Carolyn Hax: Grandchildren from restaurants and friends don’t mix

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Dear Caroline: When I invite my friends who have babies or toddlers out to eat, how can I politely ask them not to bring their children?

Reserved for adults: This is not a polite request situation. This is a conversational situation, where you discuss the valid issues that arise when needy, screaming little people join your previously adults-only club.

You prefer to complete your sentences. Totally fair. There’s a reason nearly every parent of young children I’ve known feels as hungry as you do.

Your friends prefer to avoid the hassle of childcare and (I guess) want their friends to be part of their children’s lives. Maybe not as best honorary aunts/uncles, although that could happen – but there’s so much value possible: parents can model friendship for their children. Children benefit from a community and adult presence beyond their parents. Childless friends get a certain level of inclusion in their parent-friends’ family experience, which, no doubt, has now become an integral part of them. Many become like family, or at least learn what it’s like when a child steals your heart.

These parent-friends also have (again, guess) logistical challenges. Even when you have a full deal on adult-only dining out, that doesn’t guarantee they’ll be fully staffed or funded for one. Childcare is sometimes expensive, often scarce (especially now), doesn’t always prevent temper tantrums at departure time, and sometimes calls in sick.

So you speak – aware that it is their child, not their Chia Pet. “What do you think of children compared to no children when we go to the restaurant?” Does the type of restaurant matter? I don’t want to assume anything. The way your friends react will signal your leeway.

Even assuming you want to. Some would rather lose their friends than rally for their children, and if that’s you, then you might as well own it.

But guardian friends are honest speakers and attentive listeners, and they are willing partners in the mutual exchanges that life changes demand. They involve and evolve. The two parts.

Bonus: When the two have proven over time their willingness to sometimes put the interests of friendship ahead of their own, it’s easier for one of them to harmlessly say, “Wow, I need some help.” a night with adults.

Tell us: What’s your favorite holiday column from Carolyn Hax?

Dear Caroline: I am in love with someone. The feelings are not mutual.

I didn’t expect to feel that again (I’m about 70), to bear such sadness for something that can’t be.

I can’t get over my feelings, despite the reality that I accept — intellectually.

I take steps to help myself, but I still feel emotionally stuck. Short suggestions of going to therapy? I am angry with myself and sad.

Anonymous: It’s like asking a genius to make us feel young again, and get awkwardness, heartaches and pimples.

I understand why you’re drained: loss is loss, and it’s awful. I am sorry. Every instance of not being loved back leaves a scar, at least for me.

But your anger, I don’t understand. You cared! Life affirmed! Took a chance. Be proud of your drained and stuck self.

Maybe also. Because all you have is the power of your mind on this matter – and a little self-love is a low-risk, high-reward start. Your heart is hopeful and brave, and don’t let anyone guess that, let alone you.

You weren’t expecting this feeling “again”, which means you’ve felt it before and have recovered enough to reach complacency. OK so. You still have all the mental tools you used (mine: distraction, self-care, time, fresh air), plus what you’ve learned since. Trust him. Be open to therapy, unless you’re living on the moon — and maybe love again, too.

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