DEAR CAROLYN: Is it ever appropriate to comment on someone's decision to exclude kids? My cousin has decided to invite only his nieces and nephews to the wedding. This sounds reasonable, but we grew up more like brothers than cousins — his mom died when he was 10 and my mom stepped in a lot, so she is especially offended at this exclusion. Including my kids would not open the floodgates; I'm the only cousin of his with kids so we are talking about two extra kids from his side. As it stands, my kids will be the only ones from our large family holidays who weren't invited — which feels especially relevant since the wedding is in the middle of holiday season and my family ALWAYS hosts! They're old enough to feel left out but too young to understand the logic of why. All that said, I don't want to push him to invite them. I just want to make it clear this is hurtful and might affect my wife's ability to attend, since all of the people we trust to babysit for that long will be at the wedding. The wedding has been planned quickly and I think there's a chance he just hasn't thought it through. But I know weddings are tough and I don't want to be that guy. What say you?
Don't Want to Be That Guy
DON'T WANT TO BE THAT GUY: Almost never appropriate. It's their call.
Plus, guest lists aren't perfect. Some include big, surprising oversights; some are attempts at principled stands that backfire; some are just byproducts of pressure (financial, family, logistics, time). Ask just about anyone who threw a wedding or milestone party a decade or three ago, and I think you'll get a story from every one of them about a person who was included and then never mattered again, or someone who was excluded and is now central to this person's life.
Over time, missing one thing is rarely as significant for a kid as it feels right now. So your kids and maybe wife stay home. It's a bummer, but it's the kind of thing you can write off if you choose to. And the choice whether to take it personally and dwell on it, or shake it off, is entirely yours to make.
If instead you bring it up with your cousin, sure, maybe he'll say, "Yikes, sorry, I'll fix it." More likely, though, it will put him on a spot either real or imagined. Maybe they decided this because other people (unknown to you) have pressured them, so they drew a hard line. Whatever. Then you bring it up, and now your cousin has to manage that request, at a time when that things-to-manage inbox is full. Then he's the one who has to choose whether to shake off this bummer or dwell on it. See the difference? Now you're not in control of how this affects your relationship, he is.
It may come to nothing, but is it worth even going there?
Your kids' feelings are not a reason to consider taking this on. You are the one who sets the tone there: "They love you to pieces, it just didn't work out this time."