Q: What can I do about doting parents who include their children in every gathering? I've had it with inviting friends who say:
1. "We'd love to come." No mention of Little Susie, but when I open the door, there Susie is, too.
2. "We'd love to come, and just wait till you see how big Little Susie is now."
3. "We'd love to come, but Little Susie is a problem, so we'll be staying home." (Then I feel guilty for wanting to see my dear friends without their children.)
If I wanted Susie, I would have invited her. These couples have money for sitters, loads of relatives, and an ample supply of sitters in this area.
Don't misunderstand -- I adore children and, on occasion, I do invite them. But cocktail parties, formal dinner parties, etc., are not for children.
Frankly, I'm at the end of my rope and despise the thought that once my friends have children I must drop them from my guest list.
My sister solved the problem once she had children -- she takes them to grandparents, an aunt (me), or friends, when she is entertaining. Her guests caught on quickly.
A: Do not misunderstand Miss Manners, either. She is full of sympathy for your problem and will help you solve it. But she begs you to consider, also, the situation of your friends.
Even if they do not have baby-sitting problems, your friends have, as all parents do, time problems. Making a living and running a household consume huge portions of any schedule, and what time there is for being with small children is jealously guarded.
As much as they may appreciate your friendship, they will forgo it if you force them to choose between that and their children. Yet neither should you be forced to socialize with children in order to see your adult friends.
Friendships worth the name do not require that one share each stage of life. They should be flexible enough to adjust. You do not, for example, demand the same time or even level of conversation from a friend in the throes of courtship as you do at less hectic periods.
It is unreasonable to expect parents to skip their early evening time with the children to attend cocktail parties. Don't feel bad about their declining.
It is equally unreasonable of them to bring children to grown-up parties. Don't feel bad about warning them that a party is for adults only and that the child would only be bored (not to mention boring).
But you can acknowledge their situation and offer them invitations that they can freely accept.
While your friends' children are small, you can enjoy adult conversation either by scheduling your parties late, so that they will be mostly after the children's bedtime, or by giving two-tiered parties -- Sunday daytime gatherings, for instance, when the children can play outdoors while the adults talk.
Q: My son is being married soon. I remarried when he was very young, and therefore many of my friends who will be invited to his wedding do not know his last name, because it is different from mine.
The wedding invitations do not have my name on them. How do we let my friends know who the people are who are being married, without having to call all of them on the phone ahead of time, which I really do not want to do?
A: It is true that social convention has created a problem here by omitting the name of the bridegroom's parents from the invitation. But the wedding invitation was never intended to provide the provenance of either bride or bridegroom; the bride's parents' names are only there as hosts, when they offer the invitation.
The greater problem is that you seem to want to invite people to the wedding whom you apparently did not notify of the engagement. No matter how large a wedding is, the guest list should consist entirely of people who know the bridal couple or their parents well enough to have a real interest in a major family occasion. People who don't know your son's name, and with whom you are not sufficiently close to have informed them of your son's approaching marriage, do not seem to qualify.
But that does not answer your question. If you still want to invite those people, drop them notes informing them now, and adding that you hope they will be able to attend the wedding. And please do not tell Miss Manners that it is too much trouble to get in touch with these people. You only confirm her fear that they are friends only for ceremonial purposes, not for everyday use.