My husband is Regional Manager for a large corporation, and his boss was coming into our city for a few days' visit to the company. He is always accompanied by his assistant, and I have gotten to know them both over the years.
I suggested that we have them to dinner in our home, and they accepted at once, for the next evening. I also called and invited hubby's second-in-command, (Bob), apologizing to his wife (Connie) on the phone for the short notice, and saying that I hoped it was not too late for them to get a sitter (their sons were 8, 7 and 5). She said "Oh, Yes," and said they were looking forward to the evening.
My Sis and BIL were houseguests for a few days, so she and I cooked a lovely dinner, made beautiful individual desserts, set the tables with my nicest linens and china, and all was right with the world. Boss and assistant arrived, right on time. We introduced our two teenagers, who chatted for a few minutes, then went out for pizza and a movie. THEN: Bob and Connie drove in, with ALL THREE BOYS in the backseat. They are really nice kids, and we've had them over for barbecues and picnics, and they DID really look cute in slacks and little ties...but I had not planned a kids' menu, I had not set a table for them, and they were NOT INVITED.
Connie beamed at the boss, introduced her boys, and said to me, "I hope this is not too much trouble; I really wanted them to meet him." I was already a bit nervous about entertaining the CEO and had tried to make everything run smoothly, taste delicious, and look beautiful, but I felt the whole evening start to unravel. Sis and I spent part of the cocktail hour in the kitchen, setting places at the breakfast table, and making some hotdogs. We poured out a bowl of chips and poured soft drinks, leaving hubby to make drinks and conversation in the living room while we also tended to the last-minute prep of the REAL dinner.
When we started to sit down to dinner, I invited the boys to the breakfast room, and the middle one said, "I want to eat in THERE," pointing toward the dining room. I said, "I've made your dinner in here," he repeated, "But I want to eat in THERE!", and when the other two joined the chorus, Connie said, "I'd better have them in here with me."
I repeated that I'd made arrangements for the boys at their own table, and she repeated, "I'd better have them in here with me." Aside from shouting that there was no room, and that was NOT the plan, and this was supposed to be an adult evening and I DID NOT want those spilly children eating on my best tablecloth, what was I to do? Asharah's comment: I think if she was so hot to eat with her kids, she should have eaten in the kitchen with him.
So, at my lovely dining table set for eight, there were: Boss, assistant, Hubby, Bob, Connie, three little boys and me, squeezed into a hastily-set extra place. (I was NOT skulking off to the kitchen to eat, leaving CONNIE as the only woman at my table, playing hostess while I played maid, cleaning up the faux pas mess she had inflicted on me). And before we could all sit down, she told the boys to go ahead and start eating, so they dug right in, two of them up on their knees in my nice dining chairs. I don't mean to make too much of my "fine" furniture and other things, but I had taken pains to make a nice evening, and nowhere that I turned seemed to be in my control or according to any kind of plan.
DEAR Sis and BIL, bless their hearts, gamely sat down to their dinners in the kitchen, jumping up from time to time to help me serve and pour. And it WAS too much trouble, trying to serve dinners in two places. I DID go around before we sat down and take away the nice crystal wineglasses from the boy's places and replace them with everyday tumblers from the kitchen. They did eat their hotdogs (much preferred them to the lamb and asparagus), but when dessert time came, I made the boys sundaes in pretty dishes, only to hear, "I want one of THOOOOSE!!!" with gestures to the individual trifles. I said they were for grownups, and Connie looked at me with a little head-tucked, smirky, beseeching smile, hoping I'd give in and hand them over. Luckily, they contained sherry, and I told her so; she said they couldn't have the alcohol.
I just thank heaven for Sis and BIL, who helped and coped and made an uncomfortable situation so much better. Hubby was at a bit of a loss as to what SHOULD be done; he just looked at me sympathetically and followed my lead--we couldn't very well send the boys away, we couldn't MAKE them eat in the kitchen, and short of shouting in her face, there was no way I could sway Connie's smiling, inflexible, "I'd better have them in here with me."
I can't begin to get my mind around such obtuse ignorance of the smallest iota of social grace. My brain won't encompass such single-minded, unheeding lack of any sense or observation. She's raising three great kids; surely she had SOME sense that the evening was important to my husband and me, and of the amount of work I had put forth to make it nice. And two adult guests eating in the kitchen while kids monopolized the dining table? The woman couldn't KIDNAP a clue.
Hubby said later that he was very proud of how I handled the situation, and even used the word "aplomb." Wow--better than jewelry. And now, at family gatherings, we laugh and mock, "I'd better have them in here with MEEEEEEEEEEE!"
This story touches on one of my pet peeves. I dearly love children, I have several of my own but there are children appropriate functions and adults only functions and there are parents who cannot seem to be separated from their little darlings for a few hours. I've hosted dinners only to have the exact same thing happen, i.e. someone brings their children without asking and having never been invited. Often I am not prepared to seat or feed toddlers and pre-schoolers and adult conversation becomes impossible because the children are dominating their parents' time. These situations definitely challenge one's ability to be a hospitable and gracious hostess.
But what can you do? Toss them out of the house on their rumps? No, we grit our teeth, quietly thrash a few times in the privacy of the bedroom or bathroom, got our attitudes into priority then resolutely march out to play the gracious hostess by extending kindness to the undeserving.
Asharah's comment: I hope Connie had a lovely evening since it will probably be a cold day in h3!! before she and her husband get another invitation from the boss and his wife. Perhaps hubby can give Bob a little friendly advice on the subject. Something like "A wife may not be able to get you a promotion but a wife with a complete lack of social grace and common sense can definately stop you from getting a promotion."