Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Every Party Needs a Pooper....

DEAR ABBY: Our family, consisting of our three children, their spouses, our grandchildren and great-grandchildren, have occasional gatherings to celebrate special events. My husband's 90th birthday is this summer, and the immediate family will come here, some from faraway locations.

My daughter-in-law, "Janie," who lives 2,000 miles away, has felt for years that her children from previous marriages (who don't know us) should be included at these events. They live within 100 miles of our home and could attend if invited. Our relationship with Janie has been generally cordial and affectionate. She will be visiting her children at their homes the week of the birthday. If we exclude her kids from our celebration, she will feel insulted and resentful.

How obligated should we feel to bow to Janie's demands and include four additional adults and a young child to our party? My husband becomes upset and confused by large groups and noisy children. -- CORNERED ON THE EASTERN SHORE

DEAR CORNERED: Your husband's comfort and sense of well-being must come first. If he becomes agitated by large groups and noisy children, you must explain to Janie that no "strangers" can be introduced into the mix and why. Do not allow anyone to lay a guilt trip on you for advocating for him. When Janie sees your husband, I am sure she will understand.

Hm. I agree with Abby that the birthday boy's "comfort and sense of well-being must come first." But I have my doubts about the hostess' motives. If her husband "becomes upset and confused by large groups and noisy children," why in God's name would they choose to celebrate HIS birthday with "three children, their spouses, our grandchildren and great-grandchildren," each generation presumably larger than the one before it (3 children, 9 grandchildren, 27 great-grandchildren, etc.)?

To me it seems thoughtless, and it also shows that this woman is less interested in her husband's comfort than she is in explicitly EXCLUDING some folks she doesn't care to invite. Or it just hasn't occurred to her (but should) that "family" still counts as "people." When my grandpa was in his later years, ONE small child, or several adults, was more than enough: he was happy to see everyone, but an afternoon of visiting was way too much for him. Reason enough not to invite 5 strangers? Yes. But also reason enough not to have a "party" at all. The hostess seems oblivious to her husband's comfort, except when it is convenient for her.

When the party is likely 20+, it seems really petty to look for reasons NOT to include an additional 5, especially since most likely they'd keep to themselves and spend time with their mom.

If the party is lavish enough that adding 4.5 heads would really be a hardship, then I think the whole idea is ill-conceived. If it's an informal gathering I can't see how it would possibly make any difference. Unless everyone at the party is going to sit in a circle around great-grandpa and have him count heads over and over, the persnickety hostess is the only one who's even going to notice the extra guests--except for their mom, who probably sees her kids once a year (or less), and will be thrilled. I say let 'em come on over. But only after seriously re-thinking the entire party.

As a postscript, I think it's kind of lame that "for years" their daughter-in-law, with whom they have a "cordial and affectionate relationship" has wanted to invite her children, who live nearby, to these events, and yet still they "do not know any of us." Why does this woman need advice when clearly she's been adept at keeping these people out of her parties for years? If they'd been warmer and more welcoming to their STEP-GRANDCHILDREN in the past, this party wouldn't even be an issue--they'd be family.


ashley said...

Woah! You changed your layout! I like it. :)

With my family reunion coming up this weekend, this topic hits close to home. Gone are the days where families have very clear and distinct lines dividing who is included and who is not. Do you invite the small children (or teenage/adult children) who aren't really "blood related" because they were born before the mother married into the family? Do you invite ex-wives or ex-husbands who had been "part of the family" for years? Do you invite the boyfriend/girlfriend/life partner of the gay relative?

It seems that the younger generation might be more open to this because they tend to understand that the family divide isn't as clear as it used to be, but it makes perfect sense that the older generation would want no part of it. They tend to want to keep those strong borders because they are traditional and safe and clearly understood.

This woman clearly has a stance on this issue, but maybe is feeling guilty of being so exclusive when it comes to her family.

Becky said...

Thanks! I'm not totally happy with it yet, but I like the more "minimalist" look, and that the text goes wider across the page--the old layout had a lot of wasted space and lots of scrolling required.

I think your point about the family generational divide. I also get the impression these "stepchildren" were adults when their mom married into the family, which is why they've never lived among them or been a part of their events. Still--it seems unnecessarily harsh to me to refuse to include them, ever. And it seems just wrong to use her husband's ill health as an excuse when clearly there are going to be lots of people and lots of children (who can always be sent off to the basement/backyard anyway) around to disrupt him, with or without these additional folk.

Becky said...

wow, writing without thinking. I LIKE your point about the generational thing being a part of it--blood relations mattering more to older folk than to people our age, who know a lot more "non-traditional" families.

Anne said...

As part of a very blended family, I have a hard time understanding this woman's perspective. In my family, we don't make a distinction between grandchildren and stepgrandchildren. I also don't refer to my siblings as my half-siblings unless I'm asked about it.

Anyway. I'm not trying to be snotty, but as Becky rightly pointed out, is five people really a big deal when you're already inviting twenty? Why don't you just deal with it and enjoy their presence? Just because you're not blood relatives doesn't mean you're not family. (Cheesy, but true!)