Late To The Party….Or Bed Time For Baby

by admin on September 18, 2013

My son recently turned 2. As both my husband and I work, he goes to daycare, so we decided to do a small family party on his actual birthday, just for grandparents, uncles and aunts and cousins, and then, a party at a local children’s gymnastics center for his little friends and their parents a couple of weeks later. His actual birthday fell on a holiday weekend. My parents and their spouses live across the country, but I had sent out party invitations over a month in advance to family members, and the proud grandparents on my side booked tickets to come visit and stay with us for the holiday weekend and celebrate with our son. My husband’s father, stepmother and siblings and step-siblings, all live in a town about 2 hours north of us. Everyone RSVP’ed that they were coming, and I had cooked food, baked a cake and decorated the house, readying for the celebration. Being mindful of the holiday weekend and also of a 2-year-old’s nap time, I asked everyone to come to the party starting at 3:30 pm, thinking that the worst of the holiday traffic would be over by the time my in-laws would set out to come to us. My mother-in-law, my husband’s stepmother, communicated that they would try to all travel together in a couple of cars, in a caravan, rather than everyone taking their separate cars.

On the day of the party, by 3:30, everything is ready to go. My parents and stepparents are playing with the birthday boy who is dressed up, the food is set out, and we are waiting for my husband’s side to show up. Half an hour passes by, then, an hour, then another half hour. I asked my husband to call his father and stepmother to make sure that they are ok, as I was getting quite worried about a car accident or them being stuck in traffic at that point. He calls, and his stepmother says that they had only just left an hour ago (meaning that they left at 5 pm). She does not apologize, says nothing about traffic, and simply says that they had errands to run and things to do so they had only gotten on the road a half hour ago. By the time they show up, it’s a little past 7 pm, which is nearing my son’s bedtime. We had just enough time for him to blow out the candles, put on his pajamas, and I went upstairs to put him to bed, stewing with anger all the while. I asked my husband and my mother to take over hosting duties, while I bathed him and put him to bed, and then, went downstairs. My in-laws, etc. were contentedly eating and socializing, and there was no apology about coming to the party 3 and a half hours late. In fact, my father-in-law was annoyed that I didn’t choose to keep our son up, so he could spend some time with his grandson. It was all I could do not to blurt out, “if you had actually shown up on time, you would have gotten to spend plenty of time with your grandson”. The most I mentioned to say at the party was, “If I am delighted to see you now, imagine how happy I would have been to see you at the hour you were actually expected” (an inadvertent quote from “The Hours”), to which my mother-in-law replied, “Oh, it couldn’t be helped. It’s just a child’s party. It’s no big deal”.

My husband was quite upset as well and later on in the evening, took his father aside to tell him that we had worked hard to plan the party, and that we were insulted that they were so late without calling. His father said, “Well, we had things to do this morning”. This is not the first time that my husband’s side of the family was late to something that they were invited to, but this was the first time that they have been so egregiously late. They have never done that to any of my mother-in-law’s children’s events that we know of, but it seems a routine occurrence for anything planned by us. The explanation seems to be, “Well, you live far away”. However, that does not seem like a sufficient explanation – if I bother to invite you in advance, does it not behoove you then to decide if you would come to my event and plan accordingly, including the time and distance it would take to travel?   0916-13

Good for you for not disrupting a toddler’s daily routine merely to assuage a grandparent’s presumption that schedules can be changed to suit his needs. Sorry, Gramps, but at this time, the baby’s well being is more important than your need for playtime.

You will be a happer person when you accept the reality that your husband’s family does not priortize family events the same way you do.    You have extended a generous offer of hospitability, which is about the best one can do with family like this, and it was their choice to shorten the time they could have enjoyed with the grandson.  It’s audacious for Gramps to think a toddler should stay up later than normal only to be grumpy and miserable as he tires.   Keep to your schedules, plan your family get-togethers appropriately and if your husband’s family keeps showing up very late thus missing quality time with the grandson, they are the losers in this equation.

{ 50 comments… read them below or add one }

Mer September 18, 2013 at 3:33 am

I agree with admin. I do however, wonder, if it would be worth to have an ending time in party like this in the invitation. As the birthdayboy is going to sleep, there is no really need to continue party after that. What I’m after is that if I have planned an afternoon only party, I don’t want guests, even if they were only close family members, to hang around when the evening comes. So I would hope that even notorious late comers would take the hint if they are sent back home as the party have ended by the time they get there.


oregonbird September 18, 2013 at 5:01 am

Future events that include invitations to your husband’s family should begin at the time they are scheduled, without fail — let the consequences for their choice stand without saying a word. When a celebratory meal is ended, and your ILs have not appeared, put the food away in an ice chest in the garage, in a locked car if necessary, and offer them no more than a cup of coffee. If they choose to attempt to destroy your celebrations, then let people at a homeless shelter appreciate the food you cook. Or you have lunch covered for the next week!


essie September 18, 2013 at 5:17 am

If it’s “…just a child’s party…no big deal”, then why did Grandpa get so annoyed? Conversely, if Grandpa wanted to spend time with his grandson, then he should have taken advantage of the advance notice and performed the oh-so-important errands the day before (and if the errands WERE oh-so-important, why DIDN’T they take care of them well beforehand?)


Kate September 18, 2013 at 5:38 am

That is so rude! I agree with previous posters – in the future, put ‘3:30pm – 6pm’ or whatever on the invites so your husband’s parents are crystal clear on the fact that if they are not there within those hours, they will be politely asked to leave because the party is over, your son is in bed, and you and your husband are tidying up.


Lo September 18, 2013 at 5:40 am

You sound look a good parent, keeping your kid’s best interest at heart. What your inlaws did was selfish and it was even more selfish of them to ask to keep a 2 year old awake past his bedtime. I’d be annoyed too.

I don’t there’s much you can do except keeping doing as you have been, start the party without them, put the baby to bed when he needs to go to bed, stay firm on your family routine, and maybe if they keep coming over to find cold leftovers and their grandson asleep then they’ll get the hint.


Kimberly September 18, 2013 at 5:44 am

Yes, I agree with admin. Stick to the schedule you have planned.

In laws show up late. “Oh I’m sorry. Was there some miscommunication? The invite stated 3:30. We started at that time and are now finished. I’m sorry, but we will have to visit another time. We are simply tired from the day’s activities and are ready for bed. I hope you ahve a safe drive back”.


Kate September 18, 2013 at 5:46 am

Oh boy, nothing cheeses me off more then people being late with no good reason. I’ve actually lost friendships over this. Make no mistake, no matter what their actual excuse is, what they are saying is, what you have planned is not as important as what I have planned (emergencies aside). I use the admins idea of starting the party when you planned to start the party. Why should the guests who showed up on time suffer because other people couldn’t be bothered?


Easily Amused September 18, 2013 at 5:58 am

I agree with oregonbird. My brother and his ex-wife would inevitably get into fights on holidays- right about the time they were supposed to show up at my parents for the “big” celebration. The rest of us spent the first Thanks giving and Christmas of their marriage waiting around, keeping food warm and getting crankier and crankier, only to have them arrive 1-2 hours after the meal was supposed to begin. My husbands brother’s family was also inclined to be late- but that is because they are just late to everything. I believe in both cases, there were some control issues coming into play.

We finally resolved that all family holiday meals would begin when they were scheduled to start, and if you are late and end up with cold leftovers, then too bad for you! We enjoyed ourselves much more once we set a boundary and stuck to it. Funny thing, once folks realized they couldn’t highjack the holidays, they started to arrive on time and with a smile.


AvidReader September 18, 2013 at 6:02 am

Proceed with the party schedule and if late-comers miss it, too bad. They can look at the photos/video of the b-day boy blowing out the candles and pick at leftovers. DFIL and his 2nd wife, who live about an hour away, are chronically late. We just proceed without them and let them pick at leftovers. I will say however, that I don’t make any effort to dress up the leftovers into a nicer presentation….it is what it is. DH and I long ago got over our annoyance at this behavior and don’t let it get in the way of enjoying our own event.


Puzzled September 18, 2013 at 6:15 am

I’m not waiting that long for anyone, including family, to show up. Everything would have been put away long before they got there. I cannot abide tardiness without an appropriate excuse, and that excuse does not wash.


my two cents September 18, 2013 at 6:32 am

I have IL’s that are also late. I have learned to start the party on time, with or without them. If they miss the cake cutting or birthday song, then that is their problem. The food is either colder, or put away and they can help themselves. The sad thing is that my children know that they are going to be laste


The Elf September 18, 2013 at 6:46 am

Maybe having less time to spend with their grandson will be a motivator being on time in the future?

Yeah, I think it’s unlikely too. In the future you should just start everything on your own schedule, not theirs, and if they miss it then it is on them. No reason to keep the other grandparents and the birthday boy waiting all that time.

When I arrive late to something, I do not expect any changes to the event. If I miss something, that’s my problem. Thankfully, I’m much better about time management and following maps than I used to be so it doesn’t happen that often!


Green123 September 18, 2013 at 6:59 am

Aside from the rudeness of being late to the party, making out it was ‘no big deal’ and expecting a small child to be kept up past his bedtime for an tardy adult’s convenience, late guests can cause unnecessary worry to those expecting them to arrive. If I was an hour late to my parents’ house, for example, without calling, they would think I had been involved in an accident or a severe traffic delay. In these days of mobile phones, there is no excuse for anyone to worry their family unneccesarily – whether they have a ‘real’ excuse for being late or not!


Jewel September 18, 2013 at 7:00 am

If I had been the hostess, there would have been no food left for them to be “contentedly eating” despite their horrendously late arrival as it would have ALL (except for the cake) been packed up and stashed in the freezer.

I agree with the admin — don’t count on them in your future plans. Just carry on and let them fully experience the consequences of their thoughtless actions when it comes to seeing their grandson.


earthgirl September 18, 2013 at 7:15 am

OP I think all you can do is stick to your schedule and let the latecomers suffer the consequences. I know it’s an inconvenience to you, and certainly not fair to your son, but you can’t change others’ behavior.

DH has a set of relatives who have always been significantly late to every single family function. I tend to stress out whenever I am more than a minute late to any event, but for these relatives, everybody seemed to just roll their eyes and say, “That’s just the way they are.” So for years, we would get to family dinner at 5 PM as scheduled, and then sit and wait for half an hour or an hour for this set of relatives to show up before starting.

Then we had a baby, and made a point of telling the family that the baby was on a schedule, and we were going to keep that schedule no matter what. The first time we went out to family dinner with the baby, the latecomers were even later than usual (over an hour late, and then spent another half hour making phone calls outside), so DH and I ended up ordering our food to go, and quietly packing up and leaving only about 10 minutes after everybody had settled down.

Wouldn’t you know it, they haven’t been late a single time since (and have actually been early on some occasions)!


Abby September 18, 2013 at 7:26 am

My MIL does this a lot. She rolls in somewhere after we’ve been there all day and then complains we are leaving so soon and she hasn’t had a chance to visit with us. No, we aren’t leaving “so soon”, we’ve been here for seven hours while you cleaned your house and went grocery shopping, knowing we were waiting on you.

Admin is right, OP. Just make your plans and stick to them. Maybe tell Grampy the sort of thing that happens when an exhausted two year old is kept up past his or her bedtime so he or she can “entertain” the adults.


PM September 18, 2013 at 7:29 am

So abominably flipping rude.

OP, good for you for maintaining your son’s routines. I’ll bet that if you kept your son up to suit their inconsiderate rumps and son was grumpy from staying up late, that they would complain about his “bad behavior.” (That they caused.)

Your inlaws showed you less than no consideration, so you owed them none. Once you realized that they had left more than an hour after the party started, you should have served the food and cake and opened the presents. When the inlaws showed up, they could enjoy some cake and have son open their presents before he was whisked off to bed.

Delaying arrival to a grandchild’s birthday because you had “other things to do” shows a shocking lack of care or recognition that there are some things more important than the inlaws own convenience. “It’s only a child’s party?” OK, there will be no more invitations to future ones. Hold your small family parties with the people who love your family enough to show consideration for you. And then tell the inlaws they’re welcome to come down for a birthday visit whenever it’s convenient for them (since that seems to be what they’re worried about) they just need to give you notice on when they’re going to show up.

If they complain? “Well, it’s only a child’s birthday party, we didn’t think you’d care.”

I know this probably sounds harsh, but right now, your son is at an age where he won’t notice that grandma/grandpa aunts and uncles don’t show up on time for his events and when they do, don’t seem to think they’re a big deal. When he’s older, this will start to hurt his feelings. Nip this tendency in the bud now before it starts to affect him.


PM September 18, 2013 at 7:51 am

Oh, and for future invites, should you extend them, start the event on time, whether they show up or not. If you tell them clearly what time it starts and they’re not there, tough. Serve the food. Whack the pinata. Eat the cake. They show up to cold food? Tough. They were told what time to show up, they didn’t listen.

By delaying and accommodating their boorish behavior, you’re teaching them that its OK for them to treat you really badly. You’ll accept it because they’re family. Family is supposed to treat you better than strangers off the street, it’s not a license for rudeness.

We had a aunt and uncle who did this frequently for holidays and family parties. If you told them noon, they would show up at 12:30-12:45. Always with some excuse about traffic or the food they were cooking being complicated. We held up dinner for them, and faced dry Thanksgiving turkey and hockey puck burgers on July 4.

Over the years, their lateness stretched to an hour to 90 minutes late and they stopped giving excuses. They were late because they were late and that’s the way they were. Another aunt, Aunt D, got fed up after Late Uncle complained that the roast Aunt D served (almost two hours later than she expected to serve it because of Late Uncle and Aunt) and when the next family gathering rolled around and Late Aunt and Uncle didn’t show up five minutes after the listed start time, said, “OK, let’s serve the food! Late Aunt and Uncle knew what time to show up. We’ll save them a plate.”

Late Aunt and Uncle were “appalled” at our rudeness for eating without them and pitched quite the fit when they were greeted with a clean kitchen and two plates in warming in the oven. But we continued to serve food/start parties on time, with a five minute grace period, and wouldn’t you know it, eventually Late Aunt and Uncle learned to show up on time if they wanted to join us for meals.

To quote a cliche, you teach people how to treat you. And right now the inlaws are being taught they can be late as they want, you’ll wait for them and while you might seethe inside at their rudeness, you won’t actually say anything to them.


Melissa September 18, 2013 at 7:54 am

I would have went on with the party without them… serving the meal, blowing out the birthday cake candles, eating cake, etc., especially when I found out that their lateness was deliberate. I may have offered them food when they arrived, if there was any left. I also concur with Mer. If I’ve planned an afternoon party, I don’t want to still be hosting late into the evening. I expect my guests to stay about 4 to 5 hours and then go home. Interestingly, I have the opposite problem with my in-laws, they like to show up hours early for a party, because its more convenient for them. That causes its own set of problems, since I may not be dressed, still getting the house ready and generally have nothing ready to offer them.


AnnaMontana September 18, 2013 at 8:10 am

My in-laws do this all the time. They are late for everything. On our wedding day, I told them I needed them to be there 3 hours in advance of the ceremony starting, as I knew they would be late. As it happened, they slid into their seats a few minutes before I walked down the aisle. Honestly, OP, I would say that given your in-laws obviously don’t care enough to plan and organize these things, don’t bother inviting them next time. I have already given up on inviting my in-laws to ANYTHING, and basically I now make plans that don’t include them, tell them about the event we are planning, and expect them show up as it ends.


Kathryn September 18, 2013 at 8:15 am

Stick to your guns – they’ll learn! I had to “train” my ILs (who are wonderful people I adore) about things like this. They had a very casual approach to things, a “no big deal” mentality, and I can be very inflexible. This is not to say you are, just simply that we weren’t initially a good IL match, since I would create these perfect events and they would casually show up when they wanted – early AND late!

The first Thanksgiving we were together, I planned and executed a meal worthy of a Normal Rockwell painting. My brothers-in-law showed up, grabbed a plate, and plopped on the couch with it to watch football! I had a beautifully set table with all my newly acquired china and they were eating on the couch in their laps! My poor new husband was torn – he looked longingly at what they were doing, but knew it was best to sit at the table with me, LOL. Since then, I have become more vocal in my expectations but also learned to accommodate their traditions and expectations. I firmly but politely explain that we WILL all eat together in the dining room, but also am mindful of the football schedule so we are eating between games :).

So while you can stew (and have every right to!), you also have to realize they are here for the long haul, and start being creative and politely assertive. Next party, for instance, say, “The party is at 3:30 – Timmy’s bedtime is at 7:30. If you want your full four hours and some of my yummy food, you’ll want to be on time!” Then carry on as usual. My Grandma, rest her wonderful soul, used to show up early to everything and that made me crazy, until I started saying, “Hey Gram! You’re early! Can you go load the dishwasher/watch the babies/sweep the foyer while I go put on some makeup?” Guess what? She loved it – I got extra help and she was happy to help!

I think cheerfully calling out your family on their bad manners if their intentions are not purposely mean is the best way to start bending them toward your way of life and then to start bending in their direction, too. After 18 years I will say to my ILs: You know it drives me crazy when…. and they’ll stop. I make it sound like it is my idiosyncrasy so to not try to shame or hurt them, and they get the point.


acr September 18, 2013 at 8:22 am

OP, it sounds like your DH is on your side, at least! I hope you didn’t hold the meal and make the on time guests wait?

Perhaps you could schedule the next event at some public area, and simply leave after the event over, leaving the latecomers to arrive at an empty park?


badkitty September 18, 2013 at 8:42 am

Honestly, I wouldn’t even have waited on them to cut the cake, knowing that they didn’t prioritize leaving on time. “You’re really far away” is only an excuse if you’re a little late because of unforseen issues like worse-than-usual traffic; they left an hour and a half after they were supposed to BE there. Unacceptable.

At the next event, simply carry on as if they aren’t a factor, because they’re not. Cut the cake, order that dinner, whatever. If they complain when they arrive, simply say “The party was at 3:30; it is now 7pm” (substituting appropriate times) and move on. No need to belabor the point, as you’ve made it in the past and they’ve demonstrated that they just don’t care. They will have feelings about this, and they can go deal with them at home or elsewhere, but their feelings about the result of their poor manners are firmly in the realm of Not Your Problem.


Huh September 18, 2013 at 8:44 am

I think it’s rude if you’re going to be late to anything, not to call and inform whomever is waiting on you. I get very annoyed with people that do this.

What I don’t understand is why in the world the grandparents were leaving at 5! Were they not planning on staying long? And if so, why make that drive? (Unless they were planning on staying with OP, but it doesn’t read like they were) I wouldn’t want to be arriving at 7 p.m. to any function, knowing I either only stay a short time or stay a few hours and then still have a 2 hour drive ahead of me to get home!


Elizabeth September 18, 2013 at 8:46 am

I”m surprised that you let them in the house at all. The party was over. They missed it. ‘So sorry, Junior is going to bed now.’ Please don’t re-work the schedule to accommodate them.

And this groups needs invitations with defined start and stop times. We are friends with a lovely couple but they are late, and stay late. For an 11am brunch they arrived at 1:30; everyone left between 2 and 2:30 and they remained until after 5. I announced ‘wow, cocktail time already?’ and they decided they should head out. Written invitation with start and stop time from now on!!


Anonymous September 18, 2013 at 9:00 am

The grandfather has it backwards. Being late for a child’s party IS a big deal, because children’s parties are often very scheduled, regimented events, because they have to be. Even a “free-form” children’s party has to have a set time for food, because kids get hungry faster than adults, and they don’t have the resources to, say, pack a Clif bar in case dinner gets delayed. There also has to be a set start and end time, because kids don’t usually transport themselves to the party. Now, kids’ parties vary this way, from the “full schedule of games and activities” party, to the free-form, “arrive at X, food at Y, end time is around Z” party, which the OP was having for her son (in which case, I agree that she should have been firm about “end time is at Z”; or 7 p.m., which was her son’s bedtime). The same goes for adult events that have to be scheduled, such as dinner parties (murder mystery component optional), golf games, concerts, plays, the opera, or even just a movie in the theatre–if it has a definite start and end time, then be ready to start at the start time. That means actually arriving BEFORE the start time, so you can buy your ticket/spread out your yoga mat and get centred/assemble your instrument and warm up/get your golf clubs out of your locker/do whatever is needed to prepare for the activity at hand. Maybe it’s just me, because I learned this mentality from participating in several musical ensembles over the course of my life, but I always try to be ON TIME, as in, ready to begin an activity at the stated start time, unless the person organizing it specifically indicates that it’s meant to be an “open house” type affair. Also, even for a free-form kids’ party, I’d treat that as a “locked in” event, because if I was invited to a kids’ party, chances are, it’d be because the guest of honour liked me and looked up to me in some way, and would therefore be disappointed if I was absent or late, after RSVP’ing in the affirmative. If staying the whole time wasn’t feasible, then I’d err on the side of leaving early rather than arriving late, because kids are usually at their best earlier on in the party, and tend to wear out later.


AE September 18, 2013 at 9:15 am

I’m with the others. Cake and refreshments would have been held a max of 1/2 hour from the stated starting time (barring a timely call with reasonable explanation of delay) and refreshments beyond water would not have been forthcoming when they did bother to arrive.
And as soon as the child was in bed: “Well it’s been nice seeing you, but we’re just all worn out from the preparations today. See you again soon!”
“But we just got here!”
“Yes, it’s such a shame we’re all out of time. Goodnight!”
If you can’t be bothered to arrive at an event on time, or even call when you know you’re running late don’t RSVP and don’t attend.


Roslyn September 18, 2013 at 9:26 am

My husband’s family has done this to us. There was one Christmas where they told us in advance that we would be having 12 of them travel the 10 hours north to have the Holiday with us, in our tiny, tiny house. I spent weeks getting enough blankets and towels washed and ready to go, deciding on sleeping arrangements etc. I cleaned the house and baked to fill my freezer. I had my Christmas dinner planned and pre-ordered the standing rib roast ($150 alone). We borrowed chairs to have enough and cleaned the living room to move the table to, that way we could accommodate everyone.

The day of their pending arrival came, and went. They would always say they are leaving early etc, but we knew not to believe them and expected them late, probably after dinner. They rarely eat on the road and so I had food ready to go, just in case. 6 pm comes and we hear nothing. 8 pm comes and nothing. At 10pm my husband, who is very worried because most of his siblings/husbands/kids and his mother are traveling together, he starts calling all the cell phone numbers. He sends several texts to each one. It was something like 4 adults with 5 cell phones (Mother has 2) and he did this until midnight when I told him he needs to get some sleep. He wanted to start calling the state police etc to ask about accidents, but we had a rough night’s sleep and he started calling/texting first thing the next morning.

After 3 pm the next day he got one call from his sister. Oh, she forgot to tell us, most of her family is sick and they decided not to come, and when she decided her sister changed her mind too. And his Mother didn’t feel like driving the 10+ hours in Holiday traffic alone. Gee. Sorry.

He was outraged to say the least. I mean, that day at 10am they knew they weren’t coming. At 3pm they knew they weren’t coming. At 8 pm they knew they weren’t coming and on and on. No one, not one of them could answer their phones or answer a text. A month later he finally brought up the subject with his mother and she said, yes, she received the texts but was afraid he would be mad they weren’t coming so she didn’t respond.

Really? That was quite an emotional turmoil piled up on his head. He was sick with worry and they thought he would be mad they weren’t coming. They make our lives a nightmare when they come, and we were doing our best to prepare. I spend a lot of money, a LOT on food to be ready for them.

When I heard that, and I had a standing rib roast to feed more than 20 people (big eaters in that family) I cut the thing up into 4 pieces and sealed it with my food sealer thing and froze three of them. We had a fabulous holiday and a great meal all by ourselves, and then I had three fabulous pot roast dinners the next year.

Since then when anyone in his family tells us that they are coming we don’t believe them. If they arrive great, if not, well we aren’t out anything. I buy NO FOOD, none, nothing extra. I make no plans, none. IF they actually come his Mother has to go with my husband to the market for food and she pays for it. To them it’s just no big deal, it still floors me, it’s not a big deal and they had no clue why he was upset.

I guess in this world there are people so wrapped up in themselves that they, in no way, can see outside their little world. Good Luck with the In-Laws.


Stacey Frith-Smith September 18, 2013 at 9:34 am

I know it’s been said before…but wow, just wow. What a power play by the in-laws. Don’t ever, ever, EVER waste even a minute waiting on them again. Eat, socialize. Open the presents. Take the pictures. Have the event. In other words- live your life. And the IL’s? Fuggedaboudit. Your lives will be longer, happier and far more peaceful.


Cat September 18, 2013 at 9:56 am

Well, you could tell them the party is at 10 am. and see if they could arrive early or you could just to say the heck with inviting them to the adult party and invite them to the one with all the screaming small children instead.
Never let other people rule your life or your son’s life. If they have things more important than a child’s birthday party, wait til he’s sixteen and would rather be with his friends than with dear old Gramps and Grammom. These years are fleeting and they will be gone along with the time they could have had with him when he wanted to sit in a lap and cuddle.


MichelleP September 18, 2013 at 9:58 am

Same problem with a relative who showed up forty five minutes late to my daughter’s bday party at Chuck E. Cheese. We were only scheduled to be there for two hours. Sorry, the tokens are gone! That’s what happens when you miss half of the party.


Allie September 18, 2013 at 10:48 am

The part of this story that resonates with me is that you manage to get your 2-year old to bed a little after 7. I live in hope. My almost-9-month old thinks sleep is for chumps! I don’t know what to suggest vis-à-vis your inconsiderate in-laws. I suppose you could not invite them next time. If they weren’t family, I would definitely suggest that. However, they are family and their conduct, although very rude, doesn’t warrant cutting them off altogether. I think you handled the situation as best you could.


Mae September 18, 2013 at 10:54 am

Agree with many pp. Do not wait for the in-laws in the future- especially since they are always tardy & know when the party was to start, and maybe include an ending time on they invite. ** Do not deviate** from your routine because they choose not to plan appropriately. When they show up and everything is over, all guests are gone and they are not invited in, they will either get the message or go home disappointed.


Cady September 18, 2013 at 11:10 am

Also, I’d add to the admin’s advice to just go right ahead with the plans, regardless of whether or not your in-laws show up on time. Don’t delay blowing out candles, opening presents, cutting cake, party games, etc. In my experience, that tells chronically late people: “It’s OK, I’ll wait for you.”

I have friends and in-laws who do this sort of thing frequently, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s this: They do not care, and they will not change. So don’t bother scheduling things around their inability/unwillingness to manage their time. They know when the party starts; it’s their choice whether or not they want to be involved. And if they get upset, just be matter-of-fact: “Well, the party started at 3:30, so we’ve gotten through most of the activities, but why don’t you have a slice of cake?” If they ask why you didn’t wait for them, just smile and repeat: “The party started at 3:30.”


Wild Irish Rose September 18, 2013 at 11:35 am

I’m with all those who say start the festivities on time, go on with the plans, and let latecomers deal with it. There is no point in disrupting your child’s routine beyond what the party will disrupt (because it will, you have to admit it).

Personally, I’ve never been big on birthday parties for toddlers because of things like this. I waited until my kids were older to have parties for them–although on every birthday up to then, they did have cake. Also, on the first and second birthdays, we wrapped up old toys (age-appropriate) and gave them to the birthday kid. They never knew the difference.


M September 18, 2013 at 11:52 am

I wholeheartedly agree that showing up late without even an apology is just wrong.

In my family, we have a tendency to show up late for things. My mother devised a method to curb the lateness by changing the time people are supposed to arrive. So lets say if one wishes to have a BBQ or party at 4 PM, she will give them a time of 1:30 on the invitation with the expectation that they’ll show up around 4 or 4:30.


Calli Arcale September 18, 2013 at 11:53 am

I like the idea of adding an ending time in the invitation; that might be a signal to these clueless people that they cannot arrive so long after the party started and still expect to enjoy it as much as everybody else. They are obviously oblivious to the impact of their tardiness on others, and it would probably be simpler to not try to understand why. I loved your come-back; it was *perfect*. Clearly indicated that they should have been there sooner if they really wanted to enjoy the party, while also graciously indicating that you are still pleased to see them, which frankly is more than they deserve. (But as Hamlet said, we should treat guests better than they deserve. “Odd’s bodikin, man, better: use every man after his desert, and who should scape whipping? Use them after your own honour and dignity: the less they deserve, the more merit is in your bounty.”)

Take this as a lesson in how you can expect these people to behave. Expect them to be disgracefully late to future events, and plan accordingly so that you and your other guests can enjoy yourself despite it. Do not inconvenience yourself unduly for the boors; offer what hospitality demands (a drink, or food if it is still being served when they finally grace you with their presence) and no more. And evict them when other guests are leaving, whether they feel they’ve had enough time or not.


jd September 18, 2013 at 12:13 pm

I have a relative who is chronically late — one holiday she was nine hours late from when she said she would arrive. Repeated phone calls to her kept getting, “I’m almost ready” and “I’ll be leaving in a minute.” We went on and did our thing without her, which was just as well. Finally, at the last Thanksgiving she was late, she found the rest of us seated, prayer said, and the dishes being passed. She still is late to things, but now knows she’ll get whatever is left, when she is.


Shalamar September 18, 2013 at 12:51 pm

UGH. This reminds me of our daughter’s second Christmas, so she was old enough to be excited about those brightly wrapped gifts under the tree. My SIL was several hours late getting to our house, because she “lost track of time”. She was single and childless at the time, so it’s not like she had young children to deal with.

It wouldn’t have been so bad, except this is the same SIL who went ahead and opened gifts without my husband, daughter and me one Christmas. Why? “We didn’t feel like waiting.”


NostalgicGal September 18, 2013 at 12:53 pm

Reading other posts… I have listed on another post about my Aunt TADA and her need to be the center of everything with spotlights and trumpets, arriving past fashionably late and into ridiculous and who are you kidding late… that always brought a quart of potato salad for any potluck or picnic… to cover 4 or 5 people. She was cured when we had a picnic with both sides of my family coming together, about 30 adults and 20-25 from toddlers to mid teens… and. They lived 20 min away, the rest of us were over an hour (my family over 3) away. We told everyone 1 pm SHARP. At 1, no sign of them. Days before cellphones, days before many public phones, and it was a sunday. No real ability to call them. We decided to wait 20 min. 1:20 we ate… and with all those people it wasn’t going to be 5 min to finish, and we had cake and watermelon. 2:05 and in she waltzes flanked by hubby and her two smalls, with her winning smile and her potato salad in hand… and we’re spitting watermelon seeds. I was the hellion as I was just barely in school and when she said ‘aren’t you eating?’ ..’we said 1 sharp, we waited 20 minutes, then we ate’ was my reply from the middle of my watermelon slice. I felt afterwards, her bowl was still warm–she didn’t even start the potatoes until after the time we were supposed to eat. The others rustled them up some food and poked coals and rewarmed the burgers and dogs that were left. Nobody touched her salad. She was never that late again.

OP, salute. The kid comes first. If Grandpa wanted to play with kidlet, he knew when to be there. Unless it’s an ER visit, a flat on the road, sudden and serious bout of being ‘bathroom bound’ or something that serious; there was no excuse. You gave plenty of warning and any *needful chores and errands* could have been handled well before that afternoon.

I agree with other posters, list a start and end time for the party or event; and start on time and end on time. They come after end time, let them know the event is over. If they come right before the end, that’s fine, but still close down on time…


OP September 18, 2013 at 1:00 pm

Thank you very much, everyone, for your comments. And thank you all, and Admin, especially, for validating my anger. Next year, we will only have the children’s party, as opposed to a family party and a children’s party, and if they show up late and have nothing to eat, it will be their own problem, as we will start on time. And we will certainly start on time for our next family gathering that we host, which will be Thanksgiving (no one wants to eat cold mashed potatoes, but if they show up almost 3 hours late, that’s what they’ll be eating).

It is upsetting that my in-laws never run late to my Mother-in-law’s children’s events but that they convey their incosiderate, arrogant and rude behavior to us through being late to our events. As Admin and several of the above posters pointed out, this will keep impacting their relationship with their grandson as he grows, and it has certainly affected their relationship with us very negatively.



Lisa September 18, 2013 at 1:17 pm

Next time I recommend telling them the meal will be served at 4:30 (or whatever time you choose) and the cake will be cut at 5pm. If they miss it, they miss it. Too bad for them.


Abby September 18, 2013 at 1:29 pm

@ OP-

“It is upsetting that my in-laws never run late to my Mother-in-law’s children’s events but that they convey their incosiderate, arrogant and rude behavior to us through being late to our events.”

I am confused by this. Your MIL’s children would be your husband’s siblings, right? Since they were part of the group that was late, wouldn’t you essentially be saying they are not late to their own events? Which…kind of makes sense right? Or do you mean the siblings are not late to each other’s events?


Miss Raven September 18, 2013 at 1:37 pm

I agree with all of the “stick to your guns” comments so far. You will train your in-laws out of their appalling behavior, or… well, you will see how little your family actually means to them. In which case, good riddance. However, I am inclined to believe that your in-laws will adapt to the new rules, as long as there is no bending or breaking.

If these were friends or acquaintances, I would say that it’s time to move on, but they’re family. You’re stuck with them. That being said, I think there is also a good argument to be made for an open discussion. Tell them how hurt you are by their behavior, how much it inconvenienced you, how ungracious it is, how disrespectful to your family and your hospitality. Tell them you love them, but these are the rules, and you are no longer going to accommodate their selfishness. They may whine, or fight, or pout, or guilt, or laugh it off, or not believe you. That’s fine. They will see, in time, that you’re serious, and they will adapt.

But the time to set boundaries is now, before your son gets his feelings hurt by your husband’s family’s behavior.


MichelleP September 18, 2013 at 1:47 pm

@M, I hope you’re joking that you and your family show up hours late. And the “solution” to lie about when an event starts is not a solution. It’s lying and doesn’t teach others that their behavior is rude.


MichelleP September 18, 2013 at 1:51 pm

I have the opposite problem and would like some advice, not to intrude on the OP’s post. Just about every time my daughter and I, usually along with my sister and her kids, are invited to my father and his wife’s for dinner, they always eat before we get there. We are NEVER late, usually early. My father is just the type to do something whenever he feels like it, so when they were hungry they went ahead and barbecued. I don’t feel comfortable eating when they are not, and the food is cold. This has happened several times. How should I handle this?


Anonymous September 18, 2013 at 1:51 pm

OP–Your son is going to be three next year, so that’s “preschool age,” right? By then, he’ll have a few of his own friends, so you could always do a combined family/friends party. You could make it really low-key, in a park or something, don’t tell your son that his grandparents are coming (because you don’t know if they are, even if they RSVP yes), and then, worst case scenario, your son spends his birthday playing at the playground with his friends and whatever family members show up. The food could be just really portable stuff, like sandwiches, cupcakes, fruit and/or vegetable kebabs, etc. I’m not suggesting this as a way to accommodate the in-laws; it’s also for your own sanity. Kids that age haven’t yet formed the Chuck E. Cheese/roller rink/water park level of expectations for birthday parties yet, so they’ll be more likely to be happy with a simple party in a park. Also, with that kind of party, you don’t have to clean your house OR pay to rent a venue, so it works really well.


The TARDIS September 18, 2013 at 2:23 pm

How appalling! Next, they’ll skip his graduation because it is “just graduation.” I would hate to see them pull this at his wedding…

The nerve!


Kate September 18, 2013 at 2:25 pm

If you read the story carefully, you notice that the MIL is DH’s step-mother and he also has step-siblings (that I assume are the MIL’s from a previous marriage). So, the OP is saying that the MIL cares more about her own kids than her husband’s kid (DH).
I’m part of a similar dynamic–my grandpa remarried and his wife, while fairly nice, couldn’t care less about his children and grandchildren. She’s far more interested in her kids and grandkids, to the point where she almost convinced my grandpa to miss my wedding because of a brunch she wanted to host. Yeah, that never would have been an option if it was her grandkid getting married.


Dee September 18, 2013 at 2:28 pm

These people need a much stricter invitation. The party starts at …, the food is at …, the cake is at …, and the party is over at … . And stick to that schedule! And no leftovers can be had after the food is put away. I had to do this with some family members and they were disgruntled to find they weren’t allowed any of the cold dinner that was now in the fridge. I said we were eating dessert, now, and if they would like some then they were welcome to that, as it was still sitting out. And I stayed seated, because I had already put in my time serving it to the others who were already there. If there is a really really good reason for such tardiness then it can possibly be accommodated; it is counter-productive to accommodate selfishness and rudeness. Celebrate the people who are supportive of you and your family and let the others fall where they throw themselves. You will save yourself years of anguish this way.


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