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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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  • Anon today September 18, 2013, 2:59 pm

    OP, this could be my aunt and uncle in this story. They’ve been chronically, habitually late to everything my entire life. It’s because they’re disorganized. But I’m curious as to whether they disapproved of your husband moving a couple of hours away and this is how they convey it.

    I love my husband’s family, but they do not approve of the fact that he moved across the state to be with me. It’s been six years, and they’re still expecting him to move back to their town any day. The thing is, I get the feeling that if we were more than a 10-minute drive away, we’d have to deal with the same little barbs. It’s not the done thing in his family: his brother bought the house next door to his parents, and his sister still lives at home despite being in her mid-20s and having a decent job. I wouldn’t care, but his siblings like to throw in his face that he’s never around when he tries to express an opinion about something.

  • Amanda H. September 18, 2013, 3:19 pm

    @Abby, rereading the original post, the MIL is actually OP’s husband’s stepmother, meaning she and FIL aren’t late to the husband’s step-sibling’s events. Which sort of leads me to thinking it’s mostly the MIL’s doing that the in-laws were so late.

    OP, good on you for sticking to your son’s bedtime. I let my own kids stay up late when we have grandparents over (but the guests aren’t late to the events), but my kids would be staying up late giggling with each other in the bedroom anyway, so I’m not really missing out on anything. ‘Grats on having a kid who’ll actually go to bed. 🙂 As for future events, keep sticking to your start time regardless of when the in-laws show up, and eventually you’ll have either ticked them off to the point that they refuse to come anymore or, hopefully, taught them that they can’t dictate your schedule by being deliberately late. Shame on them for not even starting their “oh-so-important errands” until after the party start time, and more shame on Grandpa for complaining about not having enough time with his grandson because of it.

    To those who suggest ushering out the guests at a set ending time, that depends on where the guests are coming from. I agree that ending the “friends party” at the pre-determined ending time is the way to go, but in our case at least, both sets of grandparents live out of state. Hubby and I would still put our kids to bed on time (or as close to reasonable as possible), but we wouldn’t shoo our parents out just because the party’s over. But then our parents actually want to visit with us too, and would also help with the cleanup. So it really depends on the family dynamic. In OP’s case, if her own parents were staying past the son’s bedtime because they were visiting from out of state, I wouldn’t necessarily kick out the in-laws just because the birthday boy went to bed.

  • Marozia September 18, 2013, 3:32 pm

    We had ‘those’ people as well – the ones that decided to come later than due time. My aunt & uncle used to do that, so……we carried on with our usual routine just like OP did.
    My aunt wanted to talk to me, so I said we can do that while walking the pit bulls. She’s terrified of dogs. She had one dog, I had the other and we walked and talked for over an hour. All dogs need exercise and it was time for their walk. She ended up being quite fond of our dogs, who in turn adore her.
    Uncle sat and talked to my husband but ended up watching ‘Stargate’ (which uncle hates, but husband loves). BUT…you see…that was our ROUTINE. It taught them a lesson too, don’t be 2 hours late.
    Maybe OP should’ve put the party time for family-in-laws as 2 hours earlier, so at least they’d turn up earlier.

  • Miss Mary September 18, 2013, 3:45 pm

    I saw something like this in Dear Abby sometime ago. Someone complained about a female relative who showed up late for everything – dinners, picnics, parties, weddings. The family was mystified about this, because they learned that the woman was never this way with friends – always on time – just with family. Dear Abby said that the woman was controlling, and getting some kind of perverse pleasure out of it. There are just some people in this world who get their kicks out of seeing their famillies suffer – the sight of upset relatives, cold food, crying children, etc. gives them the jollies. I’m glad I don’t know anyone like this.

  • Kirstenh September 18, 2013, 3:47 pm

    @ Abby – OP stated that the MIL is a stepmother in law. He has both siblings and step siblings. The OP also stated that in laws are not late to his step-siblings events. In other words, the MIL makes sure that she makes it on time to HER children’s events, but blows off anything her husband’s children host. Sounds as if FIL needs to learn to stand up to his wife.

  • OP September 18, 2013, 3:48 pm

    My husband’s mother passed away when he was a teenager, and his father remarried. He has 2 biological siblings and 2 step-siblings, all of whom live in the same area, and all of whom are partnered/married, most with kids. In this case, my husband’s brother and his family had been away on vacation that had been scheduled for a while, and they couldn’t come to the party (we got together with them at a different time). However, the sister, stepsisters and their families drove together and all were culprits in the lateness.

    However, what normally happens is that FIL and MIL are on time for her biological children’s events and late to his biological children’s events. E.g. one holiday was hosted by MIL’s oldest daughter – dinner started at 7, everyone was there at 7. Another holiday was hosted by FIL’s daughter, DH’s sister – lunch started at 3, FIL and MIL and her children come in at 3:40. And the pattern continues…

  • cashie September 18, 2013, 3:51 pm

    Op, you did good by not keeping your toddler up for people showing up 5 hours late! I’m one of the chronically on time surrounded by the hopelessly late. My sister is one of the worst offenders. Many years ago when I was still pretty young, it was decided that thanksgiving would not be ruined by her lateness. This was before cell phones so we never could get ahold of her. She generally showed up 2 hours late and she knew we always told her the incorrect time in order to get her there on time. This time we had a house full of hungry guests, so we started eating after waiting 20 minutes. Sure enough she, her husband and 2 children showed up 1-1/2 hours late to cold food and the party almost over. It was a delicious meal. She is still upset about it to this day, 30 years later.

    Another time, she showed up so late to a good friend’s wedding that the food from the reception had already been put away. She had the temerity to ask that the food be unwrapped so she could make a plate for her husband (who was not present) and herself. I was mortified. There is no stopping some people, I guess.

  • OP September 18, 2013, 4:01 pm


    My kidlet has always been an early riser. If I put him to bed at 7, he’s up at 5:30. If I put him to bed at 8, he’s up at 4:30. If I put him to bed at 9.., forget it. Around 1 year, he went down to one nap a day (between 6 months and a year, he still did a morning nap and an afternoon nap), so now, typically, he wakes up between 5:30 and 6:15, naps between 12:30 and 2:30 (sometimes, 3), and we started bedtime (bath, snuggles and a book, prayers, good night kiss, lights out) between 6:30 and 7, with the goal of him being asleep by 7:15 at the latest. It works for him and for us (I usually feed DS after I pick him up from daycare, but DH and I have a quiet dinner around 7:30-8, after he’s asleep, and it’s lovely to have a little bit of us time and some peace and quiet or even to get something done around the house before we go to bed), but it may not work for everyone. Because DS is up so early, and we both work in healthcare (which forces us to be early risers as well), we have a lot of family time in the morning, and our big family meal together is usually breakfast around 6:15-6:30 am, not dinner. It’s a nice start to the day. So, in a nutshell, we’re all up around 5:30, downstairs to breakfast around 6:15-6:30, DS is in bed for the day by 7:15 at the latest (7:30 is really exceptional), and DH and I usually head upstairs around 9.

    But that’s a routine that works for our family; it may not work for you, especially if you have a little night owl. A good friend of mine puts her daughter to bed around 8:30 pm, and she wakes up for the day between 7:00 and 8 am. As I’ve discovered and keep discovering about parenting (and I’m positive that all the posters here who have children and grandchildren can tell you and I a lot more about that than I possibly can), you have to take a general idea and make it work for your family and keep doing what makes the most sense for you and your bunch. That applies to bedtimes, Ferber vs. Sears, breastfeeding vs. supplementing, SAHM vs. WM, etc. As long as your little one is healthy and happy and developing beautifully, and as long as you and your spouse are healthy and content, that’s what’s important.

  • Julia September 18, 2013, 4:09 pm

    @ Abby

    If the OP doesn’t come back and clarify, here’s my guess. MIL is the stepmother of the OP’s husband.

    MIL’s children are her own children, either half-siblings or step-siblings of the OP’s husband.

    So, MIL might care more about those events for her “blood” relations and get to those on time, but doesn’t make that effort for her stepson’s family.

    Which doesn’t excuse the OP’s FIL at all. His wife might be tacky enough to openly show that kind of favoritism, but FIL ought to care enough about his son to make more of an effort himself.

    It’s easy to blame MIL, but it’s not completely fair to lay all the blame on her.

  • Helen September 18, 2013, 4:19 pm

    I have a rule — as soon as the time of the party has come and the first guest has arrived, start the food and start the party. This rule came about after years of worrying about the comfort of late-arriving guests, who thought nothing of coming hours late.

    I recommend it highly.

    If the party is still going when they arrive, enjoy it. If it is winding down, people are leaving, etc. Wind down, do the dishes, send the signal that the party is over and it’s time to go home. It sets boundaries and sends the message that you will not put up with their rudeness. They’re taking advantage of you — you don’t need to put up with it.

  • Hanna September 18, 2013, 4:22 pm

    I can tell that this little one’s birthday party was a big deal. In fact, some would say a little over the top for a 2 year old with a relative party (and you do mention quite a number of relatives) and then yet another party later on for others. Seems like a lot for a 2 year old, which leads me to believe that you have probably overemphasized this in your head a little. Most 2 year olds aren’t really cognizant of what a birthday is, or are even that much into presents. It’s a time for those who wish, to honor the little guy and say “we are blessed to have you”. It doesn’t have to be a set time, there doesn’t have to be expensive presents, or lavish food–it’s just people coming together to express their happiness over another little person. If the grandparents had other things to do, it’s okay to only see him for 1/2 hour–I thought it seemed a lot for them to make a 4 hour round trip for a 2 year old’s birthday (who isn’t really aware of what’s really going on). They really didn’t do anything wrong, and I think other posters here are way over the top with comments and need to extend more grace in light of the fact that it is a 2 year old’s birthday–we aren’t talking a wedding, or graduation or bar mitzvah here.

  • lakey September 18, 2013, 4:55 pm

    I agree with the administrator. In addition, I wouldn’t hold up a meal, gift opening, or other festivities for more than 30 minutes. I also wouldn’t call to find whether they are on their way. That way, when they find out they missed the meal or gift opening you can say, “Oh, you weren’t here so we assumed something came up and you weren’t coming,” with a smile on your face. This is not punishing them, it is a lesson in life, actions have consequences. If you show up an hour and a half late, you miss out on things.

  • NZHoney September 18, 2013, 5:08 pm

    Abby, I’m reading it that the MIL is actually a Step-MIL, so she probably has another side to her family, which would be the OP’s DH’s step-siblings.

  • Lo September 18, 2013, 5:22 pm


    “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.”

    That’s HORRIBLE. If my mother did that to me we wouldn’t be speaking. It sounds like you and your husband handled this right and good for you! I had a friend who did something like this to me too. Forgot to pick me up after I’d asked for a favor and didn’t return my calls out of fear I’d be mad. We’re no longer friends.

  • mark September 18, 2013, 5:35 pm

    I agree with everyone, just start on time. But I think it is a bad idea to tell people to come earlier than the event is planned to start. That just teaches everyone that things don’t start on time. This is part of the reason people show up late. I’ve done it at times with relatives/friends that never start on time. I know if I show up on time I’ll just wait around and around for an hour or two for everyone else to get there. So why get there on time if it is just going to start late. Of course that just propagates the problem.

  • J September 18, 2013, 6:40 pm

    Abby —

    The “mother-in-law” is actually the husband’s stepmother. I’m guessing that the OP meant that they in-laws are never late to events held by HER biological children, which would be her husband’s step-siblings.

  • Yasuragi September 18, 2013, 7:17 pm

    To what others are saying about validating their poor behavior by waiting up for them to arrive I have a tidbit I read in an article. I couldn’t find the article but to paraphrase:

    A study in human behavior cited a daycare in (I forget where but not in the US.) Parents were often late to pick up their children. Not too long, five, ten fifteen minutes here and there but it was a inconvenience to staff who wanted to clean up and head home on time. So the daycare decided to start a late fee system. Parents were charged on a sliding scale for however many minutes they were late to pick up their children. This, they thought, would stop those darn parents from being late.

    What happened? The late pick-ups *increased*! And parents were arriving later and later.

    Why? Because before the parents had guilt and social rules pressuring them to pick up their children on time. But once the late fees were enacted suddenly they felt like being late was a service they were entitled too, since they were paying. Guilt free, they would come get their children whenever they darn well pleased.

    Human behavior can be crazy sometimes.

    As someone up thread mentioned, in this age of cell phones, email and everything else being late and not letting anyone know is rude and completely avoidable. But I think that instant communication is making things worse. Back in the day of carrier pigeon, smoke signals and landline phones you made plans ahead of time and made the effort to arrive. Nowadays, with instant communication, if there is an event planned for 3:00 people think it’s acceptable to call your cell at 2:45 to say you’ll be an hour late or, heck, to call at 2:59 to cancel at *literally* the last minute. Meanwhile you’re sitting at the event location an hour away from your house in your Sunday best. And people seem to accept that it’s OK to do so. Not everyone, of course, but many.

  • Maria September 18, 2013, 7:30 pm

    I totally agree with continuing the party as planned and not waiting for others to arrive, regardless of their relationship to you.

    Sadly, I wonder if this is not a generational thing. I work with seniors, and I know many of them who would consider a birthday party for a 2 year old to be “no big deal”. To them, it’s not. Gatherings are for the older crowd, those old enough to appreciate and remember them, and the children involved are going to have fun regardless. Remember, a lot of seniors are from an age when children were not given as much attention as they are now, and so they feel that all the fuss is essentially pointless, particularly in the case of a 2 year old, who will likely not remember a thing about the party anyways.

    I am not exonerating this behaviour; of course it is rude to keep your hosts waiting in any situation. My point is to shed some light on the other side and show that this might be more of a generational issue.

    For what it’s worth, my late parents were of this mind set. When my sons were very, very young, Gran and Gramps didn’t particularly jump through hoops to attend their birthdays, but once they became older, things changed. They spent time with the boys on their terms, and it worked out fine. Both my children, now grown, have wonderful memories of their times spent with their grandparents and their absence (or tardiness) at their birthday parties are a non-issue. Please keep this in perspective.

    I know it’s disheartening to watch this unfold, but you will not change your in-laws. Do what you need to do and enjoy your son and all the upcoming milestones.

  • EchoGirl September 18, 2013, 8:33 pm

    Abby — OP said in the main post that her MIL is her husband’s stepmother, so MIL’s children would be the DH’s stepsiblings.

  • hakayama September 18, 2013, 9:01 pm

    @OP, Roslyn and similarly “dissed” DILs: Most of the suggestions offered are right on the money.
    The sense of entitlement, displayed by OP’s FIL is beyond the pale. It is utterly narcissistic to view and treat a grandchild as a toy, as a source of entertainment, rather than a real living human, with a right to regular eating and sleeping routines.
    According to those who’ve dealt with less than ideal in laws (translation: cruel miserable jerks ;-), any and all convos with them are counterproductive. They usually show the ILs which buttons to push to maximize humiliation and discomfort.
    On the positive side, soon the “family” type of b-day celebration can give way to a children’s party, where the only adults might be the parents of the young guests. According to “those in the know”, the recommended total number of juveniles should be close to the age of the b-day child.

  • Barbarian September 18, 2013, 9:18 pm

    Retired older people are notorious for followng their own timetable. Even if they agree to be somewhere at a certain time, they are still late. I admire the OP for committing to a regular bedtime for her child-so many parents do not do this these days. If the parents did not have to work the next day, keeping the child up for one more hour might be OK to visit with the grandparents. Otherwise, the OP should feel free to end her party when she wants to.

    I have dealt with tardy out of town in-laws before. They were asked not to come into town to visit during a few weeks when I had a big overtime commitment to my job. They got wind of a private family event and told DH they were coming into town anyway to visit another family member who was very ill. DH firmly advised them to make advance arrangements with this person to visit before coming to town and that we would not be able to offer overnight accommodations that day so they has better leave early from their town so they could return home in time.

    Well, they got a late start ( as usual) and made no advance arrangements to visit the other person. When they showed up over there, they were told that person could not receive visitors that day. It was late by the time they showed up at our house(just in time for our private event, I will add) asking to stay the night since it was too late for them to drive back home.

    DH could not understand why I got so angry and threatened to stay at a motel that night so I would not have to put up with them.

  • ebrain September 18, 2013, 9:23 pm

    Oh, my. I agree with many of the other posters – wait for as long as you feel comfortable waiting, and then forge ahead. People who are late will learn that when they’re invited at a particular time, that time is honored, politely. And oh! to not call ahead with a Reasonable Excuse in the Age of Cellphones? My goodness. Also, kudos to the OP for honoring Toddler Time.

    More difficult would be turning the tardy guests away at the door. I’m not sure I could do that – but I would certainly be able to ask if they’d like coffee or tea and leftover cake. And I would be able to say “we’re turning in now; it was so nice to see you – do come again!” (That, I’ve done.)

    But, like a few others, I have the opposite problem with my ILs. I joke with DH that in his family, if you’re 15 minutes early, you’re 20 minutes late. We arrive on time, and get criticized for being on time instead of early. We arrive early, and get criticized for not being earlier. Once, I bet him that if we arrived an hour early, we’d find FIL was there, waiting 20 minutes at least – and I won that bet. The ILs showed up 4 hours early to my first TG dinner, and complained not only that I wasn’t ready for the, but that I didn’t sit down with them to be a proper host.

    I have learned to shrug my shoulders. If they tell me a time and I arrive on time, I’m on time. If I tell them a time and they arrive early, I smile graciously and serve on time (and if they complain, I put a puzzled furrow to my brow and say, “I’m sorry, but I was hoping to serve at 4:30…didn’t we tell you that when we invited you???”)

    I am so grateful the DH and I have the same time-sense. We are always in synch – and have been for 24 years. (So long? Time flies.)

  • hakayama September 18, 2013, 11:08 pm

    @Barbarian: In the name of all wrongfully accused retired older people 😉 I strongly disagree with your statement regarding “own timetables”.
    Tardiness, as a symptom/result of disregard for others or personal lack of organization, manifests itself early on. There are tardy teenagers and tardy octogenarians, and both can be equally irritating.
    Some can be “reformed”, others are abysmally incorrigible.
    YOUR in laws are a prime example of not just tardiness, but also of other ways of telling the world that nobody even comes close to deserving any consideration. I am sure that their disgusting behavior was there already when they were in middle school… You have my sympathy, not only because of the ILs, but also on acct of their clueless son. Best wishes.

  • MissShoe September 18, 2013, 11:39 pm

    My In-laws are also habitually late, it used to infuriate me and I spent a great deal of time trying to manage things, which just made me miserable.. and didn’t change their behaviour.

    2 things helped…

    1. If its a booking for something, like a dinner or a restaurant, we tell them a time about half an hour earlier. That way the restaurant doesn’t lose out while people wait for a whole party to arrive. The inlaws have never, ever arrived before us using this trick – they usually show up at the same time or just after we do.

    2. Carry on without them. For other functions and activities, advise a time things will be beginning and stick to it. Because my inlaws have to travel to us (though the 2 hour trip always seems to take 4.5 hours) I get my husband to call them about an hour before the alloted time to see where they are.
    We then make an assessment about whether or not we are prepared to delay things and move on… there have been many occasions where they have arrived 2 hours late to a party /picnic / whatever to find that things have begun and progressed without them. They are still welcome to help themselves and participate, but other people are not inconvenienced because of them and I don’t get stressed because they are the ones that miss out, not me.

    I told my mother in law (the worst culprit – she will suddenly remember that she needs a book/recipe/armadillo just as its time to leave and wander off to look for it and get distracted by what she might find in that quest) that I was walking down the aisle at 2.30pm on the dot. Her hotel was 100 meters from the ceremony site (no parking, traffic issues there) and that if she missed it, that would be her problem, not mine.

    They are getting a little better, they still plan journeys as if there is no such thing as traffic lights, traffic, roadworks, toilet or petrol stops – not to mention bothering to look up the journey before hand to work out where they are going, but again, it affects them, not me.

  • Bill September 19, 2013, 12:34 am

    Next time, don’t stall the festivities (like candles and such) for them, or anyone more than 30 minutes late. This is for two reasons. 1. If someone can’t be bothered to show up on time (or call to let the host know they’re running behind) they don’t deserve to have things held up for them. The guests who did arrive on time doubly don’t deserve it. 2. Your level of anger and frustration will be exponentionally higher if you let them ruin the whole party.

  • Mer September 19, 2013, 1:34 am

    Hanna: I fully disagree with you. Invited guests get one change to decide if the party (or other happening) is important enough and that is the point when they rsvp. If the event is not important enough for them, they may decide not to attend. However, if they do decide to attend, they agree to the “rules” of the event. That includes the starting time and other stuff like that. So if the MIL&FIL thought spending several hours with their grandson and driving there and back would not be important, they could have told they will not come. But after they promised to come, they have no right to disrespect the birthdayboy and also the host and other guests by being terribly late and causing a lot of worry.

    This is actually something I’m very adamant about. You can’t say for other people what is important enough for them and what should be celebrated in what way. Be it their cat’s birthday or wedding or graduation, they have obviously thought it is important enough to have a celebration for it. If you disagree, don’t attend.

    And how to celebrate the birthday of a toddler. It’s true that the kid might not know much of what is going around but the guests do. They deserve decent amount of hospitality and having a dinner and cake is good way to show it. Ha, I would do the dinner and cake if my relatives would visit anyway. And to be frank, usually toddler’s birthdays are very good “excuse” to just have families over and spend some fun time together.

  • Rebecca September 19, 2013, 2:07 am

    If they didn’t want to come, they should have declined the invitation. Perhaps 7 PM was the time the OP wanted the guests to LEAVE. I’d have waited till 4:30, tops, to start in on the food and celebrations. And next time, now that you know what they are like, don’t wait at all. Or don’t invite them.

    Doesn’t matter what your opinion is on big birthday events for toddlers; these people didn’t HAVE to come if they didn’t want to, but they said they were coming. My jaw dropped open at the “it’s no big deal” comment.

  • ddwwylm September 19, 2013, 2:07 am

    For those few saying that it’s not a big deal, it’s only a kid b-day party, not to make such a big deal, maybe it’s generational ect. It doesn’t really matter what the event is for, it’s super rude to be late when someone has invited you over. If the OP had invited the IL for no special reason, just to get together for dinner, it would still be crazy rude to show up 3 hours late. My husband grandparents did this a couple times when our youngest was a baby. They wanted to come into town, to see the baby, would I be free around certain time. I would re-arrange my schedule and they would show up hours late. With the excuse of Oh we decided to stop off at that market we like so much or whatever. Well Gee, I wasn’t planning on sitting around for all day, and had I known they’d be so late, wouldn’t have made my older child miss her gymnastics class. I still remember the time they were late because they stopped off at their favorite store to buy ice cream and asked to keep it in our freezer while they visited. Seriously, the store would have still been open after they left out house, and who brings ice cream over and asks to keep it in the freezer but doesn’t even offer any to their grandchild who sees them bringing in a treat.

    Reminds me a lot of an old ex-friend. Luckily he was not an IL, so I was able to ex him from my invite list. I agree with others that it might be a control thing. This was back when my friend group was all in our 20s and we had a habit of regularly gathering to go to the movies or out to dinner ect, and we would usually meet at a certain spot before heading out. He was always late! I was one the one who started pushing for not waiting past a 10 min or so window. He caught wind of this, and then started calling right at about the time we’d be getting ready to leave without him “Oh, A called, he’s just getting off the freeway now” Ok, that would take maybe 5 min, he’d show up 20 minutes after that, yeah, he was totally calling from his house but saying he was right around the corner. Somehow though, I ended up being the B*tch for calling him out on this. Another time, a friend and I decided we wanted to see a specific movie, and asked if he wanted to go with us to see it at a specific time. That of course ended up becoming invite the whole group, which was totally fine, except when it was time to leave to make it to the theatre on time he verbally shamed me in front of everyone saying something of the effect of shouldn’t we let everyone have a say in what we’re doing. Huh? I’d invited him to a specific event, and he was making it seem like I was selfishly high jacking the groups plans. Not long after that was when I dropped him from socializing. I did hear another outrageous story though. Apparently most of the guys all wanted to see a specific movie at a certain show time. He did his same old high jinks, showing up late, trying to change the venue. They put their foot down though and said no, the plan was to see this showing of this movie. He agrees, and then agrees to drive (big mistake guys, LOL) 1/2 way to the theatre, he decides that he needs gas, then pays for a car wash as well, so they all have to sit in the car as it goes through the wash and guess what, now they’ve missed the start time of the movie so they have to go to the one he wanted to go to after all!

  • NostalgicGal September 19, 2013, 3:48 am

    @ Yasuragi…. the late fee works for a daycare if it is stiff bordering on ridiculous…. I’ve known ones where one minute late started charges and past fifteen minutes it got pretty stupendous (we’re talking 3 or so hours charge) and by an hour forget it (a full day fee on top). The place was having issues with parents being late, later, and even later, so they got seriously starched. If the parent pulled up right at the time; they were okay IF they didn’t proceed to sit in the car for ten minutes on their cell; if they did that they got charged ‘even though they were there on time’. Else yes, parents will push it.

  • Jazzgirl205 September 19, 2013, 7:34 am

    I come from a family who entertains frequently. We are aware of everything that goes into having a party or a big dinner. In my experience, the people who commit these agregious acts against hospitality rarely (if ever) entertain. I’m not excusing them but I am saying that they have no idea of the effort and expense that goes into such an event.

    My FIL and his wife were having relatives visit over TG. Since they were elderly and lived in a trailer, I offered to host TG for the extended family. They were delighted. I did everything it takes to have a wonderful dinner – cleaning, advance cooking, ironing table linen, mopping the whole house, etc… A day before the event SMIL calls and told me they decided to celebrate TG in New Orleans! Not only that, but SMIL then says, “I’m sure you’ll be able to find a place to spend TG somewhere.” No only did they leave us holding the bag, but we were not to be part of their celebration at all.

    These people have never gone out of their way to host anyone or extend hospitality in a big way. They think their actions are no big deal. If they did suddenly realize all that work, their attitude would be, “Then why do it?”

  • The Elf September 19, 2013, 8:15 am

    MichelleP: How about you handle it by bringing your own food? Or meeting at a restaurant? Or inviting them to your place? I agree it’s unacceptable to invite someone over for bbq and then go ahead and do it early before the agreed-upon time. But you can’t change their behavior, and if it has happened that often it isn’t going to change.

  • PrincessButtercup September 19, 2013, 9:15 am

    I wouldn’t have allowed them to hijack the day that much. At 30 minute past planned start time I would have called to check if there had been bad traffic, then when they stated they hadn’t left yet I would state; “I’m sorry that you won’t be able to join us for kids special day.”. Then I would have gone ahead with the party as planned.
    Sometimes people don’t value something till it’s taken away. When you take away an option to be there, they may suddenly realize how much they want to be there and hurry over. And even if they don’t, it’s their loss.

  • Yasuragi September 19, 2013, 9:33 am

    @NostalgicGal Reminds me of a story on Not Always Right about a day care that charged $5 for every minute the parents were late. A mother came in and signed her daughter out at 4 sharp…but then went right back out the door alone to do some shopping. When she came back 45 mins later she was shocked SHOCKED! that they were charging her a $225 late fee.

  • ketchup September 19, 2013, 9:49 am

    It doesn’t matter what the occasion was. They were invited, they agreed. This is lying, saying they will be somewhere at a specific time and then doing something else. They’d lied to you, and everyone knows lying is rude.

    My little one turned one in March, and I’m a firm believer that you have to celebrate as many things as possible, grab every opportunity, life is dreary enough as it is. We celebrated with friends and family. We’d sent them an invitation via snail mail, and it did include both the start and the end. One friend came half an hour before the end, and also left at the right time. (My brother, his wife, and some really good friends stayed later, but that’s different.)

    OP, I wouldn’t have waited. It’s not fair to the others who were on time. And kudos for sticking to your son’s bed time. If I deviate a little from my daughter’s routine, we’d be in serious trouble.

  • acr September 19, 2013, 11:22 am

    I don’t know the dynamic here, but I don’t think it’s necessarily fair to lay the blame at the stepmother’s feet. Perhaps FiL is a foot-dragger, and SMiL is willing to nag, hassle, etc to get him to her family’s events, but is unwilling to take on that task to get him to his own children and grandchildren’s events. That’s not unreasonable.

    My sister’s husband is a dawdler too. My sister actually packed up the kids and left him so they could get to his grandmother’s funeral on time! When it comes to events w/out side of the family, they are on time b/c my sister plans, hassles, nags, or leaves without him. When it comes to events with his side of the family, she lets him set the schedule. She is ready to leave at the correct time, but if he decides to watch TV until 10 minutes before they have to leave, she lets him.

    If the SMiL is creating errands, etc, to make them late to OP’s events, that is very wrong. But if she’s simply not taking on the chore of pushing at FiL to get him there on time, that’s on FiL.

    Also, FiL has the option to leave without her.

  • MichelleP September 19, 2013, 1:50 pm

    The Elf, thanks for your response. I don’t feel comfortable bringing my own food, and my father refuses to go to anyone else’s home for dinner (another story there), but the suggestion for meeting at a restaurant is what my sister and I have started doing. Lately whenever he asks us to come to their house for a cookout, we suggest meeting and going out to eat instead. Thanks again for the tip.

    @Hanna, I hope your post is a joke or you’re trolling. The party for a 2 year old is not the point, the point of the OP’s post is that her ILs are inconsiderate and rude. I sincerely hope you don’t plan an event for your child and people show up hours late. I doubt you would say “It’s no big deal” if it were you.

  • NostalgicGal September 19, 2013, 1:52 pm

    One more to add…

    My DH used to have ‘world time ‘ and ‘his time’. Dare I be five minutes late for something and it was a pretty legit excuse, I’d hear about it like I committed murder1 for months. If it was he who was late, it was, oh. He could be delayed, he could decide the world had to run on his time, and it was ‘oh’. He pulled a couple of those and one involved a meal at his sister’s with his parents and another sibling plus spouse involved, and that was the era when I didn’t even have a key for the apartment we lived in (this is another extended story on why) so I was locked out; had a friend who was staying with us for a few days, and my friend and I sat on the steps (upstairs of house apartment) for over 3 hours and listened to the phone ring every 5 minutes (niece or daughter of the sister was ordered to keep calling to find out when we were coming) and I finally went downstairs and borrowed the neighbor’s phone after start time to tell her I was locked out of apartment and I had no idea where he was. Or if we were coming. So we went back to sitting on steps; and almost an hour and a half late, he shows with his friend. You know your sister was having this meal tonight and your parents and other sister are there and they’re waiting, I had to use the neighbor’s phone to call them at X time to tell them I didn’t know where you were and I was locked out? Oh. Then he takes his bleeping sweet time to get ready, and just totally blowing off he spaced it and how he inconvenienced everyone…. my friend at least got into our apartment; his friend went home; we went to the dinner, and I let him take the crap (ask him why I was locked out of our apartment). After nearly three decades that has improved as I usually keep his schedule now and he WILL go take the shower and get into the clothes when told to, and be ready in under 30 min…. sigh.

  • Angel September 19, 2013, 4:51 pm

    Sorry about your ILs rudeness OP. I fully disagree with Hanna–if the party truly was not a big deal, the ILs should have just declined. Why bother to show up at all if you’re going to be 4 hours late? To a child’s birthday party? At some point the kid is going to have to go to bed. Only selfish and thoughtless people show up so late that the guest of honor is too tired to really celebrate with them.

    If I were the OP I would just stop with the family parties. Have a kid party at the park like someone else suggested. Lower your expectations. Significantly. My BIL is always late to EVERYTHING. He has gotten better recently but still is almost an hour late to just about every occasion. I hate it. But we have stopped waiting for him especially when we do events at our house. He can go take a flying leap. If his mom wants to wait when we do dinners at her house, that’s on her. But no way am I waiting for ANYBODY!

  • Firebrat1229 September 19, 2013, 5:51 pm

    The most appalling thing for me is, not only were they late, they didn’t even CALL. To me, that was the icing in the crap-cake, so to speak.

    Completely rude. I think it may be a generational thing, too. My parents would have NEVER pulled something like this, but I could easily see my father saying ‘Aww, let him stay up longer!’ about the bedtime. Not to excuse it at all, mind. Good for the OP for sticking to her guns, and I’m glad her husband was in agreement about his own parents boorish behavior.

  • Barbarian September 19, 2013, 7:34 pm

    To Hakayama -I’m sorry about my comment on all retired people being habitually late. I guess years of dealing with in-laws skewed my perceptions. At the time Dh was between a rock and a hard place when he let his family spend the night. Safety sometimes has to take priority over a polite spine. You can’t let people over 80 yrs old drive home 150 miles after dark. They could not afford a motel stay and if we sent them to one at our expense , it would definitely encourage their behavior.

    We are lucky that they are now limiting their driving to their hometown due to their age both for safety reasons and no more surprise visits.

  • The Elf September 20, 2013, 8:16 am

    Barbarian & Hakayama, my now-retired parents are taking their always-early tendencies to exciting new levels. If I say “5pm”, it might be 4:30 (typical to pre-retirement days), 4:15, 4:00, or even earlier. On the plus side, they’re pretty chill about hanging out while I finish doing whatever it is I needed to do, or helping to do it, or hanging out in the driveway because I’m not home yet. I think what you’re seeing is whatever early/late/punctual tendencies they had as younger people get set in as habits as people age. It gets harder and harder to change your ways. So by retirement, no amount of “retraining” is really going to change it unless they decide to make that effort themselves.

  • knitwicca September 20, 2013, 10:28 am

    I have always been an on-time or early person. I find it a basic courtesy to be where I promised at the time I committed to being there.

    My ex was notorious for being late. I thought it was disorganization and tried to help him by reminding him of the time, making certain everything was ready (gifts being delivered, gas in the car, etc).

    Then….one day he had a doctor’s appointment in a town and hour away. At 15 minutes before the appointment time, he was walking out of our apartment and stopped to ask if I wanted to ride with him. He said he was stopping for a designer coffee two blocks from our apartment.
    I replied “You don’t have time to stop for coffee. You are going to be very late.”
    I never forgot his reply. “I. Don’t. Care.”
    That was the day I realized that he saw his time as being more valuable than that of any other person.

    For the record, he also would begin calling invited guests and hour before the time we had agreed upon. He would nag as to why they had not yet arrived, becoming increasingly upset.

    In my personal opinion, those who are chronically late for social occasions but not for business tend to see themselves as more important than the others in their social group. I am also firmly in the group who will allow a set amount of time to wait for stragglers then get on with the event.

  • JackieJormpJomp September 21, 2013, 5:50 am

    While agree that it was rude of people to show up late, might I suggest that you sonsider that it is a toddler’s birthday party? Really, he doesn’t know what’d happening. Don’t make a big deal over it.

  • NostalgicGal September 21, 2013, 1:52 pm

    It may not be a big deal for the kid; indeed at 2 they are a little below real comprehension or keeping good memories of what happened…. but.

    The issue here is the adults involved.

  • ketchup September 22, 2013, 4:16 am

    My mum, who is almost elderly, is punctual to a fault. If she has to drive for more than an hour to go somewhere, she’ll still be there on time. Not late, not early, but on time.

  • Jaxsue September 22, 2013, 4:56 pm

    I disagree with some PPs who suggest it might be a generational/retirement thing. My X-in-laws were habitually late, but my parents were not. Same generation. The abusers I’ve dealt with have been from the young to the old. I honestly haven’t seen a pattern regarding age.
    Honestly? I think if you were this way when you were 20, you’re likely to be this way when you’re 70.

  • Sugaryfun September 24, 2013, 5:15 pm

    @Hanna If you were invited at 3.30, agree to come at that time and rock up hours late without bothering to call and say you’re running late then yes, you have done something wrong regardless what the occasion is. It’s just plain rude to keep people waiting like that whether it’s a wedding or a casual afternoon tea.

  • Sugaryfun September 24, 2013, 5:24 pm

    @Nostalgic Girl
    I have an in-law like that. He has many times invited people over and just not been home when we arrived, leaving us standing around in the driveway in the dark for half an hour. Then once he asked a group of friends to take part in a focus group for his work. He sent us all messages reminding us to be there at “6 pm SHARP!”. He showed up at 7.30 and the focus group dragged on an hour longer than he told us it would.

  • RedWitch September 29, 2013, 4:46 am

    That is just plain RUDE. If they said they would be there, they should have been there on time. When someone turns up basically AFTER the party has ended, with no excuse/apology, the host/ess has every right to say “Sorry, but the party has ended, Goodbye”. OP, I agree with everyone else here in saying congrats for sticking to Bubs’ timetable. Where I am, it’s good manners (and expected of one) to arrive 15 minutes early to an appointment, meeting or anything like that. If you’re going to someone’s house, 5-10 minutes early is the norm. If it says 3:30 start , get there at 3:15, it will start at 3:30, not a minute later. Just keep making it clear to these people at the party starts when you say it starts, and will not wait for them.

  • SJ September 30, 2013, 2:17 am

    “It’s just a children’s birthday party,” what a thing to say! It’s your grandchild! It’s a big deal!

    Good for you, OP. You handled it properly, maintained routine for your toddler, and learned a lesson about how you can expect them to act.