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Advice | Carolyn Hax: Restaurants and small children of friends don’t mix


Dear Caroline: If I invite my friends with babies or toddlers to a restaurant, how can I politely ask them not to bring their children?

Only 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 finish your sentences. Fair and square. There’s a reason pretty much every parent of little kids I’ve ever known feels as starved out there as you do.

Your friends prefer to avoid hassles with babysitters and (I think) want their friends to be a part of their children’s lives. Maybe not as best honorary aunts/uncles ever, although that can happen – but there is so much potential value: the parents can be models of friendship for their children. The children gain a community and adult presence outside of their parents. The non-child friends gain some degree of inclusion in the family experience of their parent friends, who, anyway, are now a big 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 what) logistical challenges. Even if you fully agree on adult-only restaurant outings, that’s no guarantee they’ll have the full staff or full funding for it. Childcare is sometimes expensive, often scarce (especially now), does not always prevent reservation-consuming tantrums on departure and occasionally calls in sick.

So you talk – aware that this is their child, not their Chia pet. “What’s your take on kids versus no kids when we go to restaurants?” Does the type of restaurant matter? I don’t want to assume anything.” The way your friends react indicates that you have room to maneuver.

Assuming you even want it. Some would rather lose the friends than commit to their kids, and if that’s you, then you might as well own it.

But lasting friends are honest talkers and attentive listeners, and they are willing partners in the mutual give and take that changing lives requires. They engage and evolve. Both parties.

Bonus: If both have proven over time a willingness to put the best interests of the friendship ahead of their own at times, it’s easier for one of them to innocently say, “Whoa, I’m having an adult night.” required.”

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

Dear Caroline: I’m in love with someone. The feelings are not reciprocated.

I never expected to feel this way again (I’m in my mid-70s), to bear such grief for something that can’t be.

It seems that I cannot overcome my feelings, despite the reality that I accept – intellectually.

I am taking steps to help myself, but I still feel emotionally stuck. Suggestions for not going to therapy? I am angry with myself and sad.

Anonymously: It’s like asking a ghost to make us feel young again, and get clumsiness, heartbreak, and pimples.

I understand why you’re upset: loss is loss, and it’s terrible. My apologies. Every time you are not loved leaves a scar, at least for me.

But I don’t understand your anger. You cared! Confirmed life! Went a chance. Be proud of your stripped, stuck self.

As well. Because all you have is the power of your mind over this matter – and some self-love is a low risk, high return start. Your heart is hopeful and courageous, and let no one doubt that, especially not you.

You never expected this feeling “again,” meaning you’ve felt this before and have recovered enough to achieve complacency. Okay then. You still have every mental tool you’ve ever used (mine: distraction, self-care, time, fresh air), plus what you’ve learned since then. Believe it. Unless you live on the moon, be open to therapy – and maybe also to love again.

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