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.