Infant son's getting baptized, and our sister-in-law feels she should be allowed to invite several friends of hers who're not of our faith and not acquainted with either us or the baby. I think she's out of line. O wise Hivemind, which of us is right?
**Mostly for my own satisfaction, I'm including the inevitable loooong blow-by-blow account... but the executive summary above pretty much gets to the heart of the question, so feel free to address that directly and skip all the tedious detail below!**
[Background: my husband and I are practicing Catholics; his side of the family is atheist/agnostic/New Age. They're not virulently anti-religious, though, (if a little down on the Catholic church), and we're not at all the proselytizing types, so this has never been a problem before. Inlaws are perfectly nice people, and we've always gotten along well in the past. For brevity, I'll call husband's mom MIL, sister-in-law SIL, etc. Oh, and while this is not a money issue, Husband and I are hosting and paying for everything, if that makes any difference.]
MY infant son is scheduled to be baptized in a few weeks. In our parish, the ceremony is performed during mass, and it's traditional to have a small get-together over a meal afterwards for whomever attends, usually close family and godparents.
So that SIL could attend, we delayed the baptism until her grad school classes were over, and her parents arranged for her and her boyfriend Bob to fly in for the weekend. Several weeks ago, we got a call from MIL letting us know that SIL had decided that this would be a perfect time for Bob's parents and sister to meet her parents, so they'd be driving in from their home a few states away(~5hrs) to come to the baptism as well. Bob's parents don't know us or the baby; indeed, we barely know Bob, so I felt pretty uncomfortable with this-- but it was clear that the invitation had already been extended, so I kept quiet.
Last week, we got another call from MIL. SIL also found out that a high-school friend of hers, Jane, now lives in our town, and she'd love to see her after all these years, so she's invited her, too. Could we add one more to the guest list?
At this point, we were (a) hurt that SIL felt the need to engage in this kind of social multitasking on such an important day for the kid, and (b) frustrated and sad that what's supposed to be an intimate occasion of deep spiritual significance for our son was now being made into this crazy baptism-cum
-high-school-reunion dog-and-pony show. It wasn't a huge thing, but it did seem disrespectful to our faith and to the importance of the occasion. So we called MIL and suggested a compromise: since their being in town understandably involved a certain amount of meeting-and-greeting unrelated to the baptism, would it be possible just to have a generic get-together lunch or dinner at some other time that weekend, unrelated to the baptism, and invite the boyfriend's parents and high-school friends and whatnot to that, instead? If convenience demanded it, we could even have the lunch at exactly the same time/place as the originally-planned baptism luncheon, just as long as all the hangers-on didn't have to be dragged to the baptism itself.
Completely to my surprise, MIL FLIPPED OUT over this suggestion, said that to her, baptism is about family (it's not
), and that since she considers boyfriend's parents and SIL's friend to be part of their family, she would be deeply offended if any of the original plans changed. Subsequently, she left a tearful message not acknowledging our perspective in any way, but saying that we could do whatever we wanted, since she mostly didn't want her son to be hurt by the quarrel. At that point, it became clear that there was no winning this one, so I called, offered vague apologies, and agreed that we'd just continue with the original plans and SIL could invite whomever she'd like. Although at that point I didn't really care, MIL insisted on not inviting Jane after all, but Bob's parents are still coming.
A few days later, we got a call from SIL, who was furious that Jane couldn't come, said we were being backward and exclusionary, and then proceeded to berate my husband for letting me have my way so often in our marriage. Husband claims to agree with me, but obviously mostly just wants everyone to get along.
At this point, nothing will change the actual outcome, but I'm interested in knowing for my own sanity which of the two parties was out of line here. Mostly, I can't fathom (a)how anyone would think it was OK to take the guest list into her own hands this way, and (b) why on earth everyone has reacted so violently to our efforts at compromise. If you're not Catholic (and to my knowledge, neither Jane nor Bob's parents are), then baptism must be at best a quaint mumbo-jumbo, at worst an actively pernicious ritual. Why on earth would you care who does or doesn't attend the ceremony, or feel that it was necessary to impose your idiosyncratic personal view of somebody else's sacrament? Unfortunately, SIL and MIL are both highly partial, emotional arguers, while I'm more of an analytical premises-->conclusions type, so our conversations haven't been productive of much mutual understanding so far-- and with religion involved, it's been all-but-impossible to talk openly and clearly about things.
Maybe, though, this is just how kids roll nowadays, or maybe there's some obvious social norm that I'm just missing (wouldn't be the first time!). I'd like to know whether I should spend the upcoming weekend being grovellingly penitent, or merely cordial-but-guarded. So... who gets the high ground here? Do I have some serious 'splaining to do?