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

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Dear Carolyn: When I invite my friends who have babies or toddlers to go out to a restaurant, how can I politely request they not bring their children?

Adult-Only: This isn’t a polite-request situation. This is a conversation situation, where you discuss the valid issues that arise when needy, screamy little people join your previously adults-only club.

You prefer completing your sentences. Totally fair. There’s a reason virtually every parent of small children I’ve ever known feels as starved for that as you do.

Your friends prefer to avoid sitter hassles and (I’m guessing) want to have their friends be part of their children’s lives. Maybe not as best-ever honorary aunties/unclies, though that can happen — but there’s so much possible value: The parents get to model friendship for their kids. The kids get a community and adult presence beyond their parents. The non-kidded friends get some level of inclusion in their parent-friends’ family experience, which, no way around it, is a huge part of them now. Many become like family, or at least learn what it’s like when a kid steals your heart.

These parent-friends also have (again, guessing) logistical challenges. Even when you have full agreement on just-adults restaurant outings, that doesn’t guarantee that they will have full staffing or funding for one. Child care is sometimes expensive, often scarce (especially now), doesn’t always preempt reservation-busting departure-time tantrums and occasionally calls in sick.

So, you talk — mindful this is their child, not their Chia Pet. “What’s your take on kids vs. no kids when we go to restaurants? Does the type of restaurant matter? I don’t want to assume anything.” The way your friends respond will signal your room to maneuver.

Assuming you even want it. Some would rather lose the 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 attentive listeners, and they’re willing partners in the mutual give-and-take that changing lives require. They involve and evolve. Both parties.

Bonus: When both have proved over time their willingness to put the friendship’s interests above their own sometimes, it’s easier for one of them to say inoffensively, “Whoo, I need a night with adults.”

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

Dear Carolyn: 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 carry such sadness for something that cannot be.

I can’t seem to get over my feelings, despite the reality I accept — intellectually.

I’m taking steps to help myself, but I still feel emotionally stuck. Suggestions short of going into therapy? I am angry with myself and sad.

Anonymous: It’s like asking a genie to make us feel young again, and getting awkwardness, heartbreak and zits.

I understand why you’re gutted: Loss is loss, and it’s awful. I’m sorry. Every instance of not being loved back leaves a scar, for me at least.

But your anger I don’t understand. You cared! Affirmed life! Took a chance. Be proud of your gutted, stuck self.

Might as well. Because all you’ve got is the power of your mind over this matter — and some self-love is a low-risk, high-yield start. Your heart is hopeful and brave, and let no one second-guess that, least of all you.

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

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