Carolyn Hax: Hijacked first-birthday plans hit a parent’s last nerve

Carolyn Hax: Hijacked first-birthday plans hit a parent’s last nerve

Adapted from an online discussion.

Dear Carolyn: I feel like a jerk for asking this question. I know people are trying to find joy wherever possible. But am I in the wrong for wanting to be the one to plan my own baby’s first birthday party?

The grandparents on both sides — my mom, dad, stepmom, my husband’s mom and dad — have all inserted themselves with so many forceful suggestions that I have officially lost control of every detail: the date, time, location, guest list and menu. Every time I try to turn down an offer, I hear, “No, it’s no trouble! This will be so nice for Baby!” and am left feeling like a cruel parent for trying to deny Baby such wonderful gifts.

I can see how this issue would surface again in other life milestones, so I’d really like to nip it in the bud. But another part of me thinks, you could just let the grands have their fun. Thoughts?

Hijacked: First birthdays are not for Baby, because Baby has no freaking clue.

Make the call for your own peace of mind, then own it: Either have the party you want and tell everyone to step off, no budging — or let go of everything so they can have the party they want. Either one is fine, but being torn is not, because then the party isn’t for anyone.

If your main concern is to establish your limits, then learn the rejoinder to, “No, it’s no trouble! This will be so nice for Baby!”: “The trouble is not the trouble! We prefer to do A, not B. But thank you anyway.”

Again — there’s no “cruel parent” or “deny Baby” problem here. A first birthday is for the adults, so just decide: grandparents’ way or your way. Pick and live with it. Decisiveness is a great precedent either way. (But be ready with, “We prefer to do A, not B,” as soon as it starts to matter.)

· The bigger issue — your concern over not being steamrolled by people who ought to know better — might be better served when whatever decision they are trying to force upon you has bigger consequences, like who the baby spends time with or where the baby goes to school. Part of getting to the wisdom of standing your ground is picking what your ground should be.

Dear Carolyn: My second-grader gets upset about things that happen at school sometimes but won’t tell me what they are. I don’t know if they’re trivial or serious. His teacher hasn’t seen any obvious issues. Anything I can do aside from encouraging him to come to me whenever he has problems?

Anonymous: Do activities together. Cooperative, physical or tactile, and regular. Time-consuming, too, if you can manage it.

So, take a walk together every day after school, or do Lego, or bake cookies or prepare dinner together, teaching him age-appropriate kitchen skills, or do whatever suits your household and his temperament. The “cover” provided by the activity + your loving presence – intrusive questions often = a child relaxed enough to start talking.

Be open. Listen and don’t force it.

Best part, even if it doesn’t work for that purpose: You will still have spent time together doing something fun or useful. But I suspect it’ll loosen something up. A lot of people, kids especially, become better at sorting their feelings when they are physically active or absorbed enough to lose themselves in a task.

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