Advice

Carolyn Hax: Sister-in-law loses it over birthday party ‘double-booked’ with her daughter’s

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Dear Carolyn: I happen to share my birthday with my niece (who is preschool-age). Since she was born, my birthdays have been spent celebrating my niece’s birthday, which I have gladly done with no ill feelings whatsoever.

This year I will be having a milestone birthday that happens to fall on a Saturday. My husband and I thought, what a perfect excuse to throw a party at our house; we generally try to have a couple of get-togethers every year anyway. We are going all out: catered, bartender, invited all our friends, family and neighbors. All in all it’s shaping up to be a great party.

That is, it was until my sister-in-law found out. She is also throwing a party for my niece earlier that day and demanded I change the date. When I told her that things had already been paid for and that I tried to make sure my party would not conflict (mine is in the evening and only three people besides my brother and this sister-in-law have been invited to both parties), she abruptly ended our conversation.

My mother just told me that my sister-in-law told her she has to cancel my niece’s birthday party because I selfishly decided to throw my party on the same day, and my niece is extremely disappointed. My mother is now asking me to change my party to “keep the peace.”

Now I am just mad. Am I being unreasonable here? I made every effort to make sure my party didn’t interfere with my niece’s. Is it selfish to maybe want to spend some of my birthdays in the company of adults drinking wine and cocktails instead of with the Mickey Mouse Club drinking apple juice?

Birthday Party Pooper

Your sister-in-law isn’t just wrong — she’s gone full-on Froot Loop. Who has command-performance kiddie parties? Then cancels them? Then tells the kiddie why?

Remind your mother that the times don’t coincide and only five guests overlap, and that you would be very grateful if she helped you with the worthy cause of not hyperventilating over a manufactured crisis.

I also urge you not to make this about your niece or about your compliance with past birthdays. Your line is that this is a scheduling (non-)issue, versus an emotional one, and stick to it.

And, hey, happy birthday!

Re: Party Pooper:

I would submit that while you’ve done nothing wrong, it wouldn’t hurt to check in with the sister-in-law beforehand next time. I have two kids who have birthdays within a few days of my best friend’s small kids. I give my friends a call before I actually schedule (or pay for) my kiddo’s birthday parties, just as a courtesy. Sometimes, we end up double-booking anyway, because life’s like that, but it helps get that out in front instead of dealing with it after small children build up expectations or you have put down deposits.

Obviously, your sister-in-law is over the line, but being proactive helps.

Anonymous

This assumes the five or 10 years until the next milestone birthday are sufficient to calm down the sister-in-law, and given the facts in hand I am not optimistic. But, calling for notification — as opposed to clearance from the family traffic control tower — is sensible, thanks.

Email Carolyn at tellme@washpost.com, follow her on Facebook at facebook.com/carolyn.hax or chat with her online at noon Eastern time each Friday at washingtonpost.com.

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