I've lost control of my son's christening!

Crazy relatives are coming. They're staying with us. Help!

Published September 1, 2006 10:00AM (EDT)

Dear Cary,

I met a wonderful guy, we moved in together, had a beautiful son, and are now engaged. Great, right? At least, it was until it came time to plan the baby's christening.

We originally wanted to have his christening six months ago but financial pressures and a family member (who desperately wants to be there) was stationed overseas. So taking into account her leave time, we blindly forged ahead with the christening plans. We contacted the church, asked friends to serve as godparents, ordered the invites, etc.

We sent out the invites, many to relatives we know will not be able to attend but we did not wish to preemptively exclude them. My fiancé's mother is in a wheelchair and needs a lot of care. In addition, his parents recently moved from North Jersey to Southern Georgia, so we figured they would probably be unable to come and while saddened, we were OK with that.

Now, here's where it gets interesting. Not only are his parents coming But his hyper-dysfunctional siblings in all of their glory! They have already tried to hijack the christening and small reception with their own ideas and agendas! Under normal circumstances, I'd welcome the help and the input; however, they have demanded to stay at the house because they can't afford a hotel and my future in-laws decided to book at another hotel (a half-hour farther away) because it's cheaper. No matter that my uninvited houseguests are their chauffeurs and getting my future in-law in and out of a vehicle is a major undertaking. Am I unreasonable to think, my home, my party, I'm the host, I make the rules? And if my in-laws choose to make this incredibly complicated, then I reserve the right to not participate (as in not spending two-plus hours getting people to church on the day of the christening)?

It's My Party and I'll Cry if I Want To

Dear It's My Party,

It sounds like you are upset because you're losing control of this event. You are wondering what aspects of it you can control and what aspects you must let go of.

That's a tough one. I must say that though I'm on your side, I'm a little peeved with you because you've done a couple of things that don't quite add up. For starters, you're participating in a religious ceremony that, as I understand it, is a way of symbolically stating your intention to bring your child up in the church. But you're not married yet. Generally the church favors doing things in a certain order: courtship, engagement, marriage, kids. So you have some catching up to do, I would think, as far as living according to church principles. Not that I'm all for living according to the church. I mean, who cares. That's your decision. I'm just saying that if it's a church baptism, as opposed to a secular naming ceremony, it doesn't quite add up.

In fact, in that connection, I kind of like this bit on the hypocrisy of nonbelievers participating in church ceremonies -- and the church going along with it -- by John M. Allegro, found on the American Atheists site.

Another thing that doesn't add up is the fact that you invited these people but you didn't want them to come. You didn't expect them to come. That's just plain dumb. If you don't want people to come but you have to invite them, then for God's sake be ready to act like you're glad to see them when they arrive. You can't blame them for coming if asked. They may actually even think that you wanted them to come. That's what being invited generally indicates.

So, forgive me if I reach some unflattering conclusions, but I'm trying to help you out here. I have a feeling that your problems stem from not carefully considering the logical consequences of your actions. You invite people, they figure you want them there and so they show up. You baptize your child in the church, the church is going to figure you have at least a passing interest in what the church has to say.

What happens when your actions are inconsistent is you lose moral authority. If what you do doesn't back up what you say, people don't take you seriously, and thus you lose some control over your life. They figure, what the hell, what does she know, let's borrow her car and drive it into the lake.

I know whereof I speak -- from personal experience. So I empathize with you. But I'm trying to tell you, you're going to have better luck with this stuff if you get serious about the implications of your choices.

If this were an Emily Post situation, it would be different. Everybody would know their role and it would all unfold like a period drama:

"If the family is very high church or the baby is delicate and its christening therefore takes place when it is only a week or two old, the mother is carried into the drawing-room and put on a sofa near the improvised font. She is dressed in a becoming negligie and perhaps a cap, and with lace pillows behind her and a cover equally decorative over her feet. The guests in this event are only the family and the fewest possible intimate friends."

But of course you're not high church and this is 2006. Things might get a little crazy, but it's too late now to make this an Emily Post occasion. For now, just concentrate on celebrating the emergence of this new little human being, and don't worry too much if things are chaotic. But for the future, please do try to think through the implications of your actions, and aim for some consistency.

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