We are a youngish couple who have recently moved into a new home. A few of our friends have small children. We are throwing a party at 7:30 on a Saturday night, and it seems that our friends are planning on bringing their 1- to 3-year-olds. This party is to be complete with loud music, plenty of booze and, since we have no children of our own, no Disney videos. What makes people think it's OK to drag toddlers to this kind of event? And how can I make it clear that this really isn't a family picnic?
I'm not sure what makes people think it's OK to drag toddlers to such events. Perhaps readers with more experience in such matters can enlighten us. As to how you can make it clear that this really isn't a family picnic, I suggest you call your friends with kids and say that other invitees have asked whether they should bring their kids. Explain that you're just calling to clarify for everyone that it is not a kid-friendly party. Stress that you're looking forward to seeing them; ask if it's going to be a problem to come without the kids.
Depending on how dense or perceptive your friends are, you may be understood perfectly, or you may find yourself explaining that in your universe sharp knives sit precariously on countertops, drawers can be opened by a reasonably well-trained animal, glass vases sit on low tables, doors to cabinets containing Drano pop open of their own accord, and there's an open vat of used motor oil sitting in your unlocked garage.
While your question also concerns what's polite and what isn't, I'm not sure you really want to have that conversation. You could say how rude you think it is to bring kids uninvited to an adult party. But you could get an earful in return about what a hard and important job it is to be a parent, and how hostile America can be to children.
The larger reality, it seems to me, is that as we become more diverse, more individualistic and more mobile as a national population, the shared code of conduct known as etiquette becomes a less reliable predictor of others' behavior; so you just have to communicate relentlessly all the time about the details.
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If you are interested in telling your story onstage, please see Monday's column. I will soon be on vacation, so if I don't get back to you right away, I will read your letters with great interest upon my return. Cheers. --CT