Not uninvited, just never invited.
October 29, 2012 1:23 PM   Subscribe

Baby Shower Etiquette: My bestie is throwing me a baby shower at her Aunt's house. It is a tiny event of only 8 people- all adults (Our Moms, mother in laws, my sister in law & bestie's Aunt). I didn't really expect anyone to throw me a shower, so I am super grateful the she and her Aunt would take this on! My Mother in law sent me an email last night asking if my 8 y/o niece was invited...

It never occurred to me to invite my niece. I just assumed that since I am not the host, & formal invites were sent addressed individually, that was that. My brother & sister in law live out of town, so I didn't even expect her to come- and I told her it was no biggie before the invites were sent. She is pregnant too and may not feel like traveling. Therefore, the niece never entered my mind. She would be bored to tears!

So when I got the email I didn't think anything of it and just said that I was not the host and doubted they planned for children and that they may have some more adult themed ideas about shower games.
Then I told my best friend today and she said my brother in law sent her an email a few days ago saying he was emailing to RSVP on behalf of said niece, but didn't know if sister in law would be coming. She was confused because she didn't invite the niece- or why brother in law was handling this anyway. She didn't respond because she thought the whole thing odd, but wanted to see if I knew something she didn't.

I really don't care if my niece comes, but I would rather she not. I like her, she is sweet, but I know she won't have fun. She is SUPER shy, even around me, and it means my MIL will spend all her time entertaining her and not get to enjoy the shower. That is the best case scenario.

Worst case, that my best friend is worried about (as am I) is that BFF's mom will say well if this little girl is here, let me call your sister in law (my best friend's sister in law) and have her bring over her kids. They are very ill behaved and the sister in law is as pleasant to be around as a hemroid. My best friend and her Aunt worry that they would ruin the event.

At this point we are going to just wait and see. It was odd that my MIL never responded to my email. I don't want to start a crap storm or anything. I don't want them to be offended that my niece wasn't invited. My bestie and I don't have any friends with children, so it wasn't something we thought about.

She is not going to respond to the brother in laws email and I am not going to say anything further. Am I expected to? I really don't know the etiquette on this situation. I have never been to a baby shower & it is not my home & I am not the host so I'm not sure how I should handle this.
posted by MayNicholas to Human Relations (23 answers total)
Your bestie should reply asap to your BIL and say, "Oh sorry, this is a very small, adult get-together. So sorry to miss you and SIL."

It's okay for the host to say no to children.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:27 PM on October 29, 2012 [29 favorites]

It's much more polite to let them know that it's a grownups-only party, rather than say nothing. Just let them know that it's not going to be a child-appropriate environment, and there'll be no other kids there.
posted by xingcat at 1:29 PM on October 29, 2012 [5 favorites]

My mom was a single parent when I was growing up and I accompanied her to a few showers around that age. It was a curious mix of boring and fascinating--fascinating because it seemed like a grown-up lady thing to be included in and kind of an honor. I was a super shy kid, too, but I wouldn't discount the possibility that she might enjoy it.

Honestly, I think it's best to be flexible with parents in regards to things like this--particularly as you'll soon be in the position of making childcare decisions with your own. Making events like these kid friendly (not in the sense that kids are catered to, but in the sense that they're welcome) makes it clear that parents are welcome and that kids are loved, supported, and included as part of the community. But I grew up with hippie parents with hippie communal values.

All that being said, it's okay to say "No"--either about your niece or about your friend's nieces and nephews. If you feel strongly about it, better to do it sooner rather than later, though.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 1:42 PM on October 29, 2012 [4 favorites]

It's totally ok to say no. But if she is a shy kid, she'll probably enjoy just being there more than you realize. I was a shy kid and attended a baby shower with my mom when I was 8. For most of it, I sat with them watching them open presents and not getting the adult humor. But I was really happy to be able to get dressed up and be included. I probably wouldn't have felt comfortable without my mom there though.

Also if you do allow her to come, don't feel obligated to invite other kids her age. When I was a shy kid I would have rather been in the room with the adults than been in another room with my super hyper cousins.
posted by DoubleLune at 1:45 PM on October 29, 2012 [7 favorites]

Your friend should respond to your brother in law and apologise for the "misunderstanding" and explain that the party is only for adults.

What your BiL is doing is super-weird and possibly passive-aggressive. I can understand hoping its OK to bring the niece along if your SiL was attending the party but it seems bizarre that the 8 year old would come "alone".... how many people attending the party is your MiL friendly with? I'm wondering if the niece is actually supposed to be company for your MiL? If the party is mostly your friends and family maybe your MiL wanted someone she knows to hang out with, even if it has to be an 8 year old. She was the one who initially asked - unless the BiL RSVPed for the niece before your MiL asked about it - in that case I'd say the MiL was equally confused about the niece's "invitation" and was checking with you
posted by missmagenta at 1:58 PM on October 29, 2012 [3 favorites]

My guess is that everyone involved might have thought it was okay because grandma will be there.

The one thing I'd keep in mind is that the niece might have expressed interest in attending--and might have already been told she was going. I'd be wary about disinviting an 8 year old (even if she wasn't technically ever invited), particularly one who is going through some tumultuous life stuff right now--like a new baby brother or sister. If you do, you might ask her and mom if they'd like to have a lady's day out before the babies arrive, something like that. A nice bonding time for the three of you.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 2:02 PM on October 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

Just to be clear, all of the in laws live several hours out of town. They are coming in just for the shower. BIL RSVP'd before MIL asked me (as he said, my sister in law may not even come). BF & her Aunt do NOT want her SIL to show up with her kids- but BF's Mom will not take no for an answer even if it isn't her house. They wouldn't care if my niece is there, but they can get pretty raunchy sometimes. I know my MIL would be mortified if my niece heard some of it. But maybe she wants my niece for company. That would be fine if it weren't for the above scenario.

I never had a niece until I married in to this family, so I don't know how to navigate these situations. My sister in law married in to having a daughter, so I think none of us really know what we are supposed to be doing. I would hate for my niece to feel uninvited, especially if she was already told she was going. I worry because it isn't my house. The BF and her family have their own dynamic that they are always trying to maneuver and dance around when it comes to her Mom & the way she behaves some times. I would hate for this shower to get thrown in a tizzy. Like I said, I did already tell MIL that it was intended as adults only. I just don't know if I need to address the issue any further or not.
posted by MayNicholas at 2:38 PM on October 29, 2012

I would get the host to explain that at some showers, the talk can get quite adult/raunchy and not appropriate for children. She'd hate to offend anyone which is why children aren't invited, for their sake. As a parent, she's sure BIL will understand.
posted by Jubey at 2:45 PM on October 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

You don't need to address this, the host needs to. It is completely and totally, 100% polite for the host to respond to the RSVP and say she's not invited. Ruthless Bunny's script is completely sufficient: "Oh sorry, this is a very small, adult get-together. So sorry to miss you." She doesn't need to elaborate or come up with additional excuses or explanations. She wasn't invited and it is her family that is being impolite here, the host is allowed to correct that.

On the other hand, it is absolutely completely 100% not OK to not respond and then have her or anyone do absolutely anything to make her or her family uncomfortable with the arrangement.

Basically, the host has 2 choices:
a) send a short, quick, polite note that says oops not invited, or
b) completely re-plan the party to make it child appropriate, making it entirely not the party you or her wants to have and probably no fun for anyone else who was invited.

Doing neither is really not OK. If the host is not willing to send this email clarifying who was invited, she needs to be prepared to throw a party for all her guests, including those who invited themselves.
posted by brainmouse at 2:53 PM on October 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

I understand the inclination to treat this like purely an etiquette question and respond only in a way that's correct, but again, this is a kid, and one whose feelings might be hurt. And so I think it's good to act with empathy even if it creates a little bit more legwork.

I think it might be time to pick up the phone and call your sister-in-law. Check in and find out what your niece thinks is going on--does she expect to attend? Have mom and dad given her that impression? Then you can make a decision based on that.

Since this is a step-parent situation, it's hard to say exactly what might be going on there. Some families expect some events to be adult-only. In others, kids are always invited. Maybe your brother thought your niece was invited by default; maybe he wanted her to be included because, well, step-daughter, and togetherness with new relatives, and whatever else. Again, I would suggest some sort of alternative activity you can share with your niece if you disinvite her. It would be the kind thing to do--one which would make it clear to the child in question that it's nothing personal and that you still care about her despite the miscommunication.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 3:01 PM on October 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

I agree with the point about suggesting an alternative activity for the niece that you can do together, and perhaps do you know anyone who could take the niece out and entertain her in another location during the party (like going to the museum or a zoo)? Maybe a male family member who wasn't going to be coming to the shower anyway?

The only thing I would emphasize is that this is YOUR baby shower and regardless of the possible hurt feelings of whoever else, your hostess/BF should ensure that it is going to be a fun event for you and not a stressful or upsetting one. I am afraid that if you take the strategy of just dropping the subject and doing nothing further, things won't turn out well. You deserve to have a great, enjoyable baby shower and open communication with the people in your family that is polite but firm is probably the best way to do this (and yes, ideally the hostess should be the one doing this, not you).
posted by treehorn+bunny at 3:27 PM on October 29, 2012

It seems that the real damage would be done by BFF's ill-behaved SIL's kids. Those kids should not be invited. Period. BFF can handle that. It's her family, not yours.

If your niece is sensitive, please think twice about dis-inviting her. It was not correct for her parents to extend the invite to her before asking the host or you, but that's water under the bridge. MIL should take the lead in terms of taking care of her and doing any extra accommodation, that should not fall to you or even the host. It's her granddaughter. Call your Sister in Law or your brother and find out what's expected and share with them that this is not a kid-centered party.

Have a great time and congratulations!
posted by quince at 5:28 PM on October 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

I wonder... is the 8yr old excited about babies? Seeing as her mom is expecting, too, maybe she overheard the plans and expressed interest because she wants to see you and see what the baby fuss is about.

If your BFF could call her mom and gently investigate, that might be best. If her heart is set on coming, I wouldn't worry too much about having to re-plan everything. Baby showers aren't bachelorette parties, and it's likely any adult humor will be over her head. She could attend, enjoy watching gifts being opened, have cake -- probably thinking of how to welcome her own new sibling.
posted by hms71 at 5:55 PM on October 29, 2012

I think, etiquette aside, you should let your niece come, as it will probably be a big-deal special occasion for her that will light up her life. And to be particularly kind, you should get her an age-appropriate novel of a sort that she will love, and when the talk turns boring/raunchy, give her the book so she can sit in a corner and read.

It's pretty awkward that they're like, "Here, have a surprise niece-guest!" but the most generous thing you can do is be kind and welcoming to your niece.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:16 PM on October 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Are you really planning to have dirty talk with your husband's mother and sister? That gives me the icks far more than a kid at the shower.

If they're coming in from out of town, I'd let the kid come. What is the kid going to do? Sit in the car? Sometimes kids just hang out quietly while the adults do their thing. This is one of those times. She might be amenable to helping cut the cake and hand you the presents.

She's 8 and she's family. It's an event for the females of the family.
posted by 26.2 at 7:47 PM on October 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

> She is SUPER shy, even around me, and it means my MIL will spend all her time entertaining her and not get to enjoy the shower. That is the best case scenario

I'd say "best case" is the kid brings a bunch of books and sits in a bedroom reading, coming out from time to time for snacks.

> they may have some more adult themed ideas about shower games

I've been to as few baby showers as possible, so maybe there's more to them than I know, but what on earth could these be? Eight related adults, at least one of whom is pregnant; it's not like you're going to be knocking back Long Island Ice Teas and hiring strippers.

> my best friend is worried about (as am I) is that BFF's mom will say well if this little girl is here, let me call your sister in law (my best friend's sister in law)

That's the only real problem I can see here. And your best friend will just have to say "no" to her mom if she says that.
posted by The corpse in the library at 7:49 PM on October 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

I am boggling at the idea of a "dirty" BABY shower. The only raunch I've ever heard of at a BABY shower was the "chocolate poo in the diaper" game. Raunch is for bridal showers. Seriously, this is going to be a problem?

I get the feeling here that (a) 8-year-old has already been invited by her parents, more or less, (b) her feelings will be hurt, but (c) she'll probably be okay if she comes. Really, the one thing you need to worry about is heading off the other jerky relatives. God knows I was the quiet bored kid who didn't want to go to the baby shower and I just sat in a corner watching and was fine. Niece will live through attending, but there may be drama if she doesn't.
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:16 PM on October 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

I had a hard time keeping up with who was who in this question - but I do know the hostess needs to call the niece's dad asap and ask what is up!!

- Does the 8 year old know she is invited? Is she excieted to go??

Depending in where the 8 year old is at, that informs the ettiquette.

For the record, the niece's dad (or both parents?) over-stepped. But so be it. A little girl's feelings are now on the line. The hostess needs to call and find out what's up with her (the niece) and work with the parents to make sure she doesn't feel rejected.

Hopefully, niece doesn't yet know she is going to this event. If she does, than she must be welcomed.

That said...


Her unruly children won't be there if that mom doesn't know ahead of time another child might be there.

I Nth that it is OK to say this is an adults only event, provided the niece doesn't have her heart set on attending.
posted by jbenben at 10:50 PM on October 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

OP: I really don't care if my niece comes, but I would rather she not.

This is a once-in-a-lifetime event. You will never have another first baby shower; hell, you may even decide that this will be your first-and only baby shower, so for people to weigh this against the possibility of disappointing an 8-year old about an event that will have little-to-no impact on her life seems way out of proportion. Have the baby shower you want to have.

Niece will live through attending, but there may be drama if she doesn't.

Niece will also live through not attending, and there is already drama.

Really, it just sounds like everyone in this scenario-- you, your BFF, your niece's parents -- need simply to say 'I'm sorry, that just won't be possible.'

Also, I don't think the OP ever suggested that her family baby shower would be "dirty", include strippers, and/or even serve alcohol. It sounds like the OP is diplomatically describing a family member (or members) who, in general, may not always act appropriately, for whatever reason. Jeez.
posted by Room 641-A at 11:39 PM on October 29, 2012

She said there would be "adult themed" games, which usually implies sexxxy.
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:35 AM on October 30, 2012

This clarify- Adult themed= woman sharing their birthing stories. Does an 8 year old need to hear all the gritty details about how babies come out? That along with off color humor that may include some PG13/R words.

This whole thing is really making me feel pretty crappy. I am going to reach out and find out if the niece is under the impression that she is going. If so, I will talk to my BFF and let her handle her mother. If she was never under the impression that she was coming-if they had not told her yet- then we will leave things as is. As far as we know she may just think she is going on a road trip to see her uncle (he has been around since she was born- I just married in a couple of years ago).
posted by MayNicholas at 10:18 AM on October 30, 2012

You know what? At this point, just let her come. You told them, they've ignored you. I wouldn't feel bad at all if the MIL and the niece have a less than optimal time. It's what they want--suffer the consequences. BTW, what does your husband have to say about any of this?
posted by elle.jeezy at 10:56 AM on October 30, 2012

Yes he does. He was the one that helped me craft the first email to MIL regarding the fact that the hostess didn't plan on children being there. He said not to worry about, that the email I sent was good enough. He doesn't think the niece should be there either because he knows the off color humor that is likely to be tossed around. I'm the one stressing about it now. Like I said, I didn't think anything about sending the email at first. It's on retrospect that I'm wondering if I handled it properly.
posted by MayNicholas at 11:13 AM on October 30, 2012

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