Dear Ann Cannon • I hope you can help me with a dilemma. I have plans to meet my best friend from high school when she visits her in-laws this summer in a month. We haven’t seen each other for 25 years, and I am looking forward to this so much. She lives thousands of miles away and because of my family’s vacation plans and her in-laws, our window to reconnect in person is limited.
Part of her visit involves introducing her grandchildren (ages 5 and 2) to their great-grandparents, who will be accompanied by her daughter Sally, the children’s mother. In a recent email, my friend mentioned wanting to visit a local botanical garden but didn’t “know if Sally will want to come” and that “if the kids come we’ll have to find someplace super casual for lunch.”
I get that people love their grandkids (hers don’t live in the same city as my friend), but I was looking forward to some alone time with my friend, not toddling along in the heat being interrupted every two seconds with toddler conversation and eating in a child-friendly restaurant. Maybe I’m borrowing trouble and Sally and the kids won’t come. I also get that as a childless person I’m less inclined to be enthusiastic about including the daughter and kids. But I’ll have to take time off from work to meet her if we meet during the day and my commute is a pain.
Is there a way I can gracefully indicate my displeasure in having the kids tag along? I’m thinking of mentioning dinner as an option or dropping Sally and the kids at a nearby pool. Or passive-aggressively mentioning that I wouldn’t dream of interrupting their nap time. And am I justified in feeling put out that my friend would simply assume that I’m OK with Sally and the kids accompanying us? If it’s OK for her to assume the kids are welcome, is it OK for me to point out this isn’t what I had in mind?
— Excitement Has Turned to Dread
Dear Excitement/Dread • Let me go ahead and directly answer your questions in the order you’ve presented them.
- Is there a way to gracefully express your displeasure? Yes. Just don’t use the word “displeasure” while doing so. Tell your friend that while you’d love to meet her grandkids (I KNOW! NOT TOTALLY TRUE BUT WHATEVER!) and that you understand her time in town is limited, you’ve been looking forward to seeing her one-on-one to catch up. Then let her know how much you appreciate the fact that she’s reached out to you, given her tight schedule.
- Should you suggest dinner as an option? That’s a good idea!
- Should you suggest dropping the kids off at a pool? No. Let your friend make her own arrangements for her grandkids.
- Should you passive-aggressively mention that you wouldn’t dream of interrupting the grandkids’ naptime? Nein. Niet. No. You’ll only come across as — you know — passive-aggressive. And petty.
- Are you justified in feeling put out that your friend would simply be OK with her grandkids accompanying you? Yeah. I think you are. The bottom line here is that at some level you feel marginalized (and NOBODY likes to feel that way), even though I’m pretty sure your friend didn’t mean to hurt your feelings. She’s trying to cram as much as possible into a tight schedule. But still.
- Is it OK for her to assume the kids are welcome? She should have checked with you first instead of just assuming you’d be on board.
- Is it OK for you to point out this isn’t what I had in mind? Sure. Just don’t lob grenades. See Answer Number One for suggestions.
Here’s the deal. All of us have been disappointed by others and (frankly) all of us have disappointed others, too — often unintentionally. That’s why we should all cut each other some slack, right? No matter how things play out, I would embrace the opportunity to meet your old friend in spite of the hurt you’re experiencing — and embrace her while you’re at it.