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What Defines “Immediate Family”? Are Grandparents “Immediate”?

My grandson has been away at college, and we’ve barely seen him in months.   Some weeks ago, his parents sent out the information for his graduation, which will require a 6-hour car drive and a hotel stay of at least one night.    The graduation is Friday morning.
Last week we were given more information.   He is free all day Thursday, but will have to leave immediately after graduation on Friday, and we won’t see him again for several months.
So, yesterday I get a text from his mother.   They are requesting that only his “immediate” family (mother, father, younger siblings) spend the day with him on Thursday, the rest of us are invited to dinner Thursday night.   Now, I don’t care because I won’t be arriving until late Thursday afternoon anyway, but his other grandparents had planned to go earlier to spend more time with him. 
To me, this is a slap in the face to his other grandparents,  who practically raised the boy until his parents finally got their act together. 
Thoughts? 0116-19

I’ve seen this done with “small, intimate” weddings where allegedly only immediate family are invited but grandparents are excluded.

So, a parent or the parents inform extended family that the graduate will be home all day Thursday prior to graduation day and then a week later inform these same family members that they are now excluded from Thursday visitation. That’s inconsiderate, at best. The first announcement has the implied message to guests to make their travel plans accordingly in order to have time with the graduate on Thursday. Once those plans have been made, a new message is sent explaining that family guests are not welcome to show up on Thursday after all.

There is also an underlying assumption that the parents can act as their adult son’s social secretary, screening who can socially interact with him. While parents can dictate their own house rules and hosts can set the guest list, what a 22 year old man does outside of the parental home is not under parental control. In other words, grandson is quite capable of meeting grandparents for coffee or a short lunch outside of the home on Thursday.

So OP, what does your grandson have to say about this? Is he on board with the idea of not seeing any grandparents prior to dinner?

{ 23 comments… add one }
  • NicoleK January 17, 2019, 8:30 am

    Some colleges place strict limits on who can be invited to graduation. They don’t want tons of people. And some graduations are jammed with activities, it isn’t always easy to slip out for a cup of coffee. Not to mention local coffee shops are packed.

    I’m giving them a pass.

    • ladyv21454 January 17, 2019, 1:29 pm

      I agree about graduation activities, BUT – the graduation is Friday morning. The parents aren’t saying “oh, he’ll be too busy to spend time with anyone” – they’re specifically saying “we only want immediate family to spend time with him”. When the grandparents have gone to the trouble to show up, they should be able to spend some time with their grandson that doesn’t involve dinner in a public place.

    • Anonymous January 17, 2019, 1:52 pm

      Are all of those activities mandatory, though? My alma mater had activities surrounding the graduation weekend when I graduated–barbecue the night before, Graduation Mass in the morning, then the ceremony, then a big reception in a tent after the ceremony (it was in June, and there were too many people to fit in the student union building), and then there was a musical at the theatre that night–but the university made it clear that all of those activities were optional. As it happened, my family and I went out for dinner the night before the ceremony (because we were still on the road then), and then we skipped the Mass, but went to the ceremony, and then I dropped by the reception to reconnect with my friends (without my family, because they didn’t know anyone at my school), but then I left early to meet up with someone else who’d been something of a mentor to me in my undergrad years, and then after that, my whole family went to the musical. During the afternoon that we spent apart, my family went to play golf on the golf course next to the university, which worked well, because I don’t like golf, and again, they didn’t know my school friends or profs. Anyway, I doubt there was anyone there who participated in every minute of every university-organized activity, from start to finish, and if everyone there had tried to go to everything, it would have been a logistical nightmare, because the chapel, the theatre, and even the big reception tent, simply weren’t big enough to hold that many people. As for tickets, yes, there were limits (each graduate got to invite four guests), but people with fewer than four prospective guests were allowed to give their extra tickets to friends who had more people to invite, and a lot of us did. I realize that not every school does things the way mine did, but I’d be really surprised if all of the activities surrounding graduation were mandatory. OP could ask, but I’m pretty sure the answer would be “of course not.”

      • jazzgirl205 January 20, 2019, 6:35 am

        This sounds like Spring Hill College.

        • Anonymous January 21, 2019, 5:08 pm

          No, it wasn’t Spring Hill College–it was a small, secular university that happened to have a chapel for people who wanted to attend optional Sunday Masses. Most people I know didn’t; in fact, the only time I remember ever being inside the university chapel was for the December 6th vigil for the Montreal Massacre, and maybe a few organ concerts.

    • Melissa January 17, 2019, 2:17 pm

      That’s not even the point though. The grandparents are all invited to the graduation, they were just uninvited to spend any time with grandson during the day on Thursday – and they were specifically told that he was free all day first. And the OP set of grandparents weren’t going to be there anyway, so essentially they dis-invited two grandparents. It would make sense if it were a flurry of extended family, but purposely excluding two extra people seems rude to me.

      • Calli Arcale January 22, 2019, 9:46 pm

        I agree. Now, if there really is a school limitation that the parents only just found out about, well, that happens, but the appropriate thing would be to make that clear in the note, and offer *profuse* apologies, preferably also with invitations to alternate opportunities to spend time with Grandson. That no apologies were given to me says that they do not deserve the benefit of the doubt on this one. Whether the disinvitation was their idea or not, the way they handled it was a gross breach of etiquette.

        • Anonymous January 25, 2019, 12:11 am

          This doesn’t seem to be a school limitation, though, because the grandparents are still invited to the graduation ceremony, which is the main thing that requires a head count–because, presumably, everyone who’s coming to the university on graduation, will be going to the ceremony, and yet, the gym/theatre/quad/tent/whatever is only so big, and it’ll only fit so many seats, and cramming in extra people standing room only is usually frowned on for fire safety reasons, unless it’s an outdoor ceremony. Whatever other events are happening (receptions, concerts, plays, religious services, maybe a football game, or a hockey game in the winter, et cetera), are unlikely to be 100% attendance, and most receptions are “mingling” events where people don’t expect to sit the whole time, so seating is less of an issue there. But, all the grandparents in the OP are still invited to the ceremony by Son and Mother, to see Son graduate, and to dinner at a restaurant the night before; they’re just uninvited from spending time with him on Thursday, after being told that he’d be free all day Thursday. I think the description of “being invited to a dinner six hours away” is pretty apt. The six-hours-away grandparents aren’t going to really get much quality time with Son at a big family dinner, and even less so at a massive graduation ceremony that’s actually pretty boring, aside from seeing “your” graduate(s) walk. So, asking them to drive six hours and pay for a hotel room and meals for a whole weekend, but not allowing them to spend any meaningful time with Son, really isn’t fair.

  • JD January 17, 2019, 8:50 am

    I’m completely with Admin on this. Isn’t he a grown man? Did HE want the day alone with “the immediate family” or is this the family’s decision?
    I agree too that this looks like a rescinded invitation, and would be especially hurtful to the grandparents who practically raised him. Rude, rude.

  • Val January 17, 2019, 11:01 am

    I disagree. The grandparents were invited to attend a graduation, not a multi-day family reunion. Do you go to an out-of-town wedding and expect to be entertained by the bride and groom from the moment you arrive? From what I read in the OP, they were sent information on the graduation. Nowhere does it say that they were invited to join the graduate and his family on the Thursday beforehand, so I don’t see how that would qualify as a rescinded invitation. Telling them that he has a little free time on Thursday doesn’t mean that it’s an open invitation to monopolize it. God forbid that he may want to spend his one free day with his parents and siblings whom he hasn’t seen in months, or getting ready for his big day without having to cater to the expectations of entitled grandparents. I don’t buy the OP’s « I don’t care since it doesn’t affect *me*, but I’m soooo offended on the other grandparents’s behalf ». I’m sensing a lot of barely concealed judgement over how these parents started out their family, which might explain why they are not welcoming the grandparents with open arms.

    Also, while I agree that 22 is plenty old enough to start managing his own relationships, I find it presumptuous to assume that this is all coming from his mother because he couldn’t *possibly* have told her that this is his preference. Seeing as he has other things to focus on, namely finishing school, it’s not that weird that he may have asked his mom to deal with communicating with the extended family.

    • Anonymous January 17, 2019, 12:17 pm

      Son might have asked Mom to deal with communicating with the extended family, OR, what I think is more likely is, Mom took it upon herself to do that, using “Son has to focus on finishing school” as an excuse. Maybe she really doesn’t like the grandparents (the OP doesn’t specify in the story if it’s Mom’s parents, or Dad’s parents/Mom’s in-laws). Maybe she’s embarrassed or resentful that the grandparents had such an active role in raising Son in his younger years. Maybe she has her heart set on spending the Thursday doing something that she thinks (whether correctly or not) would be too active for the grandparents, like a walking tour of the city where the college is located, if it’s a particularly “fun” city. None of this is okay, of course, because it’s not fair to ask the grandparents to drive six hours each way and stay in a hotel (which, I assume the grandparents would have to pay for, since the OP didn’t mention Mom and Dad volunteering to cover that), if they’re only going to see Son at the ceremony, in a room full of hundreds or even thousands of people, and then at dinner. After going to all that trouble, they should get a full day with Son.

      One more thing, though–the OP in this story is either Grandma or Grandpa, who’s dealing with both the snub from the family, and the logistics of booking a hotel in College Town around graduation, which will be a busy time. I hope the message didn’t come at the last minute, but some colleges and universities actually offer accommodations in their residence halls for people coming out of town for the graduation ceremonies, at a much lower price than a hotel room; either for January graduation if they have empty rooms, or in the spring, when most (all) of the students have gone home. If Son’s college offers that, it might be worth looking into. It won’t be as nice as a hotel room, but it’ll be cheaper, and you’ll be able to walk straight from your room to the ceremony and back, so it’d be less hassle. Of course, that’s if you don’t want to cancel altogether at this point, which would be a perfectly reasonable thing to do.

    • June January 17, 2019, 4:00 pm

      It said he was free “all day Thursday”, but if the “immediate” family plan to monopolize that time why even tell the grandparents he’s free “all day Thursday”? Why not just start with “he will have little free time but we would love you to join us for dinner on Thursday evening”?

  • Harry's Mom January 17, 2019, 11:29 am

    GO ADMIN! What’s this business about ‘immediate’ family and ‘extended’ family; This is not an ancestry tree, it is a family coming together to celebrate one of life’s moments and it should be shared by all in its entirety, which includes the time before and after dinner.

  • Rinme January 17, 2019, 11:53 am

    Let me get this straight. The grandparents are invited to make a 6 hour drive for the graduation, but the kid won’t even meet them on his free day? That’s appalling.

    • Michelle January 17, 2019, 2:45 pm

      I’m with you, Rinme. I’m not driving 6 hours to get maybe an hour or two at a dinner and then sit for hours the next day at college graduation ceremony. Add in gas, meals and hotel costs and you could easily be looking at $250. If the family is the type to gift for graduations, then that could be another $50-100.

      It says that “they are requesting” so I’m not sure if he (the graduate) decided this and asked Mom to pass it on or if Mom just decided the itinerary on her own.

  • Dawn January 17, 2019, 12:48 pm

    Answering the question in the title “What defines immediate family”, the answer would be that grandparents are extended family. The nuclear family is parents and children. That being said, it’s one thing to exclude grandparents from the birthing event, but what’s happening in this situation is rude and hurtful. Very thoughtless.


  • Ginatonic January 17, 2019, 2:31 pm

    Maybe I’ve spent too much time on Justnomil but this sounds like the mother (OP must be mil as she’s described as “ his mother” rather than “my daughter”) laying down some boundaries for two sets of grandparents who may behave problems respecting family time. That said. With a six hour drive involved I think they should have found a way to share time with the grandson.

  • at work January 17, 2019, 3:53 pm

    “Immediate family” can mean different things to different people. My sister’s wedding consisted of the happy couple and the surviving parents-of-bride and -groom (one mom and one dad). And the pastor. Not sure if they had witnesses of some kind. They called it “immediate family only,” no friends, cousins, aunts, brothers, sisters… As for the OP, you are being treated shabbily. I recommend you do not go on this trip since your presence is neither highly valued nor needed. Send your grandson a warm note of congratulations.

  • June January 17, 2019, 3:54 pm

    I think I would be very upset if I was invited to see grandchild graduate, had to drive 6 hours to get there and then told I could only see him at dinner Thursday evening because the “immediate” family was going to spend the day together Thursday and he was leaving immediately after graduation. Basically, they have been invited to a dinner 6 hours away.

    Why even say he is free all day Thursday then turn around and say you can only see him at dinner because the immediate family is going to spend the day together? The grandparents aren’t going to get to see him again for many months as well, and maybe see him even less than his “immediate” family.

    I know if I had treated my grandparents like this I would have gotten an earful from my parents.

  • Marie January 17, 2019, 5:46 pm

    What went wrong here, is that the mom first texted “He is free all day Thursday” and later changed that into “immediate family only”.
    To me that sounds like mom is planning stuff, and the graduate himself told her he didn’t want a big family thing right before his graduation. Possibly because he’s nervous, or because he already had plans (with friends, possible since he’ll miss them after gradutating?).

    I don’t think it’s rude to invite for a graduation only. It’s a courtesy invitation. You let everyone know they are welcome, but you don’t expect everyone to show up. If that was just the invite and Thursday wasn’t mentioned, everything would have been fine.

    My peeve about this letter is OP saying “and we’ve barely seen him in months”. This sounds like a complaint to me. A college student will probably not drive for 6 hours to his grandparents, but it sounds like the grandparents didn’t make the effort either. My first thought about this is that if you want to see your grandson, call him! Invite him. Plan a weekend together. But don’t mope about it if you didn’t take any initiative.

    • JD January 18, 2019, 10:06 am

      There could be another side to the grandparent saying “we haven’t seen him for months.” Perhaps the family got together for the holidays, but he elected not to come. Perhaps they drove to his parents’ house for a family birthday, but he didn’t attend. They could have made the effort, but he wasn’t there. A lot of college students are working weekends, nights, and holidays. Plan a weekend with my kids when they were in college? Good luck– they were at work or had hours of classwork projects to work on before Monday, team projects, computer work, or volunteering. One of my kids had two and sometimes three jobs while attending college, and one of those was only on weekends, working in a grocery store. We always felt lucky to see her anytime we could.

  • Kitty January 20, 2019, 6:12 pm

    The whole “grandparents that basically raised him until his parents got their act together” sounds like there’s quite some history there, or perhaps less than I assume, and some issues within the family itself.

    Perhaps it’s because I live in Europe and majority of my maternal family in America, but I didn’t even begin to think my grandmother would appear for my highschool graduation. But that might also be because there’s a difference between 6 hour drive and 12 hour flight, as well as graduation being not *that* big of a thing here as it is in America.

    But I agree with admin. Talk to the grandson himself. We’ll assume he can make up a mind of his own.

  • EchoGirl January 24, 2019, 2:38 am

    Maybe this is my own personal experience speaking, but what bothers me about this post is that it seems like OP is trying to speak for someone else. OP admits that he/she isn’t directly affected, but still feels like it’s a “slap in the face” to another party (the other grandparents); there’s no indication in the story that the other grandparents have told OP this, without further clarification it sounds like OP is making an assumption that may or may not be true.

    In the same way that people are saying the grandson should speak for himself, the other grandparents should do the same. For all we know, maybe they totally understand and are not bothered at all, and OP would end up causing a confrontation over the “hurt feelings” of people who weren’t actually hurt. (I’ve unfortunately dealt with this situation — been browbeaten by a third party to do things a certain way in order to “consider the feelings” of someone who it turned out didn’t care.)

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