DEAR AMY: When my stepmother-in-law has a party for her grown children (previously there was a wedding and now an engagement party), our young children are specifically not invited.
On the most recent invitation, "No Kids" was underlined with a long note about getting a sitter, which particularly annoyed my husband. At the wedding, we arrived to find that the reception was full of children, further confirming our belief that it's just our kids who were being excluded.
There have been at least two other incidents in which we have been invited to a family function, but only if we don't bring the kids. We live 50 miles away from this side of the family. We don't really have a baby sitter we could leave the kids with for the six to eight hours it would take to make these trips (not to mention the funds).
Our boys are pretty well-behaved, but they are young children. We don't usually go to parties and "check out" as parents. It's important to us that the boys are respectful and polite.
I told my husband I am writing to you because I want someone's truly impartial take on this.
Are we right to be hurt and annoyed? We can't help but think that our kids' grandmother doesn't much like them. But are we being too sensitive?
— Querying Mom
DEAR MOM: I agree that the grandparents should be understanding and supportive toward you and your children, but my impartial take is that engagement parties are often cocktail parties for grown-ups held in the evening and I can't imagine parents wanting to bring young children to that sort of party.
However, when you attend a function where there are children present and yours have been expressly excluded, you have no choice but to take it personally. By all means mention this to the grandparents; they may tell you things you don't want to hear about your children, but if you approach this with an open attitude, you may see practical things you could do differently (such as hire a sitter for the youngest and bring your oldest son with you).
You and your husband could help the kids build a relationship with their grandparents by hosting events in your own home and inviting these out-of-town family members to get to know all of you a little better.
DEAR AMY: In my family, almost every night my mother and father watch adult-oriented movies together in our living room. I am allowed to come into the room while they are watching, but I never do because I risk seeing things I would not like to think about (such as violent scenes, etc.). I would really like to play a board game with them or even watch a family-appropriate movie instead.
My mother is very busy most times with us kids and her full-time college teaching job.
I feel that barging into the room in the middle of the movie would be rude, but how else could I ensure some family time without disturbing her? Am I being too pushy, and should I leave her to her leisure time because she is busy?
— Wondering in Mass.
DEAR WONDERING: By all means, barge in. Barge in and ask your parents to do things just a little differently. I love the idea of "game night," when everybody in the family plays a smart or silly game together.
The togetherness and dynamic you establish there will last not only through the week — but potentially through the rest of your lives. At a recent family party I sat in on a multigenerational game of Texas Hold 'em. Even very-low-stakes poker can have a high-stakes emotional yield.
DEAR AMY: I loved your response to "Not Tired," the high school freshman whose parents were being "draconian" about bedtime.
You praised this young person's vocabulary and suggested the parents should be impressed.
My husband and I were sent scurrying to the dictionary to look up this word — and we're impressed too.
— Happy Readers
DEAR HAPPY: I can only hope these parents "give" a little in terms of bedtime. Their youngster made a good case.