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Late To The Party….Or Bed Time For Baby

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.


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  • Michelle C Young October 6, 2013, 8:15 pm

    “Oh, it’s no big deal? Well, then you won’t mind leaving now, as we have bedtime, for ourselves, as well as our child. Early day tomorrow. Thanks for coming! Goodnight!” With OP’s explanation of bedtimes and the child’s early-morning routine, this is truly valid.

    Delaying the party for 30 minutes, on rare occasions when someone is unavoidably detained is one thing. More than that, and the unavoidably detained unavoidably miss the fun. The avoidably detained to not deserve the fun. The fact that these guests chose to drive a 4-hour round trip is THEIR choice. If they chose to drive it at such a time as to only allow them 30 minutes with their hosts, that is also THEIR choice, and if they chide you for spoiling their fun, you may remind them that THEY chose to delay their departure, and spoiled their own fun. It is NOT on you.