the case, but I do not think this is a realistic thing.

    • If you want those kinds of events to happen, perhaps you should be the one to organize them. In the meantime, I think it’s totally reasonable for people who don’t want to have to deal with children to organize their events in such a way as not to have to deal with children.

      I’m sorry to hear you feel isolated, though. That’s a sucky feeling.

      • Helpless Enabler said:

        Wow – didn’t quite expect such a response. I don’t think I am being too entitled when I wish that parenthood didn’t put one in a weird isolated social sphere from which one can only emerge after 10 years.
        The funny thing is that I did start holding an annual party intended to mix non-parents, and parents, and kids. And I suppose this must say something about my ability to entertain people, but the non-parents slowly stopped coming, and the parents started arriving with all their kids but only one of the adults, so now my foray into adult-and-child-friendly social events has turned into a massive kids’ party (which is not what I’d planned).
        I wasn’t saying, by the way, that all events should allow children. But I do think people should try to learn to be more comfortable around children even if they never intend to have any themselves.

        • May I make a suggestion? (If you weren’t looking for advice, please skip the rest of this comment.) I’m childless by choice. Some of my friends have kids, and some don’t. The idea of a big party at the house of one of my friends who has kids, as a kids-and-adults blast, doesn’t sound like tons of fun to me. I’ve been to one such party, and am unlikely to ever repeat the experience. And it’s not because I dislike their children.

          Mr. OtherBecky and I have a few main ways of socializing with our friends who have children. If the kids are under 12 months or over 10 years, or there’s only one of them, having them over to our house is okay. For small children who can move around under their own power, our house would be a very boring and potentially dangerous place. This means that the majority of our socializing with friends who have children is not done at our house.

          What we usually do is go over to their house, or out to a child-friendly place. The groups are small — 4 to 6 adults, 1 to 4 children. We hang out, talk, play games, watch a movie, and/or have a (fairly simple) meal together. It’s fun without being exhausting. I usually have a good time, both with the adults and with the kids.

          I’m going to disagree with your statement that people should try to learn to be more comfortable around children. Some people just flat out don’t like kids, and that’s okay. They’re allowed to feel that way, and they’re under no obligation to change. Even the (rare) people who get indignant about the presence of noisy children in public spaces (seriously, the idea that you should be able to go to the grocery store without ever encountering a crying baby is not realistic) are allowed to feel that way.

          I think what rubbed a lot of folks the wrong way was your statement that child-free gatherings should be rare, unusual events (emphasis mine). That kind of prescriptive language about how other people ought to conduct their own lives is seldom well-received. The list of places in which I can reasonably expect not to encounter children is very short, but “in my living room” is right at the top of it.

          • rinna2412 said:

            Just wanting to second this idea. The Spouse and I are childfree, though an increasing number of our friends are not. What seems to work the best for the parents is a smaller gathering, earlier in the afternoon or evening, with the option for those of us without young ones to put to bed to stay longer. Usually we gather at the home of a parent, so they can put their kid(s) to bed and then enjoy some adult company.

          • miss_chevious said:

            So agree! As a childfree person myself, my preferred way of hanging with friends who have kids is to go over to their house and hang out, maybe have some drinks, have some food, and stay after the kids leave to chill with the adults. A large party full of kids? No, thank you. A get-together with some friends who have kids? Yes, please.

        • Brynn said:

          It sounds like the adults you know, even the parents, just don’t want to spend as much time in spaces with kids as you do. That’s frustrating as hell – it sucks when no one in your social circles wants to do something you really want to do!

          Sadly, the solution is not to insist they do what you want them to do regardless of what they actually want to do (just like it’s not helpful when they insist you should just leave your kid behind and go do adult-only things with them). It might be more useful to look for people who feel the same way that you do about adult-kid socializing, since it’s clearly very important to you. You obviously won’t get along with everyone who feels that way, but keeping it in mind when you’re looking for people to hang with will likely help considerably in terms of getting what you want.

        • egl said:

          Perhaps you could try retooling your party as a series of smaller events? Instead of one massive gathering, invite over just a few friends with kids and a few friends without kids for lunch.

          Providing something for the kids to do while the adults socialize would help. It doesn’t have to be something big, it could be as simple as chuck ‘em all outside with some yard toys, if you have a yard, and have the parents take turns keeping an eye on things.

          Lather, rinse, repeat with other friends you’d like to spend time with and hope the idea catches on within your social group so you don’t get stuck doing all the hosting.

          As a note, as someone who’s child free, part of the reason I prefer adult only gatherings is because I know I can’t live my life completely avoiding children. I see and hear them everyday, and they get on my nerves fairly easily.

          Since kids will be kids, the best I can do is limit contact where I can.

        • I didn’t intend to put you down with my response, and I apologize if that’s what I did. But, like… some people don’t like kids. Some people just don’t know how to deal with the strange little beings, however adorable they may be from a distance. And personally, I just take issue with the idea that there’s something wrong with not being particularly psyched about spending time with them, considering how uncomfortable they make me. It sounds way too much like the kind of mindset a lot of people have where they’ll call other people (especially women) “selfish” for not liking/wanting children. I think that’s probably why there was so much backlash against your initial comment: it hit a lot of people where it hurts, because not being interested in children is seen as such an awful thing by so many people. So, yes, being told that events at which those of us who aren’t comfortable with children will be comfortable should be “rare” stings a bit.

          I really am sorry you’re feeling isolated, and that your event didn’t work out. It sounds like a tricky situation and I have no idea how best to resolve that.

          • popesuburban said:

            This is exactly how I feel. I mean, I get to order my life how I see fit, as does everyone else on this earth. The idea that this is wrong only in my case, and that I am somehow a not-good person for not planning the majority of my social events in such a way that I will be massively uncomfortable, well, that’s just…not cool. I can’t think of another way to say it. Especially because I have no problem accommodating my friends’ wishes to arrange their social events the way they please, which more and more often means tiny humans. Compromise is part of friendship, and it’s a two-way thing. If someone is never willing to compromise, well, that’s not a childfree thing, that’s a personal thing that may indicate the friendship is not going to be sustainable for the long haul. Which is sad, it’s happened to me, but it’s part of life and I’m just not comfortable leveling judgments.

          • niepolski said:

            Yes! Also, “I like/love kids” is a general statement. It doesn’t exclude a dislike of say, Drama Relative’s daughter, or any other particular child.
            And I say this as someone who likes kids and lacks interests in becoming a parent!

        • Melissa said:

          I wanted to send a friendly message to reinforce that there ARE friends out there who will be happy to hang out at your place with you and your kids. I know folks like this exist, because I’m one of them. I don’t have kids, and while I do occasionally organize child-free events, I have also gone to great lengths to stay in touch with my good friends who’ve had kids. I spend a lot of time hanging out with a dear friend of mine and her kids, who I also love, and it works well for everyone. Her kids aren’t always perfect, but neither am I, and I don’t expect that. I value the friendship and enjoy the time together regardless of whether children are present. As a bonus, I’ve also gotten to have a lovely relationship with her son, which warms my heart. I have a nephew I will never be as close to because his parents are difficult to deal with, and that’s sad but it’s wonderful that my friend welcomes me interacting with her kids .

          Please hang in there and keep looking until you find friends who are willing to spend time at events that include your children. I don’t mean that as an insult to people who don’t want or choose to do that AT ALL, I just mean that you might enjoy having some friends who do.

          • JenniferP said:

            Yes, indeed!

            One thing I’ve seen my friends without kids do well when wanting to see friends with small kids is, well in advance, email them and say “We would like to see you the weekend of the 12th. Does that work? Which day? We can host, we can come to you. If you can’t get a sitter, bring child + pack & play and we’ll make sure there is space. We can do an evening thing, we can do a day thing.” Key words being: We would like to see you. Subtext being: We will make it work!

            One thing I’ve seen my friends with kids do well is reach out sometimes and say: “ME. YOU. OUT OF HOUSE. YES?” when they feel isolated.

            Or, “I may not know whether I can come until the last minute, can I let you know?”

            Or, “We’re having a hard time getting to things like this right now, but please keep us on the invite list because when we can make it we will.”

            So many ways to use your words and focus on the important stuff.

    • Can’t adults have fun times while a child or two occasionally interrupts the fun but everyone tries to keep them happy while the cocktails are going around?

      It’s often the case that kids interrupt the fun not occasionally, but all the time. I’m not talking about badly behaved kids, either. They’re stuck in an environment where they don’t have much to do, they’re bored, and they don’t yet have the maturity to understand why the adults don’t want to give them the adult attention they crave. They just want to get in on the conversation, and they haven’t learned yet that yelling “I have a light saber!” in the middle of someone else’s story isn’t the way to do it.

      Then there’s the self-censorship. No sensitive topics if the parents won’t want to field questions from their kids about them later. No saying “fuck.”

      I get why this seems insensitive if you have kids and you feel isolated because of it. The way I (a nonparent) work it out is, gatherings I initiate are kid free. Gatherings other people initiate might involve kids, and I’ll decide if I want to deal with that. If your nonparent friends aren’t even accepting invites to hang out at your house because the kids are around, that sucks and I’m sorry.

    • redgirl said:

      When I had my son, a lot of my friends were younger than me, single and childless. They frequently called me up last-minute, wanting me to hit a bar or dance club with them, which I simply couldn’t do. But you know what? They were young and single and childless, and yes, they had EVERY right to want to go to bars, or host parties that didn’t include small children. But I understand the isolation, because I felt it. So I started hosting my OWN parties. I started having game nights at my well-childproofed house. My friends with kids would bring theirs and they’d all go off into my son’s room to play. My friends without kids would come and enjoy the excellent beers/cocktails/snacks/games I provided. It worked out well. (Now, ironically, my younger friends are all having babies, while I have a teenager who can stay home alone when I go out.) Also, I think sometimes friends just find themselves in different phases of life and that’s when it’s time to broaden your social circles. I bet there are lots of other parents like you out there who would love the opportunity to socialize without having to ditch their kids with a sitter, but it may take some effort to find them.

    • “Can’t adults have fun times while a child or two occasionally interrupts the fun but everyone tries to keep them happy while the cocktails are going around?”

      Adults that WANT to do that certainly can, but it’s perfectly okay if certain adults choose not to do that was well.

      Last night I spent a delightful evening with two sets of families with kids. There was a total of five children under the age of five screeching, running, crying, eating, arguing, playing and carrying on in the way that small kiddos do. There was alcohol available for adults that wanted some. But guess what? This dinner gathering was hosted at the home of the family with two kids. In the past we would’ve been at a restaurant. Now we were at my friends’ house, and a grand time was had by all, including this child-free chick.

      I get that life changes mightily for folks who become parents. Your children may become the center of your world, but it is key to remember that that is not the case for the rest of us. I’m super sorry to hear you feel isolated, but I think being the change you want to see in the world will be your best bet.

    • ReanaZ said:

      “It sucks that people who have kids, and who don’t have access to trustable babysitters, are so easily excluded because their child-free friends think they have a right to live their lives without interacting with children.”

      So, I have no right to choose what environment I feel comfortable in–including setting boundaries at events I myself throw– but it’s a tragedy of the ages that your kids are welcome everywhere? Entitled much? Jesus Christ.

    • Sarah B said:

      “their child-free friends think they have a right to live their lives without interacting with children.”

      Y’know what? I do, in fact, have this right.

      I am… sort of scared of children. I had no younger siblings, I had no friends with younger siblings, I lived a long way from my cousins, I never picked up whatever it is everyone else seemed to pick up about interacting with small children. I am also a recovering social phobic, and having small people who will say random things and climb all over me and ignore all my non-verbal clues and involve me in a kind of weird interaction-by-proxy with their parents if I interact with them at all; yeah, that really triggers what’s left of my social phobia.

      I don’t expect to live my life without ever coming in contact with children, because that’s impractical; and some of my good friends have the things :) But if people kept planning events where ‘everyone’ was expected to keep the kids happy while the cocktails went round, ie sticking me with a set of triggering responsibilities and expectations without bothering to ask, that would seem unfair. It would doom me to only ever interacting with other child-free people.

      Fortunately, at child-friendly barbecues etc, my friends take the view that it’s up to them to keep their children entertained/happy; and I am selfishly grateful for that, because it means I can go.

    • Faqa said:

      Hi!

      It looks like you have a problem with your social circle. You think they’re throwing too many child-free events without realizing the cost that imposes on you in terms of arrangements and/or non-attendance.

      If you follow the Cap regularly, you should know perfectly well how to deal with this. Talk to them, say that you’d like to see them more but childcare is a problem for you and that you’d love to have them at your house, or could you all meet in a child-friendly venue?

      Because another pillar of social interaction is that everybody has a right to any preference they choose. It is not merely allowed, but completely OK for somebody to decline to undertake voluntary social interaction in an environment they dislike.

      All you can do is point out the cost of it – that they see you less.

    • Ellen said:

      “But I hope people realize that child-free events should be rare, unusual things.”

      Quite apart from that nasty, dictatorial tone in this sentence, I disagree with you on this. I think events ‘should’ be what the people organising them want them to be, because they are humans with autonomy and get to make those choice.

      It is nice when people accommodate limitations like the need for sitters (or the lack of available sitters), availability of transport, budgets, etc. It is extremely nice. But the fact I can’t afford an event, or can’t get to it on public transportation and can’t use the car that day, is *not* my friends’ problem to fix.

      I don’t dislike children but I don’t generally enjoy being around them. I am happy to do it in order to see friends who mean a lot to me (and the key word there is ‘happy’, not ‘willing’!) but it’s not my job to spend my limited time and money accommodating other people’s life choices in ways that feel unpleasant to me (please note I’m not saying kids are unpleasant. They are wonderful – being around them just isn’t to my taste. Ketchup and skateboarding are awesome and I don’t like them either. Wow, I’m making myself sound like a laugh-riot here. . . ).

      I am more than happy to meet my friends with children halfway. But of the events I a) organise, b) pay for, and c) schedule in my extremely limited free time, I absolutely refuse to accept that anyone gets to ‘should’ all over that shit and decide it’s my job to make their lives more fun. Nope. That’s on them. We’re all grown-ups and we own our own lives.

      IsolatedMom, I genuinely hope your social life improves.

      Wow, got to the end of this post with only one swearword. That’s much better than my first draft.

    • Sarah N. said:

      Hi, childcare worker here. I’m just here to say that it isn’t hard to find a trustworthy babysitter. I know it might seem impossible if you don’t have a bunch of friends with teenagers you can steal for less than minimum wage, but we’re an industry! We have systems! Care.com is a great place to look and post ads. If you’re more old fashion, go for the newspaper.

      If the big issue is trustworthiness, do interviews and background checks. It takes some work up front, but once you’ve found someone good, you should have that person available for a while. You might even find several people you like and then you have back-ups.

      If money is the issue, you can find people for cheap – just have reasonable expectations. If you want a college graduate with CPR training who will make your kids dinner and clean your house, you’re going to have trouble finding one who will work for a flat fee that amounts to less than minimum wage. If you’re fine with a high school student with a responsible, charming attitude and no other qualifications, you can find it.

      And that’s my little spiel about how to find yourself a babysitter. Woo.

    • Isolated Parent said:

      Sorry, I posted above with the wrong user name. But anyway, I didn’t think I was sounding as grumpy as obviously most commenters thought. I think the OP should be able to set firm boundaries, and that the person insisting on bringing her child when specifically told not to is really problematic.
      I do think people should be hesitant before deciding that excluding specific types of people from your life is perfectly OK, which some of the commenters (not the OP) seemed to be arguing.
      But if I’m still sounding grumpy or off-topic then I apologize.

      • meh said:

        You are saying all the thoughts that I am trying not to say to my friend group about the events they don’t invite me to. Even though I know they don’t have to, and that they are work-based and I do different work and they get to not invite me, my insides twist up when I hear about it, and I feel isolated and lonely because I don’t have other people to be with. It hurts, and it sucks, and it’s really hard to look at all the work it will take to make a different more compatible group, when you just want your people to help you find a more inclusive way. I don’t know if it helps to hear that, but you’re not alone.

      • Zillah said:

        But I don’t think that I saw anyone was talking about outright excluding specific types of people – in this case, children – from their lives. I just see people saying that there are certain situations in which they simply do not want to deal with children, for a variety of reasons. That’s completely reasonable, just like it’s reasonable to say that you don’t like late nights or are unavailable for much socializing after work.

        I don’t want to sound unsympathetic, because it does sound like a very unpleasant situation for you, and I can understand how you could be feeling hurt and isolated.

        However, IMO, this is part of having kids. Yes, your friends should absolutely be making an effort, but you’ve decided that the joys of having a child outweigh the negatives. I have to admit that I find the insinuation that it should be my job to accomodate other people’s choices as a matter of course by feeling like I have to be kid-friendly all the time to be extremely unpalatable.

    • Leela said:

      “But I hope people realize that child-free events should be rare, unusual things. ”

      Why? Because you don’t want to get a sitter? That’s not reasonable, and it’s pretty entitled.

      “Can’t adults have fun times while a child or two occasionally interrupts the fun but everyone tries to keep them happy while the cocktails are going around?”

      Yes, they can. Why don’t you throw some events like that? If you feel isolated, then do something about it. Don’t demand that other people run their events, which they are hosting, to suit your preferences.

    • GirlBob said:

      … their child-free friends think they have a right to live their lives without interacting with children.

      Woah. Um, actually, if I’m arranging the party, actually I do have a right to experience that party without interacting with children. Not my whole life, for sure! Kids are everywhere and have just as much right to exist in public spaces and private spaces they are allowed in as I am. But if I’m arranging a party in a private space of my choosing, absolutely I have a right to not have kids there.

      And let me add, I wouldn’t. I love kids and although I don’t have any of my own yet, at all and any parties I arrange, kids are always invited. But you know, if I wanted to not have kids there, that’d totally be within my rights.

    • J. Preposterice said:

      Yeah, so, there are ways to solve that problem that don’t involve other adults having to solve it for you.

      Our solution has been to host as often as possible, and to talk to our without-kids friends about why it’s so much easier for us to host than to find babysitting for as frequently as we’d like to see them. Because our friends are lovely, they often felt obliged to reciprocate with invites — which is much harder for us than they realized! We’ve worked it out over time. They bring more food to get-togethers than they used to, for example, because they felt badly about us bearing the financial burden of feeding everyone. Many of them also try to make sure that every now and then they throw a party where kids are welcome. But it was fundamentally our problem to solve, not theirs. We had to figure out the bones of the solution and then talk to our friends about it to make it work for everyone.

    • Isolated Parent said:

      I wish I’d thought more before I commented the first time. I thought I was making a fair point while also acknowledging the legitimate difficulty faced by the OP, but either my point wasn’t fair, or I failed to communicate it well. Please don’t feel you need to keep trying to put me in my place for having such a terribly wrong opinion. I’m not that thick-skinned.

      • JenniferP said:

        I would like everyone to take their mean & self righteousness down about 10 notches in response to this subthread.

        It sounds like that having children really disrupted your social circle in a way that you did not expect, and that is for sure painful & hard. It also sounds like you made an effort to remedy it that didn’t quite take.

        The thing about boundaries is that they give us choices. When an event is “kids welcome!” the people who know it’s not their scene can decline. When people are clear that it is “no children” or in the OP’s case, ages 10 and up, parents have the info to make a good decision about what they want to do. This isn’t just about kids; some people can’t hang at the House of Many Cats, or go to the expensive tasting menu-birthday, or be around booze, or eat peanuts, or be the vegan at the pig roast.

        • Or be the person who can’t have children, surrounded by constant reminders of what they can’t have?

          I now have a group of friends who are awesome and child-free and even enforced my childfree wedding reception for me (I only had to play the Bridezilla card once!). Some people are not child-free through choice, and if they have child-free parties it would be nice to think that friends could be sensitive to that.

          I realise this is an unusual and specific incidence.

          • AmyS said:

            It’s actually not as unusual as you think! A lot of the world is tailored to families, and kids can be a constant reminder of what you can’t have. I stopped attending a book club when the members all
            started bringing their babies and it became all talk about the babies, and breastfeeding, etc.! I could have tried to suggest a no kids policy, but I don’t think that’s acceptable to the majority of the group. So I bowed out and will look for other social groups where I can fit in better.

            I feel badly for the isolated mom, but some friends may not like/want/care to be around kids, maybe because of some of the points above, or maybe because they are struggling with infertility. It does not matter! They don’t want to do it and that is their right!

            And these friends who disappeared? If they are not trying to hang out anymore, maybe they were not the closest of friends inthe first place!

          • It’s not that unusual.

            And take a look around you at church on Sundays, then compare with church on Mother’s Day, and you’ll probably see either a lot of women conspicuously absent, or crying.

            Some people can’t stand to be around children because they just can’t stand children. Some people can’t stand to be around children because they have not yet adjusted to the fact that they cannot have them, and it is REALLY hard to watch a long-held dream die. It’s even harder when people with children say, “Well, have you tried ____” or “Why don’t you just ______” or even chide you for not having your children, yet. “You’re not getting any younger! That biological clock is ticking away!”

            On the plus side, those people who cannot have children do, eventually, work through that mourning process, and are able to deal with other people’s little blessings, once again. And they often make very trustworthy, capable, and loving babysitters.

      • Phospher said:

        I think you had a good point, Isolated Parent. Of course people should be able to have adults-only events and expect to have their decisions respected, and I agree the LW and her friends are the reasonable parties here and the relative is behaving very badly. Yet at the same time, there’s a point when “no children” = “no poor mothers” and I don’t think it’s unreasonable to hope people would bear that in mind somewhat. Especially in view of how gendered the burden of childcare still tends to be and that it’s still women who pay the biggest personal and professional cost for having children. Not everyone *can* get a sitter, or rely on a relative or partner. There’s no reason to think anything like that was going on in this specific case, especially as the LW wasn’t even part of the relationship in question. If the relative feels left out not only on this one occasion but across the board, the LW is completely the wrong person to take it up with. But I don’t think it’s surprising that you were reminded of your own circumstances, or that the wider implications of “no children” policies.

        You can extend the “expensive restaurant” analogy — if you’ve got the money for it, of course you should be able to invite your friends somewhere fancy from time to time, in the knowledge the less well-off may have to decline. But if you *keep* inviting your friend somewhere you know she can’t afford to go (or stop bothering to invite her anywhere) and refuse to ever see her in a setting that would be within her budget — then you’re not treating her very well and she’d be justified in being hurt. I’m sorry it sounds like your friends aren’t making any compromises to include you, IP. I hope they’d be responsive if you talked to them and that between you can find ways to see more of each other.

        • Veronica said:

          I have to admit I’m a little surprised at how many people responded saying good childcare was “easy” to find. Sure it is…if you live in a good area where affordable child care is available, have access to a certain level of income, have the luxury of a multi-parent household, AND assuming your child doesn’t have special needs or a disability that requires a specially certified caretaker. There’s a huge gap in how we present the *idea* of the American family and the reality of what many young parents actually go through.

          As it is…one of my friends had an unexpected pregnancy that she opted to carry to term. Even with the father present and contributing to the care and house income, they would living below poverty level if her family wasn’t able to babysit during the weekdays. Full time childcare is exceptionally expensive, especially for the working class who can’t afford to not have two working parents but who make too much money combined to qualify for government help. In her case, because said friend is already relying so much on her family for help, she doesn’t feel comfortable asking them to watch her children on the weekends so she can go out with friends. Over the course of the years, the close-knit social circle she used to have has slowly unwound. So…yes, I can understand how a new parent (especially a mother) can feel very isolated. The LW’s situation is a little different, and she is completely within rights to fortify the boundaries she’s established, but I get where Isolated Parent is coming from.

          • JenniferP said:

            This is very relevant, I think, and I also see where Isolated Mom is coming from. That isolation is real, and unfair, and it sucks. My friends with kids have paid an extra, at LEAST $50-$60 or called in a favor from relatives or friends in order to come out without their kids and I think it’s good to keep aware of that. I think it’s good to reach out to your friends with kids and make sure they aren’t feeling lonely and isolated. The recent “New Parent” thread was a good listening opportunity for people to figure out how hard and isolating it is to be around small children all the time and we could all probably step up our game.

            But I think the way she raised the issue is, as one person put it, like one of those Vaguebook posts. Effective: “My dear friend (singular, or one at a time), I really want to see you. I am feeling lonely and cut off. How do we figure out how to make that happen? Here is one way it might work for me, would that work for you?” Ineffective: “Other people should throw more parties at their houses where small kids are welcome.”

            Isolated Mom ran into a problem that a lot of people do – when a friend group isn’t functioning the way it once did and it feels lonely and hurts to figure out the next thing.

            But people still get to decide how they want to socialize in their own homes and make those wants clear, and one person’s particular specific party does not have to bear the weight of this isolation or make up for it. My house is in a sketchy neighborhood and my kitchen was thrown together by alcoholic knife-jugglers and I can only fit about 5 people who are not me inside. Allergic to cats? Mine will climb on you and try to put her face on your face. A curious toddler? Have a hard time hearing where there is a lot of background noise (the ‘hood is filled with the nervous barking of dogs and the train passes about 20 feet outside, it’s like Jake & Elwood’s place in The Blues Brothers, also, sometimes, gunshots and/or domestic violence)? Need to be warm when you go to the bathroom (the heat never quite reaches to the bathroom)? Hate the smell generated by my pot-smoking neighbors? There is no “other room” or TV. So my parties tend to be “3 people, come over for breakfast in daylight hours, bring Zyrtec.”

            My friend who throws an annual birthday pig roast isn’t “isolating” his vegan friends. He’s saying “This is a pig roast, there will be pig there. Make the decision about that that’s right for you.” Maybe there is a message there that is “I want pig more than I want vegans to come to this event”, and if that tinged every single interaction that would maybe be a big flashing indicator of a friendship gone awry? I don’t know. I like pig. It’s a fun party.
            My friend who throws a super-swanky black tie wedding isn’t saying “my parent friends are so boring and I don’t ever want to see them and their boring kids.” He’s saying “Not every party is a kid party.”
            My friend who throws a Monty Python viewing party is giving you good information. Hate the Knights Who Say Knee? This isn’t your party!
            People can throw costume parties for Halloween, and the people who hate dressing up will deal.

            I am spoiled, in that my friends with kids are super-great at knowing when to integrate their children into events and knowing when this would be better as a swearing/drinking/Cards Against Humanity kind of night. Because don’t assume that all parents want their kids invited everywhere along with them everywhere. Sometimes a break from that is the best thing a friend can offer! I also babysit my nephew regularly so his parents can have date night, or stop by there to order food and watch bad TV with my friend so she doesn’t have to get a sitter and we can still see each other.

            This stuff is solved in one-on-one conversations, little-by-little, by letting go of assumptions and asking more questions. But party rules have to be “Your party, your rules.”

          • MamaCheshire said:

            YES to all of this, and also tying into something that CA said above.

            The $20-a-plate-or-more social event that is only compounded by the need to hire a babysitter because it is also child-only is generally going to mean that either only one of myself and Spouse will be there (and, in some cases, Gossip Ensues) or neither of us will be able to go because logistics.

            We had a friend for a while who had no car and we used to barter “we’ll give you rides if you watch our kids once in a while” – it worked well, but this friend is no longer local.

            And the special-needs thing is definitely an issue. Sometimes it seems like the more a parent needs a break, the less able to get that break the parent will be.

          • I totally agree with everything JenniferP said here.

            Parents and non-parents alike, please remember – time changes everything. Right now, you may feel isolated, but in a decade or so, your situation will be different. Even if you still have young children, you’ll probably be able to get help from the older ones. You’ll probably have made some new friends, and have access to more baby-sitting options.

            And non-parents – you may have a child or several children, or maybe all of your friends and family have them, and you may be surrounded by them, whether you want them, or not.

            So, deal the best that you can, with what you have, at the moment. Another moment, you’ll have to deal differently. And in some cases, all you can do is wait for that different situation to finally come around.

            Hang in there, Isolated Parent! And good luck!

        • I really appreciate you saying this, I think the OP is doing the right this, this is not about them but in general I was trying to work out how to say it, I don’t have kids and I do like cocktails and swearing. However the gendered expectations of childcare and the fact that most of the time the poor single parent is a single mum is really important.

          I quite like one thing my social group does, which is to split a lot of events into “3-6pm kids welcome, at the local park 7pm onwards kids go home, to the pub/house party” its not perfect and I know some parents will be disappointed to go home at 6 but it is something an it means people don’t end up totally unable to attend because they have short humans.

          • MamaCheshire said:

            THAT is brilliant. Imperfect, yes, but brilliant. Must remember for future use!

          • A brilliant example of dealing the best you can with the resources you have, at the time. And in a few years, those people who had to leave at six will be able to stay longer, and some of those who stayed longer, will find themselves leaving at six.

          • Kim said:

            This reminds me of a great party I went to once, where the mum and her kid shared a birthday party. She hired a jumping castle which was for the kids in the afternoon, but for the adults in the evening. It was brilliant fun. I am sure there were lots of kids running around in the first part of the party but I don’t even remember because it was such a fun party for the adults.

      • twomoogles said:

        I think this is a good example of nobody doing anything wrong at all, but things still not working out. You shouldn’t have to lose friends after having children, and your friends shouldn’t have to interact with children if they’re not comfortable doing so. It’s natural and normal that you are sad about this, but it sounds to me like some of those friendships are a bad fit now, due to circumstances, rather than your friends being bad friends, if that makes sense.

        Most of my friends haven’t had kids yet, and a couple of them have. My friendship with them did peter off after awhile. It wasn’t because I didn’t like them, or hated kids, but the types of gatherings we were having felt like work to my childless self. There are lots of types of hanging out that I will do occasionally for friends, but don’t really enjoy, and if that ends up being the only types of invitations that are coming, I will, without meaning to, not see them as much. That goes for my friends who always want to go out dancing, as well.

        Right or wrong, I will enjoy an event significantly less if there are children present. Doesn’t mean I like the parents any less, but I’m human, and I find that if it’s something I’m not really enthusiastic about doing, over time I make less effort to do those things.

      • solecism said:

        Isolated Parent, I’m sorry that many of the responses have made you uncomfortable, and that you are feeling a little lost and isolated without adequate support from your social circles. Being a new parent is tough, uncharted territory, no matter how much one reads up, watches friends and relatives who had children earlier, or babysits. I hope that the support and sympathy that are in the comments as well are making you feel a little less alone for a moment.

        I get the feeling that some of the tension here is between the potential for prejudice vs the need for self care.

        Self care and good boundaries means that the person doing the work gets to make the choices that are best for hir. The work involved in maintaining relationships and communities is real and sometimes quite challenging, however unrecognized or diminished as women’s purview it may be, as Captain Awkward is wont to point out. So of course the host of a party gets to decide who to invite and on what terms, as amply demonstrated in the comments.

        And yet, take all of those individual cases, and sometimes a pattern emerges.

        Worry about intentional exclusions of some people based on reproductive choices, economic state, etc is a perfectly valid feeling, as the long history of exclusions based on race, religion, sexual orientation, gender presentation, etc amply demonstrates. This is how I read Isolated Parent’s concern–a fear that because excluding children from social gatherings is acceptable it becomes so commonplace that a pattern of prejudice against children and families in general emerges. It’s perhaps extrapolating a little too far–much like the jerkbrain of depression saying see, everyone hates you.

        Isolated Parent, I hope you do find the energy to keep trying different potential solutions to your current situation. Going from isolated to alienated to resentful to toxic is definitely a trajectory to avoid. Good luck finding resources and support.

        In the interest of disclosure, I am child free and have made peace with that reality, I think. I love children, and I usually love spending time with them, whether the offspring of friends or family or strangers even. I don’t mind casually keeping an eye on them if I happen to be in the vicinity. But. Despite knowing a bunch of people with small children and wanting to spend more time with them, we haven’t made much effort to prepare our home for small visitors in terms of either safety or entertainment. I am generally happy without kids as I can be as selfish as I like with my decisions, for the most part. And there are plenty of times I don’t have the energy to deal with children and am glad I have the choice to walk away or stay home when I really can’t cope. I’ve seen some truly awful parenting and some wonderful parenting. So I can appreciate the range of experiences and attitudes here. Given the so-called culture wars here in the USA, and the demographic and economic trends, this can be a very fraught topic.

        • irishup said:

          “Worry about intentional exclusions of some people based on reproductive choices, economic state, etc is a perfectly valid feeling, as the long history of exclusions based on race, religion, sexual orientation, gender presentation, etc amply demonstrates. This is how I read Isolated Parent’s concern–a fear that because excluding children from social gatherings is acceptable it becomes so commonplace that a pattern of prejudice against children and families in general emerges. It’s perhaps extrapolating a little too far–much like the jerkbrain of depression saying see, everyone hates you.”

          solecism, thank you for this & your whole comment. I could wish that all discussions around children occupying $_PeopleSpaces – public or private – would have this much nuance and acknowledgement. Because people don’t say (and twomoogles, this isn’t AT you, just your comment was nearby & readily copy-pasteable) “Right or wrong, I will enjoy an event significantly less if there are $_Other Class of Marginalized People present”. Or at least, they don’t in SJ-friendly spaces. Such statements – and attitudes – monolithize children, and by extension, their caregivers. “Childhood” after all, covers vast territory of needs and abilities, and each child is an individual, whatever age & stage traits/abilities they may share.

          I only disagree that the extrapolation “goes too far”. IME, it sort of depends on the “child-friendliness” of the people involved. My extended group of friends is fairly kid friendly and inclusive, but there are a non-insignificant number of friends I just don’t see any more b/c they aren’t able or willing to accommodate children or my needs as a parent.

          Setting boundaries IS appropriate. Self-care IS appropriate. But it’s worth interrogating the motives for & execution of “no children”, in the same way it is in any situation someone wants to argue that there are $_Reasons for $_Class of People not to be at $_Events. [Disclaimer; only an invitation interrogate within ourselves our own choices, or Systemic exclusionary issues. Not to be used for uninvited finger-pointing at any other person's choices.]

          • twomoogles said:

            You’re right, that I wouldn’t have made that statement with another group substituted for ‘children’, but neither would a letter have been published here on this site with another group substituted for ‘children under 10′. I did think about what you were saying, but I don’t think children can be compared in that way, because having a party that is more family-friendly is just a totally different dynamic at that point. It’s not a bad dynamic, just not one I am going to enjoy as much.

            Children are people, of course, and I would never think they shouldn’t be in public spaces. But they are vastly different from adults in how they interact, and require a different frame of mind. If I behaved exactly as I did at an all-adult party at one with children present, it would probably end up confusing or upsetting someone. If I interrogate my motives more closely, that’s really what I come up with–when on leisure time, I want to relax, and I can’t feel relaxed with small children around, as I feel like I have to watch my behaviour much more closely.

          • JenniferP said:

            And no one said “EXCLUDE CHILDREN ALWAYS.” We’ve got to dial it back a bit. In the letter, one person who was throwing a party said “Please, no kids under 10 at my house this weekend.”

      • La Bruja said:

        I am really taken aback by the responses you have received on this thread. The dominant culture USA tends to be very segregated in terms of age, and many people seem to think they are within their rights to be entitled to never have to deal with the younger generations in public or at mixed get-togethers. That is pretty culturally and class-specific. While of course it is fine for people to invite or not invite whoever they want to to their own parties, it’s also totally bigoted to go around saying “I just don’t like kids and I don’t want them around me.” That line has been crossed in this discussion, and in my opinion, it should not fly at all. Fine if you are childfree in your own life but please do not try to spin the reality that the presence of children is oppressing you. When you proclaim your dislike for an entire class of people based on nothing other than age, that is called ageism, and it’s not right.

        In any case, this subthread has brought up issues that should be pointed out. Parents are often isolated and often lose friends after they have children. It’s difficult to navigate life with a new human, and bewildering when other adults in your life can’t be bothered to make space for you. And then to go out in public with your child and receive nasty looks–well, let’s just say that it doesn’t make postpartum depression any easier. I did have to make all new friends when I had my child in my mid-twenties and all my previous friends did not know how to navigate my new reality.

        It’s completely privileged thinking to say that every parent should be able to spring for a sitter for every event if they want to come. That cost adds up *real* fast, to people that are often budgeting just to have food on the table. (1/3 of kids in US are in poverty, so it’s not an uncommon dilemma.) What about single moms, or people with smaller budgets? In my life I really believe in the ‘it takes a village to raise a child’ saying, and I try to remember that my friends with kids have responsibilities that complicate their lives, and they can’t just shunt their kids off at every moment because others don’t want their style cramped.

        That said, this is an issue that has rankled me for a very long time, and one that I’ve spent a considerable amount of time writing about and organizing around. It’s always amazing how little understanding the general culture can have towards mothers and kids. Some of the comments on this thread have crossed the line into discrimination, and we don’t really see it, because it’s so common in the wider culture.

    • manybellsdown said:

      I spent 5 years of my life as a single parent, turning down invitations because I literally had no one to watch my daughter most of the time. Maybe I’m just particularly introverted, but it was just a Thing that Happens and didn’t bother me much. Most of my friends didn’t have children until a good 10 years after I did – they just didn’t GET the issues I’d have. And that’s not their fault. Heck, just recently I went to an event my 15 year old was not invited to because the host thought people might feel uncomfortable drinking and swearing around a minor (which doesn’t bother ME or HER in the least, but it was HIS house.)

      This too shall pass, you know? Eventually the situations will change.

    • ona555 said:

      I am sorry that the replies you are getting are so pointy. What I am hearing from your comment is a person who is struggling with retaining a sense of self during motherhood and an expression of sadness at feeling like she’s not welcome to have a social life because of childcare constraints. I want to offer hugs. I know that feel.

      Other people absolutely have the right to establish and hold whatever boundaries they need regarding other people’s children. I read you as acknowledging that. You also get to process the effects those boundaries have on you. Parenthood can be inexplicably lonely sometimes. There is nothing wrong with saying so.

      I kind of don’t go anywhere for some of the same reasons you stated. Can’t afford child care, logistics of handing off kids from one parents to the other are often too stressful to manage and still be able to go have a guilt-free good time. I missed the last Awkward meetup because it was inaccessible to me. My house is too tiny to really host anything. People with kids whose partners don’t work as much as mine tend to seriously underestimate the amount of emotional energy it takes to get out of the house without my kids– or even with them. I am lonely a LOT and it sucks. At the same time, it’s not the fault of my childfree former friends that they arrange their lives to suit their own needs and have more or less moved on without me, any more than it is the responsibility of my friends with grown kids to host my youngers or my friends with babies to host my pre-teens. I don’t resent them for it even though yeah, circumstances have excluded me from their lives and making new friends whose priorities mesh with your own can feel nigh on impossible when your whole world has been upended. Exhaustion, loss of identity, anxiety, these are a thing. They aren’t necessarily the responsibility of anyone else to manage, but they are a thing and they are valid obstacles you may be facing that I want to take a moment to acknowledge.

      I think it should be okay for someone to say “This is hard and I wish things were different” without that being taken as “all you people suck.” Maybe this thread wasn’t the place. I do hear you, though.

    • TR said:

      I don’t know about you and your kids, specifically, but when I hang out with people + their young kids, they’re always distracted, and paying as much, if not more, attention to their kid(s) than me. I understand this; your kid’s safety is much more important than my conversation, but it does mean that I don’t get to have a really good interaction like I could when the kids aren’t around.

      And that means that a lot of the time, I would rather hang out without the kids because then I get to hang out with my friend who is also a mom, rather than a mom who is also my friend. It has nothing to do with my like or dislike of children but rather my desire to have meaningful interaction with my friends. (Most of the time, I hang out with the kids, because it’s a temporary thing and I’d rather have some of my friend than none of my friend, but I don’t think everybody realizes that.)

      Anyway, this sounds really rough for you and I hope things get better for you!

      • MamaCheshire said:

        This makes a lot of sense to me. I have a considerable horror of being That Parent, as mentioned elsewhere on this very thread, who “relaxes” with friends while her kids run amok. Sometimes to the point of having to be gently prodded by my friends to relax enough about my kids to enjoy the time with my friend. :)

        Individual kids have their own balance of any of: direct interaction with parent, direct interaction with EVERYONE in the room, direct interaction with someone in the room, being included in the game the adults are playing, playing quietly nearby, watching a movie in the living room while the adults do something in the kitchen, playing with another convenient kid (sibling or otherwise), etc. Any or all of these strategies may work, though the kid in question will vary. (FirstKid, at 3, could be kept content at otherwise adult-centric gatherings if given a nice stack of d20s to play with, for instance. At 4, when playing Apples to Apples, we could give her a stack of cards and let her pass one in randomly. At 7, she understands the game fully and is quite proficient. FirstKid is very bright and also very sociable; YMMV as always.)

    • I don’t think I’ve ever been to a child-free event in my life that was even vaguely family related. The closest I can think of is a wedding that was held on a boat and they didn’t have much room so it was limited by how closely people were related. The second closest was a big fancy wedding where they arranged for a specific room for children and a separate, less-fancy cake, but the children weren’t confined to it, it just had the more interesting stuff than a bunch of adults standing around talking. My sister had a classmate in college who had never been to a funeral because “they’re inappropriate for children”.

      All of which is unrelated to the original letter, but I just wanted to say that yes, I think that automatically making all gatherings adults-only by default seems odd to me, too. (If nothing else, how will children learn their manners if they never get to practice?)

      • MamaCheshire said:

        Yeah, I agree with this too. Kids are people!

        Though something I found with mine was that when FirstKid was very little, we could take her almost anywhere that wasn’t explicitly an adult-only gathering with no problems, and even when she was the only kid in the place people were really happy to see her.

        This continued at first once FirstKid got a little bigger and SecondKid arrived. Then it got awkward:

        1) FirstKid got old enough to start asking embarrassing questions about things she didn’t understand. (Firefly was her favorite thing in the world when she was three years old. Now she’s seven and we don’t really watch it in front of her because she’ll want to know WHY things are happening and…yeah.)

        2) SecondKid turned out to be of a much more independent, less people-pleasing, less easily-directable temperament than FirstKid. This made certain socializing a lot more difficult.

        One of the most awesome things our church did is have an adults-only game night with the usual child care staff hired on for the night to watch the kids in a separate building. Someone brought CAH and we got to play it with a group that included our pastor. I don’t think I’d laughed so hard in months if not years! There definitely IS a power to the occasional night like that.

        But in general, kids are going to be in the world, and I’ve encountered a lot of irritating expectations that kids should pretty much be shuttled from school to home and back again and never be seen out in public in a setting other than maybe Chuck E Cheese. And that is ridiculous.

        • J. Preposterice said:

          I very much agree that kids are people and have to learn how to be in the world. We frequently get comments about how nicely-behaved our older child is in restaurants (he’s 3). Well, that is because he has been to restaurants a fair amount and knows how he is supposed to act in them.

          That doesn’t mean that kid-unfriendly events should be “rare and unusual”, though, which I think is where I (and a lot of other folks) got annoyed. It’d be nice if they were, because I’d get to do more stuff! But my social life (and occasional lack thereof) is still mine to have to figure out.

          • MamaCheshire said:

            I think there is a certain conflation of frustration here, in that I’ve had the misfortune of encountering people who think that kid-free public spaces should be the norm, not the exception, and who don’t understand that sometimes folks need to renew their driver’s license/fill a prescription/use the restroom at an interstate rest stop with their kids in tow.

            I know that’s not precisely the argument being made here, but I think some of us tend to get to the point of “stop saying kids shouldn’t be places!” after yet another person who doesn’t understand that Life Happens to parents too starts screaming about how dare there be a less-than-angelic kid at a bus stop/in the grocery store/in the doctor’s office/etc. (And there are usually layers of sexist and classist and often racist and ableist bullshit built into these criticisms, which DOES NOT HELP.)

          • J. Preposterice said:

            Oh, totes magotes. Unless it’s a specifically adults-only space (like some of my favorite bars, because I am a parent, not the enemy of fun)? Those small children are members of the public just like anyone and have the same right to be hanging about in public spaces.

          • @MamaCheshire, I’ve actually heard comments to that effect at our local zoo – “It’d be nicer if there weren’t all these packs of kids running around” – which just baffles me.

          • ReanaZ said:

            Aww, okay. I’ll cop to it. I have, indeed, made “Man, this {generally kid-friendly or even kid-intended space} would be so much better without the kids.” But it’s usually pretty tongue-in-cheek/making fun of myself. As in, I honestly would enjoy places like the zoo and the park more if there weren’t kids around, but I recognize a) kids are people and have full-people-rights to public spaces and b) some spaces are kid-targeted and even though I enjoy them and am burnt out on kids, I’m the “intruder” in those spaces. Which is why it’s a funny comment to people “in” on the joke. But I’m sure I sound like an entitled asshole if anyone overheard me.

            (And I’m sure there are parents going, “Man, this playground would be more fun if that group of childless assholes weren’t hogging the swings.”)

          • @ReanaZ
            I know, right? I understand I *have* to share the museum with children, but can’t their parents at least use the outing to teach them the importance of turns and sharing? I want to listen to the damn elephant on the phone too!

          • @ReanaZ and @Caitlin:
            The super fun science-y museum near me actually started holding periodic “Museum After Hours” functions for ages 21+, with themes like “The Science of Beer” or “The Physics of Superheroes,” with frozen cocktails made with liquid nitrogen and full access to all the stuff that’s fun to play with. It’s one of the best ideas ever.

          • @ReanaZ:

            I do make exceptions for Disneyland. My kids and I go – Gemini was probably three months old at his first visit – and we have a blast, but yes, it’s definitely more fun without them :P (Which I say with all the love in my heart.)

          • @OtherBecky I am so jealous of your geographic location! That sounds ridiculously fun.

          • Muddie Mae said:

            @ OtherBecky, I think we might live in the same metro area. Was the Beer event in April, and did include a Mary Roach book signing?

          • @Muddie Mae
            Actually, they usually do the Science of Beer in September. (Next event is “The Science of Risk” in June.) Which is awesome news for everyone, in that it means that there are multiple metro areas with museums that do cool stuff like this! Check your local listings for details!

          • redgirl said:

            The thing is, your kid knows how to act in a restaurant because you’ve *taught* him how. Sadly, too many parents now think they are entitled to bring their kids into places like fancy restaurants without having to actually ensure that they behave. Or they bring babies into nighttime (non G-rated) movies and don’t leave when the baby starts screaming up a storm. I think a lot of the people who want more and more child-free spaces are probably reacting to the large numbers of parents who think that their little darlings are just adorable when they are screaming and running around and destroying people’s stuff. I’ve heard that in many non-U.S. countries, kids are more welcome in more places. But at the same time, those kids are also taught to behave better in those situations.

        • Linden said:

          Thank you for this. Kids are people, and yet some people feel free to make statements about them that they would never make about members of any other group. I’ve taught my kids the importance of extending acceptance toward the child in their class who has Tourette’s syndrome and can’t control all his vocalizations and movements, and yet there are adults who feel like they should never have to tolerate the discord of children for one single minute.

          • MamaCheshire said:

            *nodnodnod*

            Or, and this is the thing that makes me all headdesk-y, will be intolerant of “bad behavior” from kids but will totally excuse it from adults! So, kids have to behave perfectly or not be seen EVER, but adults get the “he’s just socially awkward it’s not his fault!” pass.

            …wait, WHAT? *sigh*

          • hexacat said:

            I, personally, have cultivated enough self awareness to understand public places contain children and children make noise and that is the way of the world, but. I have a mild sensory processing disorder and the “discord of children” can be intensely painful for me. To the point that I sometimes have to use earplugs or an mp3 player in public places to protect myself. And yet, when I’m trapped somewhere with a happily shrieking baby, my miserable (involuntary, half suppressed) flinching at the (to me) excruciating noise always ALWAYS inspires the parents to give me dirty looks and encourage more shrieking. Not the baby’s fault, not my fault either. Again, not saying that children shouldn’t be around me, but there are other factors out there than people just being childfree jerks.

    • Zooey said:

      Sorry you’re feeling Isolated, Isolated Parent! I hope your situation is one which can be helped by using your words with the friends who don’t have any kids!

      This doesn’t really help for situations where people actively exclude children, but as someone who doesn’t have children, I would just like to give a shout-out to all the parents out there that many many people would totally love it if you let them know that x accommodation would help you out as a parent. I occasionally realise I have inadvertantly excluded my friends with children from things just because I have no idea what things are in play for them. For example, one of my colleagues recently mentioned that she can never make after-work events because right at the end of the working day coincides with her son’s bedtime, and being there for that is non-negotiable for her. I wouldn’t have really thought about the early evening being a crucial time, especially since a lot of my other friends have older kids who are in after-school activities and such then, so I appreciated the heads-up that a later time could actually work better for her. Similarly, whenever I hold an informal house party, I really appreciate it if people will tell me if there are foods and drinks they need. This is true for adults too – if you’re vegan, I need to know – but with kids I tend to find it hard to gauge exactly what will be appropriate for kids of x age. I try to make a point of saying ‘There will be x and y, tell me if that’s a problem’, but I think people sometimes feel hesitant saying ‘little Johnny loathes apple juice, can you get grape?’ or ‘I don’t like my kids to drink pop’. Since I don’t have kids, it’s not always easy for me to gauge what will be child friendly. (I know parents will also bring stuff for their kids, but it’s nice to accommodate people, and I also tend to invest a lot in hosting events and feel sad if I realise I didn’t meet someone’s needs.)

      So – this one non-parent saying I really love it if people tell me ways to make things work for them and their kids! And maybe some of you isolated parents out there will find that your friends are just oblivious and would also be cool with being told stuff like this. (And events without children are also IMO totally appropriate in some circumstances, but if your friends are total jerks about being told stuff like this, then I wish you luck in finding more congenial friends.)

    • Erika said:

      I’m a stay at home mom, so I feel pretty qualified to comment on this post. Why on earth should adults-only parties be so rare and unusual? Yes, finding quality childcare is difficult and expensive. But I don’t understand at all the comment that you can’t leave your hard-working partner at home with the kids for the evening. Why not? I leave my hard-working partner at home with the kids for the evening, or sometimes for the entire day, and he does absolutely fine. I also work a part-time job, and Partner parents then, too. That’s why he’s a PARTNER. We share the joys and the burdens. Sometimes he goes out with friends. Sometimes I go out with friends. Sometimes we get a sitter and we both go out, because that’s the healthy thing to do. And sometimes, we can’t get a sitter but there’s this cool thing we both want to do, but only one of us can go–bummer, but we figure out who should be the one to attend and the other goes and has fun.

      I think that currently, people are so apt to treat children as these fragile vessels that will shatter the first time Mommy (might be Daddy, but seems that it’s usually Mommy) leaves them alone for an evening. And there’s also an underlying ugly current that men can’t possibly handle being alone with children. There are commercials and sitcoms and all sorts of media telling us that Men Will Screw It Up. And that’s nasty and sexist and unfair.

      (I know that you did not specify your partner’s gender, and no matter the gender of your partner, there might be a different dynamic in your specific relationship. But saying that you don’t want your hard-working partner to have to be alone with children for an evening seems odd to me.)

      • Sunshine said:

        I noticed this too, and was wondering how being hardworking excuses someone from also parenting. I guess there is the possibility that the partner works several jobs and thus may be too limited on physical or mental resources to watch the kids, but I would imagine that sometimes IsolatedParent is running on empty sometimes too–but it’s not like they can just stop parenting because of it.

        • This struck me, too, though it’s a pretty common attitude. My mother has warned me many times that my future (as yet nonexistent) husband will not be any help at all with any children we have. Disheartening in the extreme—though I personally do not believe this is a good system and I have *every* intention of making this clear should I choose to have children with a trusted partner someday.

          • J. Preposterice said:

            The good news is that most of the Gen-X and Millennial husbands/partners that I know who have children are quite involved parents. There are some who aren’t, of course, but it seems to me that there’s been a big shift away from the norms of my parents’ generation (they’re on the older side of the Boomers).

          • Erika said:

            My husband is great with kids. His parenting style is different than mine, and sometimes I just have to bite my tongue, but you know what? They’re his kids, too. I’m lucky, though–my husband *insists* that I go out some evenings and get away from the kids. (Far fewer fantasies of locking them in a closet that way! :P )

    • There’s really no reason in the world that other adults have to cater to your children. I’m sure they are delightful, and it must suck not to be able to share that part of your life with your friends, but if they are hosting the event(s), they call the shots. It’s really that simple.

      The main reason I regard your letter with trepidation is because I’ve had awful experiences at mostly adult-centered gatherings where one or two couples brought their children and then proceeded to not watch them at all. Or attempted to dump the children on another adult (a parent who had not brought their child). In this particular case, the adult in question was my sister, a mom who *hates* other people’s children, and had no qualms about turning her back on the children who were not her responsibility.

      I’m not insinuating that *you* do this, but it’s a very common occurrence. Many people view child guests with a major SideEye just for this reason.

      I used to teach preschool, and I did occasionally baby-sit my students outside of class. I don’t know how old your children are, but this might be an option if you’re hard-up for childcare? At least this way you’d be getting an adult you know and have built up some kind of bond with.

      • Melody said:

        So I’m a mother of two, and I spend much of my time at family-themed events with children these days. Your observation applies equally to those!

        Some parents show up at a family-themed gathering and check out. They’re like, “you’re the host, I’ll be on the chaise lounge with my cocktail, where you will be serving me!” And then their kids spend the rest of their visit destroying my stuff, pushing and shoving the other children when the adults’ backs are turned, constantly whining and fighting and demanding snacks every 30 seconds, kicking over lemonade cups and throwing pizza crusts into the pool.

        Other parents show up, keep an eye on their children, and if they see them acting out, they remind them of their manners and rules.

        Guess who gets invited back next time? :)

        When the mix is right – at least among our group of friends – the kids tend to splinter off into little packs to do their thing, and you really can have an uninterrupted conversation once in a while. It probably helps that our kids are all between the ages of 5-9, so past the toddler years.

    • Wow, that comment really jerked my strings b/c there have been moms in my life who, when they weren’t waxing rhapsodic about how fulfilled they finally are w/kids & how none of us barren women can ever understand their perfect joy, were snarking that we dared try to have a cocktail party without kids at it. I don’t think you are like that, and I think your party with all the kids running around does sound kind of fun, but I’m completely not qualified to HOST such an event and we have an absinthe fountain and porn and a Dali and probably asbestos paint chips in the carpet and you reallllly don’t want your kids in my house any more than I do.

    • There is a super-important conversation to be had about the misogyny of excluding children from public spheres and by extension, excluding their carers who are, by and large, women.

      This is not that conversation.

      If your friends invites ‘feel like a kick in the teeth’, that is very much your problem to deal with – either by getting different friends or by seeking help in dealing with your resentment.

  16. Karen said:

    One of the problems with entertaining when kids come over too is that there are kids, and then there are kids (or parents, I guess). I suspect the “no children” rule was instigated with one particular kid+mom combination in mind.

    When my kids were small,we hosted dinners and get togethers with other families all the time because we had the biggest house. But wow, there were some parents+kids combos that we just had to stop inviting because they were just intolerable to have over. Parents who plopped down on the couch and drank wine for hours as if they had not a care in the world, never noticing that their kids on the floor were pouring juice on another kids head, throwing food, screaming, having tantrums, tormenting a younger child, destroying things, or terrorizing the cat right in front of them. Our house was childproofed, but I really resented it that I had to act as a babysitter and keep particular kids from hurting the other children while their parents “relaxed”. And it as super stressful to have those families around. Most families were fine…the parents could socialize while also keeping one eye on little Amanda and intervening when needed. The families who didnt keep their kids under control werent invited back.

    • Skydancing said:

      Yup, this. The parents who treat a kids-included event as free babysitting and proceed to ignore their children are the ones who do not get invited into my home. For an event like this baby shower, where LW, A, and B are hosting people unknown personally to them and have no real idea of how certain parents+kids will behave, an age restriction will help avoid this kind of stress. LW, I think that you, A, B, and C have done a great job of defining a boundary, and I hope that drama relative gives you no more trouble.

  17. JSMC said:

    This happened at my bridal shower that was held at my mothers house. My soon to be SIL brought her 3 children and let them run wild. Her MIL was even there and neither of them watched the children. They were running around spilling drinks and food and went upstairs and got into bedrooms and started to go through dressers and closets and personal belongs. To this day my mom is still upset about it. My SIL couldn’t be bothered getting someone to watch them. Then to top it all off both my SIL and her MIL were both upset when my family members casually suggested that they watch her children.

  18. Commander Banana said:

    I think the Letter Writer and her friends handled this situation with admirable tact and grace (and probably better than I would have – I think after the second time Pushy Lady contacted me, I’d be like “Sosorryyoucan’tcomethat’stoobadgoodbyeeee!” and hang up the phone).

  19. I think the most offensive part of what this woman is expecting is that it puts the A, B, and C in a horrible position where other people will be offended that they were not also able to bring their children, even after they politely asked.

    By rescinding the ‘no small children’ rule for one person, they will be expected to do so for everyone else as well.

  20. SassQueen said:

    My issue comes with people who host child non-friendly gatherings, and then whine and complain when you decide not to go. You can either 1) tell me I can bring my young children or 2) not complain when I can’t make it to your gathering. You can’t have both.

    • Vanessa said:

      I experienced this a LOT when my daughter was little. She had terrible separation anxiety and would cry nonstop for hours if left with anyone, including Grandma. It wasn’t one of those situations where the kid fusses a bit when mom and dad are leaving and then starts having a great time as soon as the door closes, it was genuinely traumatic for her. So until she was about five, if kids weren’t invited to an event, we didn’t go – or best case, one of us (usually my husband) went while the other one stayed home with her. We never made a big deal about this, but childfree friends would give us endless grief about how they never saw us and why didn’t we just force her to stay with a sitter. Ironically, now that she’s a teenager and would love for me to go out and leave her at home alone for the evening, those same friends have toddlers and never socialize.

    • LW #478 said:

      Again, I didn’t know this person, or the child. And when C followed up (politely) she said “If this prevents you from coming, I’m sorry, we should arrange a time to meet that is convenient for all.” Which I thought was reasonable.

      I mean, I get that kids make scheduling things difficult. I really do. Example: Right now, my parents are downsizing their house in anticipation of retiring, and as the only one of their kids (all of us are in our 30s) without my own children, I’m the one going home every other weekend to help them. It’s my pleasure to do so, and I don’t begrudge my brothers for not being able to do it at all because they each have kids four and under to consider. And I love getting to spend time with my friends with kids, but I know that it generally will have to be on whatever terms they make available because children require some flexibility, which I’m willing to afford.

      I get that finding childcare can be hard, and that it makes coming to events difficult, and I’m okay that people asked for clarification on the kids issue. It was something we hadn’t considered, really, and since A was providing the space, it was her call. A call I’m more than comfortable supporting, because her place really isn’t the safest for kids, nor is it geared towards kids.

      • atma said:

        Hi LW,

        I don’t know if you’re a woman, but if you are, the fact that you are the one responding to your parents’ needs of support and not your brother could be a gender-thing too. Maybe it’s natural for you to step in more often, but I think it might be a good idea to get your brothers to begin to consider their role in this. If they don’t have the time, maybe they could carry some of the economic side of things. As your parents grow older, it would not be fair if the responsibility for parents land on you and stay on you. It IS fairly common that women are expected to pick up the responsibility to care for family. We need to be aware of it.

        • Sunshine said:

          This kind of sounds like “self-oppressing” language. The LW knows their family situation best, and should be able to make decisions about it as they see fit–which I’d like to point out, they’ve already done. Seeing as this is not actually what they wrote in about and they’re not asking for advice on it, I have no idea why you’re even questioning this.

          • Zillah said:

            Yeah, I think it’s pretty inappropriate to jump to conclusions like this when you know very little about the situation, especially since the LW mentioned a reason for her pitching in more right now that makes a lot of sense. Gender aside, the idea that someone with at least one young child would be less available to go home every other weekend makes a lot of sense.

        • LW #478 said:

          I am a woman, and it does have to do with the fact that they have kids and I don’t. I mean, I get that dynamic probably exists elsewhere, but it’s not the dynamic in our family. We do for each other all the time like this, like when my dad had to have major heart surgery some years ago and need help during his recovery. That was before my one brother was married and before either had kids, and I was in college still, so they were the ones who filled in then.

    • Commander Banana said:

      I’m sure that’s an issue, but it’s not the issue here.

    • JenniferP said:

      Agreed! Since parties aren’t mandatory and shouldn’t be coercive, this shouldn’t be as hard as it often is for people to grasp.

  21. misspiggy said:

    If you are a parent who wants to hang out with friends and children more, a corking thing to say is, ‘When are we going to see you next? Little Timmy really misses you!’ Guaranteed to melt the heart of the most hardened child-avoider. ‘Timmy remembered me? Ooh… er, well yes, let’s make plans…!’

    Sounds like the LW’s guest is a terminal attention-seeker and would have found a way to make trouble whatever the issue had been.

  22. LW #478 said:

    Hey! My letter! :-D Just a follow up: The event went smoothly. Relative did show up, but without her kid in tow, and C called the grandma to smooth things over — turned out the Grandma didn’t think she was going to see her great-grandchild at the party and was not at all disappointed. C had a great party, and no feelings were hurt in the end.

    • unlurking said:

      Success!

    • Yay! Thanks for the update.

    • So glad to hear that things went well!

    • griffykate said:

      Great! Thanks for letting us know, it always makes me happy to see that things turned out well. :)

  23. That Girl said:

    I’m always happy to avoid a party but when my son was born, going anywhere without him wasn’t an option. His condition caused his heart to stop many, many times and although I was adept at reading the signs, how would those sitter instructions go?
    I was upset but not mortally offended when my friend hosted her first adults-only party (there were several other issues involved), but not nearly as offended as she was that I declined rather than get a sitter. I think everyone just has to get over themselves, and as the Captain says, not take invitations OR responses as a love test.

    • I was just about to ask if your friend knew about your son’s condition, but then thought about it again. It really doesn’t matter if you have a health condition, financial considerations, social anxiety, or just feel like you’d rather do laundry that night. Everyone has a right to decline an invitation, no explanation required.

      Declining a single invitation, even to a WEDDING, does not mean that you don’t love the person issuing the invitation. It just means you aren’t attending that particular event.

      So, it doesn’t matter if your friend knew about his condition, or not. She was offended, when there was nothing at which she should take offense. That’s too bad. Hopefully, though, she’ll learn better, soon. That is what life is for.

      I hope you son is much improved now.

      • JenniferP said:

        SRSLY. Weddings are not mandatory; they are parties.

  24. I’m glad to hear the event went smoothly and that it did not have increased levels of awkward that may have happened if the kid had made an appearance!

    I’m a parent of two kids, both under five, and LW, I think y’all did a solid. I feel Isolated Parent and Sassqueen – I know those feels! and they are awful! I hope each of you find better footing with your friend groups posthaste – and even still, LW, you handled this with grace and dignity. Well done!

    One of the things that I have seen cropping up in this thread is the safety issue, and I hoped to share that, in my experience as a parent, it is more gratifying to have a party-thrower bring up potential risks (i.e. “we have a large dog,” “we have an unfenced pond,” “we do not have safety gates for our staircase”) and permit me to judge whether I should bring my child. This is not to say that you must or should or would or could do so also, because I do think it is the prerogative of the party-planner to create the type of environment in which they would like to party! It is only to suggest that, if you would like to have small children present but you are concerned for their safety, you might just ask the parents you’re inviting.

    I also liked the time-delimited suggestion made by cheshbitten, in which an event has two elements: one child-friendly, and one adults-only. Just lifting that up for other party-planners out there! :)

    • MamaCheshire said:

      Cosigned the last two paragraphs. Especially the dog thing. And actually, would love it if people would do that anyway even if they think it’s NOT a barrier to bringing my kid.

      Last time I went to someone’s house for dinner with my kids, SecondKid got completely terrorized by an overexuberant dog that knocked her over repeatedly until one of the people whose house (and dog) it was finally crated the dog, who then proceeded to loudly ruin our attempts at conversation. I just…I really wish I’d known that. Not necessarily that I wouldn’t have gone but that it could have at least been talked about and maybe something figured out that didn’t involve scaring a four-year-old girl who hasn’t been around dogs much.

      • Oh no, poor SecondKid! That must’ve been rough. And, yes, pretty much a perfect example – The More You Know and all; you can’t make informed choices without information!

        • MamaCheshire said:

          Yeah. I wish there were a generalized Host/Guest Information Exchange Script, for so many reasons.

      • Ugh. Best-case, benefit-of-the-doubt scenario, that couple had never had small kids in the same room with the large dog before, and will issue warnings hereafter. Hell, I’d want to be warned about the large dog and I don’t even have kids.

        • MamaCheshire said:

          Actually, they had. Also at this dinner were relatives of the host couple who have a son exactly SecondKid’s age. But I think the son was a regular enough visitor to have lost that level of excitement value to the dog. SecondKid has very little experience with dogs, and *we* have cats. So yeah. :(

    • ReanaZ said:

      I kind of get where you’re coming from, but… even if parents decide “It’s fine,” the liability if the kid gets hurt is still mine as the homeowner. Same as when I was a teacher, legally responsible for kids’ safety, with my job and the school’s well-being on the line, when a parent tells their kid it’s fine to o something against teh school’s safety policy. If I’m ultimately legally liable for the kid’s safety on my property/watch, then it’s my responsibility to determine if I’m comfortable having kids there/doing that from a safety perspective.

      But I do wish more people who disclose such things upfront, especially when it comes to pets, so that even if the host is comfortable with the situation, the invitee can make informed decisions.

      • Fair point, absolutely, which is why it’s always ultimately up to the host to determine whether to permit children or not. I’d only wanted to address the safety thing because we were the first in our group of friends to have children, and so many of our friends simply had no idea what constituted a kidsafe space, and in erring on the side of caution we got left out of a lot of stuff. Now that we’ve got more friends with kids it’s less of an issue, of course, but since I saw several people mention “safety” I just wanted to toss out my two cents.

    • elodieunderglass said:

      Yes, when I had a British Thanksgiving I wanted to invite a work friend who has a very small child. I specifically told him that the child was welcome, that we definitely wanted to see his whole family (who are usually a bit socially isolated) and that we did not want him to have to find a babysitter to come to our dinner, but that:

      1. He will be the only child there. And nobody else has children. We will admire and pay attention to your child, but we’re not going to swap parenting stories and talk about schools, and there will be no playmates his own age.

      2. We really like kids, but our home is not set up for them. We don’t have child-friendly furniture, cutlery, diaper-changing spaces, restraining equipment, child gates, etc. On the plus side, we don’t care if he breaks/stains/ruins anything – indeed he is welcome to do so.

      3. We can’t control all the potential hazards, like swallowable ornaments, sharp knives used while adults carve/prepare Thanksgiving food, drunk adults, breakable objects, etc. People will drink, pass hot food around, and drop the F-bomb frequently. We will make sure that there are no open sources of flame.

      The mother was a bit nervous, but they decided to come. They brought a plastic cup for him to drink out of, a change of clothes, and a bunch of books and toys for him to play with. He was okay sitting on his mother’s lap. He fell off the couch and cracked his head on a chair, but being small and bouncy he recovered quickly. He ate off his own plates, and they brought a sort of collapsible playpen-seat-thing to secure him in so that they could eat their food.

      I would not require non-parents to open their homes to a toddler, but I think the parents appreciated being informed. They had to bring a ridiculous amount of equipment to feel comfortable in our home environment, but they said they really enjoyed coming out.

      • That sounds like a really well-played situation – everybody was informed of the expectations, and each party rose to meet the other’s. :)

        And yes to that whole last paragraph. I know every time I’ve had to do something similar it’s been absolutely worth it, and I’m very grateful to our nonparent friends who’ve opened their homes to us for events. It’s gratifying not to feel like I have to leave a part of who I am behind (i.e., a parent, with children) in order to socialize.

    • LW #478 said:

      That’s a good idea! In this case, it was in a condo on the top floor of a building in a busy downtown area, with two very open decks, and a staircase that didn’t have a really sturdy railing. Plus, we set up a buffet so we had things like open flames to keep entrees warm. I envisioned my four year old niece in the space and thought, nope.

      • Yuuuuup, sounds like you made the right call! Some places (and parties!) just aren’t going to be kid-friendly, and that’s okay.

        Again, glad it went well :3 Congrats to your friend too!!

    • lurker said:

      You know, I have no idea what the major hazards of my house are. I have no kids.

      I have younger siblings, and nieces and nephews, and I used to babysit a lot. But I am older, and so are they, and things have changed since I spent a lot of time with little kids.

      So many things that are standard now are incredibly overprotective in the world I grew up in. I wouldn’t even know where to start listing!

    • I wish when people asked and I said “I have a very large dog who is not really kid friendly so I don’t think that is a great idea.” they would translate that more directly into a “no.” I hosted a cast party for a show I was in, and one person asked if she could bring her kids. (1 out of, probably 100 people including the orchestra. All adults.)

      I told her that it probably wasn’t a great idea as we had a very large dog who is sight impaired and afraid of children. Plus our house includes some very not child friendly stair/door/landing combinations.

      And yet, mid party I hear people freaking out by the front door including my dog and discover, lo, they have brought the aforementioned children under 5, and did not even give me a heads up about removing my dog from the vicinity of the door. This was dangerous for the kids, because my dog was terrified of them, and for my dog because if he’d hurt them he of course would have to be put down.

      I guess my point is, it is not just up to the parents to decide if a place is safe for their kids. Homeowners, dog owners, are all legally liable for what goes on in their house, and the actions of their pets. There are consequences here beyond just the bad thing that could but hopefully will not happen to a child. That is why kids should know how to greet dogs, and always ask permission.

      If others are comfortable letting parents make the decision that is fine. But it is also good to understand that if they aren’t it isn’t that they don’t respect your judgement, it is just that they don’t feel like it is worth the risk, both to the kids, and to them.

      • You could say “no” too, though.

      • Yes, of course; my comment was not intended to suggest that hosts ought not engage in their own risk evaluation. I had offered it in good faith as one point of view from a parent of small children who has often fielded questions of safety and concern from nonparent friends, and who noticed a few comments above mention “safety” as a potential reason for disinclining to invite children of friends. That’s absolutely a host’s prerogative, and, if the host would like to have smalls welcome, it’s also perfectly acceptable (and in my case, preferable – because the parents know their own kids best) to speak with the parents in question about safety concerns. I once had a friend fretting to me that she didn’t have baby gates on her stairs – which would have been a greater concern if Libra had actually been ambulatory at that point!

        And in particular, I don’t know how any parent translates “a large dog who is not kid-friendly” into “oh sure, bring the kids!” because that would be an automatic NOPE in my book.

    • secretrebel said:

      I went to a party where the child friendly part was supposed to last from 3pm to 7pm and after that be adults only. Some of the parents brought their children and checked out of parenting, allowing the kids to jump on the furniture and scream, and they stayed until 10pm with the kids dropping with tiredness. So this kind of party will only work if your friends are not asshats.

  25. This is FAB advice, and I didn’t even think of preparing for the event that the kid shows up anyhow, but I have absolutely seen this happen. Good call!

  26. zilla said:

    I have tried and tried and tried to handle this “kids at parties” thing, and finally simply stopped hosting any parties.

    First I tried hosting obviously non-kid friendly parties. After having to deal with broken china, spilled wine, screaming that drowned out adult conversation, and mimosas ending up in sippy cups, I decided this wasn’t working.

    So then I tried asking people not to bring kids. Some parents simply stayed away politely. Others stayed away and snarked at me about it. Some found daycare, came to the party, and snarked at me about it. Some brought their kids anyway, snarked about it, and other parents who didn’t bring their kids complained that I let so-and-so bring kids, no fair!

    So then I tried making a dedicated space for kids in my house. I cleared everything that might be damaged from a room, I went to ToysRUs and invested in a whole lot of toys, I set up a TV and DVD player and rented a stack of kid movies. And when the kids arrived I tried to put them in that room. This didn’t work. The kids wouldn’t stay in there; they swarmed out and took over the party anyway.

    Basically, once your friends have kids, you just have to make your peace with it. You will have kid-dominated parties, or no parties. Becoming a parent causes many people to become inconsiderate and overly-entitled, and they just don’t care if your house isn’t 100% prepared for an invasion, or that you might prefer to have a party that doesn’t involve projectiles, shrieking, terrified cats, and running children knocking things over.

    I think this is the secret to why so many people switch to hosting $expensive outings, instead of parties at home, as they get older. This is a good way to have grown-up parties without snarking and/or parents bringing kids anyway. The price tag keeps kids away far more effectively than any rules ever could.

    Next time, host the shower in an upscale restaurant.

    • JenniferP said:

      Ugh, once people snark at the host of a party, that friendship is going down the tubes pretty fast. And it’s not because of the kids. GO or DON’T GO. Don’t passively-aggressively go and then critique everything.

      Also, relevant to this thread & “Isolated Mom”‘s posts, this old answer deals with the “not getting invited to stuff I used to get invited to” issue. tl;dr = You can’t or shouldn’t pressure people to invite you places or get them to change their parties, but you can reach out one on one and connect with people and over time figure out the larger social circle stuff.

      One of the most awkward exchanges I’ve ever witnessed:

      Person running into hosts of a thing he wasn’t invited to at a mutual friend’s party: “Hey, that thing you did sounded like fun. Why wasn’t I invited?”
      Hosts: (something noncommittal and polite)
      Uninvited Person: “No, seriously, why?”
      Hosts: (trying to remain noncommittal)
      Uninvited Person: “Well, JEEZ, if you don’t LIKE me, you can just SAY so.”
      Hosts: “We don’t like you that much. And that is why we don’t invite you to things at our house. Beer…over there…in other room…bye now….”

      Soooooooooo awkward. But also kind of awesome? A sense of entitlement about invitations is not helping people get what they want. Quite the opposite.

      • zilla said:

        I know! I have also had trouble with people who were not invited, either showing up anyway, or hassling me when they meet me at other events. That’s the other reason I have stopped hosting parties, besides the kid problem.

    • staranise said:

      I do kind of feel the need to say: this sounds like a bug in the people in your social circle more than A Universal Rule of All Parents Ever. It’s a very useful thing for you to keep in mind with your people, but it is so very much not my reality that I can’t even imagine the people I know behaving that way.

      • J. Preposterice said:

        for real.

      • thebewilderness said:

        It always comes as a shock because they seem so nice and reasonable and then bammo. The last time you ever invite them is the time they show up with three big dogs at your tiny little house full of people because they were sure you wouldn’t mind. True story.

        • staranise said:

          I have friends who have kids. They actually do things like say “I can’t come unless the kids do” or “I need to cancel because I can’t find a sitter.” Like, they actually use their words and respect boundaries. That’s what I’m saying. I can’t imagine a friend of mine actually disingenuously saying, “What, when you said they couldn’t come you actually meant it? How rude!”

          So while that may happen to YOU, or to Zilla, this is a property of the friends you hang out with, not their status as parents or dog owners or whatever. Hate to break it to you.

          • JenniferP said:

            Right, exactly! Sometimes the answer to “I can’t come unless the kids do” is “We’ll miss you, but that’s totally understandable. We’ll have to plan something where we can all get together soon.”

            And then you reach out later and plans something where the timing & venue works better, or kids are invited, or whatever. But, “sure, your 6 year old will love the wine tasting” ain’t the answer.

          • MamaCheshire said:

            Thanks for saying this.

            Rudeness is neither unique to nor a default of parents of small children, or dog owners for that matter.

            If a given event is an “absolutely not for kids” thing, then generally either one of the adults stays home (or finds an appropriate alternate activity) so the person who cares more about it can go, or both of us decline. Unless it is a Major Milestone Event for a friend (wedding, graduation, that sort of thing), or a (rare) “just the two of us” date night, we generally don’t do no-kid socialization together at this point in time because extra child care expense is just NOT in our budget right now.

            There was also a point when SecondKid was in a “not for public consumption” phase, so arrangements like this would happen: Spouse and FirstKid accompanied one of our good friends to a baseball game, I took SecondKid to the nearby children’s museum so she could run amok and yell, and once SecondKid had run the worst of it out of her and the baseball game was over, we all met up for a casual-but-nice dinner. Or while I was still pregnant with SecondKid and my BFF who lives on the other side of the continent was in the same place I was, BFF took me to a nice dinner and Broadway play while Spouse and FirstKid went with another friend to another sports event, since FirstKid loves that kind of thing.

            The circles I spend most time in now, that have some people with kids and some without, generally do the set-aside room for kids, and it’s mostly worked. The kids will sometimes wander out but generally for reasonable reasons of seeking food/bathroom/permission for something or other/hugs from parent. Parents will still end up leaving earlier than they might have done in their pre-kid days but socializing at least happens.

    • This makes me have a sad, because it reinforces my worry that once my friends start having kids, they’re going to disappear from my life for a decade. I would be willing to attempt all those things, but it sure doesn’t seem like a promising endeavour.

      • zilla said:

        You could also just roll with it and host kid-friendly parties. You don’t have to be as irritable as I am about it.

        I used to be better about the kid thing, when there were fewer kids. The problem is that when your first friend has kids, then you just have ONE kid at your party. Those older kids try to be mature and bond with the adults. But when the number of ambulatory kids hits critical mass, suddenly the kids see your party as a place to play with other kids, they bond with each other instead of the adults, and they start doing kid stuff at top volume. You and your friends become furniture. And when this transition hits, you’re unprepared, because for years you’ve managed to successfully integrate kids. They used to talk to you like little adults. Why are they all suddenly running and screaming and throwing things? Yikes!

        By the time this started to happen at my parties, the first kids that came to my parties, back when they were the only kids, had grown up. I actually had the experience of a friend’s kid showing up to one of my parties without her parents, and bringing friends. I felt pretty cool, that my friend’s kids who were old enough to drive, felt welcome here and could relate to my other guests like adults. But the younger ones will never do it, because by the time they arrived the adult vibe wasn’t strong enough to win against the kid vibe, and I had been forced to the other side of the generational divide. :-(

        I wish I had known what was coming. Maybe I would have prepared for it better, and it would have turned out differently.

        • This is EXACTLY what happens. So perfectly worded! My parents were the first by far to have kids in their social set, and for a long time I was the only child, and I was totally cool reading books/playing Magic the Gathering/watching TV for the evening and then falling asleep on the couch of whichever person we were visiting. By the time my (much younger) brothers were born, there was a sticky, screeching, cheerio-encrusted child amoeba.

        • Muddie Mae said:

          Just my personal experience – even those younger siblings that didn’t get a lot of “adult party” time can reach for it, so to speak, if there aren’t a lot of kids at a gathering.

          I recently co-hosted a bridal shower for my cousin, and among the guests was a 10 year old cousin who is the youngest in her family and, frankly, spoiled and pretty immature. I was honestly surprised she came, but I guess she wanted to hang out with the cool 20-somethings and be grown up. She acquitted herself pretty well. Her mom let her try about 1 sip of champagne, which was hilarious, and she talked to the other co-host about the home’s aesthetics very maturely.

        • Judging by how I react to children now, I will be as irritable as you. I know logically that I can still go see my friends one on one instead. I just also love big, adult parties. Oh well – at least I see it coming, right?

        • Ophen said:

          I know this kind of party. But in my case there are a few children that do behave, not necessarily the oldest (all children <6). Might have something to do with things parents learn their children about accepted behavior?

      • miss_chevious said:

        If it’s any consolation, in my experience, my friends who have kids have only disappeared* until the kids started pre-school. It seems like, at that point, they come up for air and have a little more time to re-engage with adulthood.

        *I don’t mean completely disappear, of course, but young children are time and energy sucks, and are, obvs, really important to their parents for some reason. :)

        • That is comforting, although my best friend wants 4 tiny humans! Even if she has them in rapid succession, that’s still likely to take 8 – 10 years.

    • Commander Banana said:

      I think it really depends on the parents’ standards for their children, the child’s personality, and their approach to discipline. I am friends with a couple who are really, really good about enforcing appropriate behavior and whose children are really good at listening, so I can go visit them and still have adult interaction with them (not that the kids are 100% awesome all the time, but that’s unrealistic. They’re like 98% awesome). And I legit like being around their children because they are fun and well-behaved.

      Then I have friends who, while delightful people, are totally terrified of their children, have no boundaries, and can’t discipline them, so their kids run roughshod over them and I, literally, cannot finish one entire sentence in a conversation with them when the kids are around.

      I’ve dialed back those friendships because I legitimately don’t like being around their children because their children are unpleasant, and when your friends have kids it’s just a package deal. It’s really a shame, because they aren’t doing their kids any favors by raising them in a way that’s making other people not want to be around them.

      Anyway, YMMV, and of course some parents have children who have neurological differences or sensory disorders, which can make things really difficult for the best parents. I think it’s a delicate balance between maintaining friendships, being compassionate for your friends’ changing circumstances, and acknowledging your own limitations in being able to handle having children around you.

      And, of course, sometimes people do just turn into entitlebots when they have kids and the friendship just isn’t going to be sustainable.

  27. buffy said:

    This is relevant to my interests.

    I’m having a recurring issue with a couple of friends who never RSVP for events I host in my home. These are generally small get-togethers (movie/game nights, casual drinks) between a small group of close-knit friends, yet a few friends in the group never RSVP directly to me. Sometimes they will alert others in the group that are coming (often at the last minute), other times they will just show up unannounced. It’s very bizarre and honestly drives me crazy. And while I never EXPECT guests I invite over to bring food/drinks, most friends do because it is courteous (and I do this as a guest as well), they usually show up empty-handed. These aren’t people I can just stop inviting, as it would be awkward for the group dynamic, and they are still friends of mine, even if I find their manners a little lacking. Is there a way to curb this without doing something as drastic as not inviting them? I find it so off-putting and the anticipation of this rude behavior tends to stress me out.

    Thoughts?

    • popesuburban said:

      I’m assuming you haven’t done this yet, because it’s awkward. If you have, I’m stumped. But I would try talking to them, if they’re generally decent people. Explain to them that you want to make sure you have enough food/drink/d20s for everyone, and that you need RSVPs for that to happen. They might be thinking that it’s no big deal, it’s a party anyway, what’s one more person, because maybe they have never planned an event or were raised by wolves or genuinely don’t mind add-ons at their shindigs? That is a tactful way to say, “Hey, I have these needs,” without throwing a lot of blame around. If it fails, well, I’m stumped again, but I think talking about party logistics might be a good opening play.

      • JenniferP said:

        I would do this in response to a specific invitation. 3-4 days before, just “Hey, I would really love to see you this weekend, are you coming to the thing? I’m heading to the grocery store tomorrow, want to make sure I have enough party hats/drinks/my grandma’s lasagna/rock band instruments/chairs.”

        If they don’t answer one way or another, but they do show up, do the “Whoa, I assumed you weren’t coming. I know we’ve been sort of casual about this in the past, but going forward it would really help me if you’d let me know one way or another.”

        “Oh, we told so and so we were coming. Did you not get the message?”

        “Yeah, that only works if you tell ME. Next time, we’ll work it out, thanks!”

        If they don’t learn at that point, they won’t learn.

        • buffy said:

          These are good strategies. Thank you for the feedback.

          I did attempt to directly elicit Y/N responses the last two times I’ve hosted things at my house. The first time I asked asked for a headcount over an email chain and one of these friends replied to someone else within the thread with something to the effect of, “I’ll try to make it to Buffy’s place..” as opposed to responding to me directly. Neurotic me was convinced of a passive-aggressive dig, but I tried my best to dismiss it.

          The second time over email I listed the # of people I knew were coming and asked, “is anyone else coming?” Mind you, this is a thread of like 10 people and three of them never answered me (but told others they may come) and just showed up- oh and were more than happy to mooch off alcohol/food .

          Now I’m strongly wondering (again) if this may be more than a simple issue of etiquette and perhaps there are some upset feelings/issues within the friendships or something going on (nothing immediately comes to mind)- not that that excuses any rudeness (to me).

          • popesuburban said:

            If there are hurt feelings, these people need to use their words and tell you. And they should probably stop trespassing on your hospitality if they’re really that hacked off, but people deal with hurt feelings in strange ways sometimes.

            It seems to me like you may be dealing with a Price of Admission thing. These faulty manners may be the Price of Admission for their friendship. If you can’t pay it, well, that’s okay. If you can/want to pay it, then maybe you budget a certain amount of extras into your parties. Obviously, there are sometimes space and budget limits to that, but if two spare chairs will help you not be stressed, maybe that’s a good way to party-plan from now on.

          • Beth said:

            I am a huge, huge fan of the specific language the Captain used just above: (3-4 days before event) “I am going to the store to buy x number of x. I haven’t heard from you, would you let me know if you’re coming?” That lets the guest know that 1.) you’re actually either out money if you assume they’re coming and overbuy, or embarrassed if you assume that they aren’t and underbuy, and putting you in either position is rude, and 2.) your attempts to elicit an RSVP are practical and not, in fact, fishing for expressions of affection. (YES SRSLY.)

            For a while as chapter president of a club, I was hosting/coordinating a lot of gatherings, both at my house and in public settings, and could not dredge up a firm RSVP from ANYBODY EVER, so I habitually overbought just so we’d be able to feed/entertain whoever showed up. When I was standing in the sporting goods section preparing to buy seventh and eighth camp chairs (for our family of three), Partner put his foot down and said, “these people are adults, they can bring their own damn chair to the park.”

            Eventually, out of frustration and fatigue, I just quit hosting stuff at my house (although club responsibilities require that I still coordinate Outings, I do far less organizing and providing-for.) Some people stopped coming around when I wasn’t catering to them anymore. The rest of the group took a more active role when forced to, and as a result, I now have a lot more fun at these gatherings.

            You know what else stops that in its tracks? (Not recommended!! as an intentionally mean/passive-aggressive tactic, but wow is it eye-opening on both sides when it happens accidentally.) Changing the time or venue, and only telling the people who have actually RSVP’d. Wow. People who can’t be bothered to let you know they’re going to come drink your beer and eat your food? Throw a big shiny hissy fit when you answer the door in your grubbiest jeans and t-shirt with a mop in your hand instead, but do not fail to RSVP again (and in fact will call you precisely three hours before every gathering to “make sure we’re still on” for the next year, which is not necessarily a bad thing).

            I think you’ve nailed it that your friends have larger interpersonal navigation issues than just not understanding the general purpose of an RSVP, and a little explicit resetting of expectations is in order.

          • staranise said:

            It sounds like one problem you’re having is the reply-all problem: people will release information in your proximity, which is different than actually telling *you*. It might help to do things that cultivate direct connection, like sending out an RSVP request with BCC/undisclosed recipients. Then the people replying have no choice but to reply directly to you.

          • Muddie Mae said:

            In my experience those follow ups are better made one-on-one. It does take a little bit more time than one mass follow up, but avoids issues like diffusion of responsibility or just having plain forgot that you never RSVPed. Use the person’s name and clearly state that you haven’t heard from them and need to by Date.

    • MsM said:

      If they are friends, I think maybe you should just tell them you’re happy to see them, but you need more of a heads-up so you can plan accordingly, particularly when it comes to buying refreshments. Or tell the other friends that next time the slackers RSVP to them, you’d appreciate it if they could pass along a reminder that you need to be notified, too. Or plan a few events that do require some level of advance coordination (like going out to the movies, or making reservations) so the deadline’s a little firmer and maybe there’s a certain upfront monetary investment, and maybe they’ll get into the habit after the first time they can’t tag along because there’s no seat for them.

      • THIS. Plan a party that involves an absolutely firm headcount. Something where you make reservations at least a week in advance, for EACH person, with individual swag bags, maybe, or something like that. Something that cannot just be shared and “the more the merrier.” Likewise, it will be the venue that is enforcing the rule, not you, and they’ve had lots of practice at it.

        While you are inviting people to this, start using the word “headcount” a lot. Talk to your friends. “Have you mailed your response card? I absolutely need an accurate headcount.” “Thank you for your response! It’s vital I get an accurate headcount.” “Oh! I need to remember to call the venue by 3:30 to give my headcount!”

        At the party, if anyone did not send an acceptance, and shows up, let the venue director deal with it, but be sure to say something to them about headcount. “Well, I gave them a headcount, including all the guests to accepted the invitation. I’m sorry, but you’re just not part of the headcount.”

        After the party, use the word headcount a few more times, when discussing this last party, and when you muse about planning possible future activities.

        Finally, when you issue your next invitation for any party, even just board games, chips and soda at your house, avoid the term “RSVP.” Instead, use “headcount.” Also, for the first few parties, provide some sort of treat, either individual desert cups, or maybe small gifts, or even T-shirts, for each person who accepted the invitation. Do NOT make extras! And if someone calls to cancel at the last minute, unless they specifically say, “I’m so sorry, but I have _______ issue, and absolutely cannot attend. I hate to see your preparations go to waste. Is it OK if X person takes my spot?” then put that person’s individual items away. Do not bring out extras for people who show up without giving you their response for your headcount.

        This will train them to associate the word headcount with “better respond on time, or I won’t get to participate.” Or at least, if you allow them to come in and join the party, they won’t get the individual goodies.

        • I dunno, that sounds like a lot of kinda mnaipulative Pavlovian training involving a lot of time/effort and expense on the part of the host when Using Your Words would be cheaper, faster, way more upfront and probably more effective.

    • I hosted one party this year for a local atheist club. When I sent out the invitations with an RSVP request, I was very open up front:
      “I’m asking for you to tell me you’re coming at least four days before so I know how much food and drink and such to buy. If you decide not to RSVP and still come, that’s totally fine and you are more than welcome, but you’ll probably not get any food or drink.”

      Last year, they didn’t have any such wording on their invites. Apparently, they only got 5 RSVPs, but ended up with 35 guests.

      This year, I got 45 RSVPs. 48 people showed. We were smart and over-bought anyways (we had it catered for 75 people, which is the official size of the group this year), so there was enough food and drink for the 3 extras with a little left over.

      But being up front and direct worked. And this was a group of people notorious for not RSVPing, too. The group kept my invites and plan on using them next year (I won’t be part of the organizing next year as I’ll be finishing up my Bachelors and preparing for my Masters). I’m not saying that being direct is always the best way, but it certainly worked for me without all that much hassle.

  28. naath said:

    A thing that really stands out to me here is that this event is happening at a house that does not have resident children and is not “child proof”. It strikes me that people willing to ignore “no children” on invites are probably also not great at ensuring children’s safety in environments that are not child proof. Also “adults only” parties might include entertainment and conversation that many view as “inappropriate” for children; whilst I know parents who are happy to have their children exposed to my foul language I would worry that people who disregard invites in this way would also want to “police” the party for swear words or sexual references.

    I don’t have kids; and I have a dreadful habit of leaving sharp and/or easily breakable objects all over the place (pins especially often escape into the carpet). I do invite friends and their kids to visit; but I’m not willing to take on the duty of ensuring the little darlings don’t eat my pins or pick up my carving knife.

  29. Stay Excellent said:

    “But my child is very well behaved for his/her age” :)

    “If we’re gonna make the age limit about mental age, wouldn’t that exclude you?” :D
    >:(

    Mean, but the first thing that popped into my head while reading the thread.

  30. I’m posting for the first time to share something I *actually did* a few years ago. Someone brought a 4-year-old to a work-related gathering at my studio apartment despite being asked not to. I said, “Welcome! You brought your small child. Just to let you know, before you get comfortable. The exposed electrical wiring is *here* and *here*. The knife block with six sharp knives is at knee-level *here*. The used condoms are all around my bed, just follow the trail of open meds bottles. The sharps container full of used pet insulin syringes is fun, kind of like a puzzle. It’s *here* on the floor, next to the tool-kit. And the irreplaceable breakables are at child height all over the apartment.” She left. Ended the friendship, but it was worth it.

  31. LW #478 said:

    Awkward Army! I am glad to see everyone got a good discussion out of this. I thought I’d give one last follow up to announce that my dear friend gave birth to the baby this evening, a healthy little girl. :-D

    • GirlBob said:

      Aw, send her our congratulations.

    • JenniferP said:

      Great news for her! Enjoy being Friend-Auntie.

  32. Pixie said:

    I’m kind of late to the party (hah!), but thanks for tackling this particular topic! There is a Hypothetical Wedding in my future being planned and I would really love there to not be any non-adults to trigger my anxieties, and you’ve given me some great helpful building blocks to tackle that Future Problem in the Making.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 4,046 other followers

%d bloggers like this: