Ask Amy Amy Dickinson, Ask Amy

Amy Dickinson is a general advice columnist.

DEAR AMY: My in-laws are hosting a birthday party for my husband’s grandfather. He is turning 90. The party is 200 miles away. My husband and I both work full time and have two young children, one with multiple life-threatening food allergies. We were told to “pack food for her.” No plans were offered to accommodate her. We often do not attend events where she cannot eat safely. In addition, we do not have anywhere to stay overnight after the party — 400 miles is too much driving in one day for our kids. Other family members knew about the party before us and made plans to stay with the people who live nearby. Hotels are challenging for us because of the inability to prepare food for our daughter. Bigger spaces with kitchens are expensive. Leaving our kids at home is not an option. We certainly do not feel very welcome, but do not want to be rude either! We do see his grandfather at other times during the year. Are we obligated to attend the party?

Upset

DEAR UPSET: Are you obligated to attend your children’s great-grandfather’s 90th birthday party?

Yes, you are. The fact that you don’t intend to fulfill this obligation doesn’t make it less of one.

You obviously have extreme challenges concerning your daughter’s food allergies. You cannot take her anywhere where her health will be seriously compromised. Taking her sounds like an exhausting minefield for your family. And yet — you’ve offered up so many reasons why you can’t go to this party that it seems you quite honestly simply don’t want to go.

You have received an invitation to this special party and yet you say that you “do not feel very welcome.” I’m not sure what — other than the invitation itself — you require.

As her parents, you and your husband have the responsibility of communicating with people about what you/she need — and then you should follow through and make sure you have backup plans in case people don’t comply.

It sounds as if you should stay home that day and encourage your husband to go solo (or perhaps with one of your children).

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DEAR AMY: My boyfriend and I have been living together for two years. He has two children from his past relationship. I have two from my past relationship and we recently had a baby girl. I met his kids last year, we all went out together and it was great. Since then, they come over on weekends. My man just told me he wants to go out with his kids (excluding me and my kids — even our daughter). Should I be OK with this? Because I feel upset. I don’t understand! If we are trying to build a family why would he split us up like that? Please help — I don’t know what to think anymore. I’m starting to believe he wants to get back with his baby mama. What should I do?

Worried Mama

DEAR WORRIED: One way to build a family with your man would be for you two to get married. I know that’s not what you asked about, but it seems an obvious first step.

I’m not sure why you and he would be living together for an entire year before you even met his children, but it seems that you two are doing this family thing backward.

It is natural for noncustodial parents to occasionally want to spend time alone with their birth children. This can help to cement a relationship that can sometimes be splintered. However, the parent doing this needs to make sure that the other children don’t feel left out, and you can help with that by being mature, secure and understanding about it.

You and your man have a heavy lift trying to make a family together. You need to deal with your own insecurity about his motives, and he should behave in a transparent way that inspires your trust.

DEAR AMY: I could have written the letter from “Struggling in OR,” whose mother and stepfather neglected to come to her wedding. My father did this to me years ago, and as I look at my wedding photos and note that he is not in them, it reminds me of all the life events he missed. It still makes me sad.

No Longer a Newlywed

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DEAR NO LONGER: I can well imagine how painful it would be to invite a parent to your wedding, only to be stood up at the altar.