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Carolyn Hax: Restaurants and friends’ little kids don’t mix

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

For adults only: This is not a situation for polite requests. This is a conversational situation where you discuss the legitimate problems that arise when needy, screaming little people join your previously adults-only club.

You prefer to complete your sentences. Totally fair. There’s a reason practically every parent of young children I’ve ever known feels as famished as you do.

Her friends prefer to avoid trouble with babysitters and (I suspect) want their friends to be a part of their children’s lives. Maybe not the best volunteer aunts/uncles ever, although that can happen – but there is so much potential value: Parents can model friendship for their children. The children receive a community and adult presence beyond their parents. The friends who don’t have children get some level of inclusion in their parent-friends’ family experience, which is now directly 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 (guess again) logistical challenges. Even if you wholeheartedly agree on adults-only restaurant trips, that doesn’t guarantee they have full staffing or funding for one. Childcare is sometimes expensive, often scarce (especially now), doesn’t always prevent reservation-destroying tantrums upon departure, and occasionally calls in sick.

So you guys talk – remember this is her child, not her chia pet. “How do you feel about kids versus no kids when we go out to restaurants? Does the type of restaurant matter? I don’t want to imply anything.” The way your friends react gives you a signal of your freedom of action.

Assuming you want it at all. Some would rather lose their friends than rally for their kids, and if that’s you then you might as well own it.

But Keeper Friends are honest speakers and thoughtful listeners, and they are willing partners in the give-and-take that life changes require. They involve and develop. Both parties.

Bonus: If, over time, both have demonstrated a willingness to sometimes put the interests of the friendship ahead of their own, it’s easier for one of them to innocently say, “Wow, I need a grown-up night.”

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

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

I never expected to feel like this again (I’m mid 70’s), to bear such sadness for something that can’t be.

I can’t overcome my feelings despite the reality I accept – intellectually.

I’m taking steps to help myself, but I still feel emotionally stuck. Suggestions just before therapy? I’m angry at myself and sad.

Anonymous: It’s like asking a spirit to make us feel young again and get awkwardness, heartache and pimples.

I understand why you are disappointed: loss is loss and it is terrible. I am sorry. Every instance of not being loved back leaves a scar, at least on me.

But I don’t understand your anger. you cared! Happy life! I risked it. Be proud of your gutted, stuck self.

Could also. Because all you have is your mind’s power over the matter — and some self-love is a low-risk, high-reward start. Your heart is hopeful and courageous, and don’t let anyone doubt it, least of all you.

You never expected that feeling “again,” which means you’ve felt it before and recovered enough to become complacent. Understood. You still have every mental tool you’ve always used (mine: distraction, self-care, time, fresh air), plus what you’ve learned since. trust. Unless you live on the moon, be open to therapy—and maybe a new love too.

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