— Can’t Win
Can’t Win: Until she’s able to articulate what she wants, stick to making decisions for you that don’t require anything of her. Meaning, any time you lack clear kidly guidance, make your own plans based on what you want to do, and let her make hers. (I’m assuming a teenager here.)
In this case, that would mean going to as many games as you want, because you want to. If she wants to interact with you there, great; if she doesn't, then you go, rah rah, leave.
When she says you don't “have to” come, say, “Thanks, that's good to know. If you'd rather I didn't, just say so — no hard feelings. Otherwise, I plan to go because I want to be there.”
The, “because I want to,” relieves her of the burden of thinking for two. That's a lot of pressure on a kid, especially once she's old enough to grasp that her performance is your weekend plan. Yikes. (Something an 8-year-old barely considers, right?)
And if your presence is more than she wants to carry, then you've made it easier for her to say, “I'd actually rather you didn't come,” or, “How bout half the games?” Your permission to be excluded hands her those words.
This all may seem extremely literal. Exactly! That's the point. She's having trouble drawing clear boundaries — good for her, she's trying — and that's what adolescence is for. So do your part to uncomplicate her boundaries by drawing yours kindly and clearly. It both sets an example and hands her a paint-by-numbers for how to respond.
This is not a way to “win,” by the way — because she hasn’t figured this all out any more than you have, so you’ll both get stuff wrong. But being literal, transparent and (oh my goodness) brief plants you right where she can see you, no guesswork necessary, and frees her up to worry about other things.
Dear Carolyn: I’m getting married next month. The wedding is in person but small and outdoors. We have worked hard to plan it and are really excited to celebrate with our family and friends!
So I was very dismayed to receive a number of “no” RSVPs from a certain cluster of folks from my fiance's side. All are vaccinated.
Then I was at a family picnic last weekend and overheard some people talking about the wedding. One of the Nos told my fiance’s mom (pretty flippantly) that she is not making the effort to come because my fiance and I are not planning to have children together, a fact we have shared openly. She says others in that cluster have made a similar decision.
I don’t quite know what to make of this, or to say or do about it. Do people not think it counts as a “real” wedding if it’s not a prelude to starting a “real” family? If I had known our decision not to have kids would cost us wedding guests, maybe we would have kept it to ourselves.
Dismayed: Imagine the patience and resilience you’d need, though, to deflect this bunch of boundary-tramplers: “My what a personal question,” “Why do you ask?” “Are you offering to raise them?” “Interesting,” “Bless your heart.” At least now it’s said and done and you aren’t wasting a bundle per head to feed them.
To answer your question, I can't say what “people” think — but clearly these people do indeed have arbitrary definitions of what parts of others' lives are “real,” and weaponize their RSVPs accordingly.
Bless them for it, I say. Around here we call that an addition by subtraction.
That is, assuming you heard them correctly. Just to cover the possibility of misunderstanding, consider asking your fiance, his mom, or the opter-outer herself what she meant. Because what you overheard is pretty seriously weird, for one thing, which alone makes it worth verifying — and also because it helps to counteract anger with skepticism. You want your decisions to come from the best information available, and the best way to get that, typically, is to ask.
Still, that’s just some t-crossing. People who aren’t thrilled to be at your wedding, for whatever reason, are the ones you don’t really want there anyway, grabbing at canapés and begrudging their way through your careful hospitality.
My warmest congratulations to you both.