Monday, July 15, 2024

My husband and I are happily child-free, though most of our new colleagues and friends have young children. Now that the worst of the pandemic seems to be behind us, we are eager to entertain at home and connect with our new friends. The problem: One of us would prefer to invite couples over without their children, so the adults can have a conversation. The other worries about the impression this might create, asking new friends and colleagues to assume the expense and complication of arranging child care. Any thoughts on this?

NO KIDS

Let’s start with the convivial basis of your question and go from there: You and your husband want to welcome new friends into your home to deepen your relationships with them. I love it! The hiccup: You want to exclude their kids. I get that, too. My home isn’t child-friendly, and I’m not particularly interested in redecorating or having my best attempts at sheet-pan dinners (or adult conversations) hijacked by fractious 8-year-olds.

You have the right to set your guest list. Here’s the thing, though: An invitation that excludes children may be burdensome, as you note, or even off-putting to some parents. Arranging child care for social events is not a luxury everyone can afford. And ignoring the needs of your guests may chill the very friendliness you are trying to foster.

So talk to your new friends! “My spouse and I would love to have you over for dinner. We’re not equipped to handle kids, though. So, if you’re comfortable hiring a babysitter, we can do it at our place. Or we can all meet up for a picnic in the park or for a short hike. What works for you?” Some friends will hire sitters; others won’t. But don’t let the forum stand in the way of what’s important here: building closer relationships.

My father died three years ago. He was abusive. While I coped with his abuse through therapy, my mother largely swept it under the rug. She doesn’t acknowledge the pain he caused. This has created a rift between us. Now, she wants to give me a diamond from her wedding ring to wear as a necklace. I think it’s a fraught symbol of a painful marriage, and I don’t want it. But I am reluctant to refuse it if that might cause further strife between us. Advice?

DAUGHTER

My standard line on gifts — to givers and receivers — is that recipients are free to do with gifts as they like. I feel differently here, though. First, the diamond is an heirloom. If you do not value it as such, give your mother the opportunity to find another relative who will — or another use for the ring altogether. You can do this lovingly.

More important, this particular diamond calls up painful memories for you. You don’t say whom your father abused. (I’m sorry it happened to anyone.) Still, I think it’s unproductive to humor your mother on such an important issue. My advice is not to sweep this under the rug — as you have accused her of doing — and to work together in family therapy to heal the rift between you, if possible. An honest relationship with your mom is more important than a diamond.

Many neighborhood bars offer two-for-one happy hours: You buy the first drink, and then receive a ticket for a second, free drink. But I rarely want a second drink, so I’ve amassed a sizable collection of tickets. They don’t have dates or terms printed on them. Would it be wrong to use the tickets on subsequent visits — for my first drink — when the two-for-one offers are in effect? I’d tip the bartender, of course, but these are small watering holes with one bartender who would certainly notice if I hadn’t bought anything.

E.

These are probably not banner days for small watering holes, with many of us working from home at least part time. (I suspect fewer people are inclined to go to bars to celebrate the end of workdays that are spent largely at a kitchen table.) Here’s my soft advice: Pay for the first drink every time. You may not be breaking an explicit rule by cashing in a leftover ticket or even by giving it to another patron (who would then get two free drinks), but I think you would be violating the spirit of the offer.

We received a save-the-date card for the wedding of a cousin’s daughter. We were pleased! We bought new outfits (the dress code called for floor-length gowns), made travel arrangements and sent a gift from the registry. We were unable to R.S.V.P. on the wedding website: Our names weren’t there. Now, it’s only five weeks until the wedding, and we still haven’t received an invitation. Is it possible we weren’t invited?

COUSIN

Unless there was a glitch with the wedding website, I’m sorry to say that you probably aren’t invited. My hunch: You may be a casualty of a guest list that needed trimming after save-the-date cards were already mailed. Of course, the couple should not have sent cards until the list was finalized. Call your cousin to ask what’s going on. (Try to be understanding. Mistakes abound.) You did nothing wrong. But don’t you want to know if you’re invited before you travel to another city in a floor-length gown?


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