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  1. Winifred Rosenburg

    My husband’s sister-in-law sent us an email saying that they will be having a family party for our niece’s birthday on Saturday. My husband and I are both working late on Saturday and won’t be able to attend. If we had been given more advance notice, my husband would have been able to change his work schedule to be there, but I would not have.

    When I was a child, my parents would always consulted my aunts and uncles before choosing a date for family birthday parties to make sure all our close relatives would be there. Is it wrong to expect our niece’s parents to do the same? We would both love to be a part of our niece’s life and not only does this kind of thing make that difficult but it makes it seem like her parents don’t want us to be a part of her life.

    Is there anything we can say to tell them they should at least give us a little more warning next time? (In case it matters, this Saturday is not her actual birthday so it’s not a question of celebrating on her actual birthday or a day convenient for everyone.)

    • Is it wrong to expect our niece’s parents to do the same?
      I’m not going to tell you that it’s wrong, because they are the ones throwing the party, and they may throw it whenever they please. However, if they try to make you feel guilty for not being able to come (and I sympathize with you completely), then they are in the wrong. This is akin to the destination wedding: The couple may have it whenever/wherever they please, but if they are upset that others can’t make it, they have no one to blame but themselves.* I don’t believe this was a purposeful slight against you, as most industries don’t expect people to work late Saturday night (unless, of course, they know for a fact that you work late every Sat. night).

      *Let it be known that I love the destination wedding. I just don’t like the people that get bent when others have children/jobs/other commitments and cannot attend.

  2. Hello Winifred,
    Is it wrong of you to expect them to check availability with you before choosing a date? Well, look at it this way: your family chose to celebrate birthdays in a certain way, ie. by making sure that all close family members were able to attend the celebration. Perhaps your husband’s sister-in-law grew up in a family that celebrated birthday’s in a different way — they selected a date that was convenient for the immediate family, and anyone who was available was welcome to join in the festivities. It’s much the same as one family opening presents on Christmas morning and another doing so on Christmas Eve — the traditions and/or practices that one grows up with don’t necessarily have to be carried on through into adulthood. I would think that no slight was intended, unless there is a history of excluding you both from family activities (which is a different story and would receive a different response.) Coordinating schedules for a number of people can be extremely difficult; I would assume they selected a date that worked for them and leave it at that.

    Now, having said that, there is no reason you and your husband cannot be a part of your niece’s life. Why don’t you ask to take her to lunch, dinner, or a fun, age appropriate outing — just the three of you — to celebrate her birthday? You might even phrase it as “Since ‘Henry’ and I are working and unable to join in the fun of the family celebration, we would love to take ‘niece’ on a special outing. ” This will 1. Let her parents know you were working and didn’t choose to clean out the garage instead of attend the party, and 2. Make it clear to the parents and your niece that you want to be a part of her life and build a relationship with her.

    Personally, I don’t think kids can have too many loving adults in their lives!

    • Winifred Rosenburg

      That does sound like a great idea! Unfortunately, I don’t think the mom will go for it. She does have a history of excluding us. This is adding to the list of things she’s done that have hurt our feelings. In the past we have offered to babysit so they could go out for their anniversary and they told us, “we only let certain people we are comfortable with babysit.” That wouldn’t be quite so insulting except I have extensive babysitting experience, and I’ve witnessed the work of one of the babysitters they feel comfortable with. My niece was left alone outside while the sitter went into the shed and my niece ended up eating multiple handfuls of birdseed out of bird feeder before I ran outside to stop her. (I saw all this through a window.) The parents also saw this, and it hasn’t changed their opinion. We’ve made many efforts to spend time with our niece and the mom always blocks us. She just doesn’t like us and there’s nothing we can do to change her opinion, but I don’t see that her children should be forced to have the same opinions as her.

      • Jodi Blackwood

        Ah, I am sorry to hear this as it does put a different spin on things. Unfortunately, there may not be a lot you can do because when it comes down to it, this is their (her) child and she is in the position of control. I would encourage you to maintain whatever contact you can — knowing that this is the mom’s issue, not yours! — because when she gets a little older, she will start questioning, and at some point, making choices of her own. You may not have the close, loving relationship with the little girl, but you may still be able to nurture and develop a wonderful relationship with the young woman she grows into.

        In the meantime, as this is your husband’s sister-in-law, I’m thinking she is married to his brother? How about your husband having a conversation with his brother — no criticism, but more of a “Gosh, we would really like to spend more time with you and ‘niece’ but things don’t seem to be working out. Is there something we can do to improve the relationship?” It’s worth a try!

        Best of luck to you — your heart is definitely in the right place!

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