DEAR CAROLYN: My dad is mad that I’m having my daughter’s birthday party at my mom’s house even though we’re currently living with her to save money for a down payment. My parents divorced when I was about 10 and things between my parents were bitter for years after.
These days they are usually OK and even exchange small talk about the grandchildren at family events.
After the divorce my dad ghosted us for years, so my sisters and I are not as close to him as we are to our mom or even our stepdad, but now that we’re in contact again, we’re all trying to make up for lost time.
My daughter is turning 3 so we just want a low-key, inexpensive party. Mom’s home has a big open-plan kitchen/dining area that seems perfect. We’re only inviting family, and my nieces and nephews are all pretty young, so this seems best for them too.
When I told my dad the plans, he said, “If your parents are divorced and remarried, the only fair thing is to have events like this at a neutral location.” I looked into it, but it will cost more money to have it elsewhere. He offered to chip in, but not enough to cover the difference. I explained this but my dad is acting really hurt and saying it’s an insult to my stepmom, who has always been really nice to us.
If I move the party, I could find the extra money by cutting out our tiny entertainment fund for the next couple of months, which makes my husband unhappy. I can’t dip into our savings. No matter what I do, someone is going to be unhappy. Should I change the location or stand firm even though my dad is threatening not to come?
DEAR PLANNER: Your dad is behaving like a child. I’m sorry. The script kind of writes itself: “When you ghost your young children for years after you divorce their mother and then try to make up for lost time when they’re adults, the only fair thing is to zip it about minor nuisances like a party at your ex’s house.”
Not that I suggest you say this out loud; neutral and unbudging is your best demeanor here. “I’m sorry to hear that, Dad. We’re sticking to our plan, though, and hope you’ll come.” I just wrote the script out as a mental run-through to help you nip any guilt in the bud.
As for: “No matter what I do someone is going to be unhappy.” Um, yeah. Everywhere, with everything.
The birthday party is not actually at the mother’s house. It is at the home of Planner and the daughter. The fact that the mother happens to own it and also lives there is simply a matter of finances.
DEAR S.B.: Good catch, thanks.
This also gives me a chance to harrumph at the dad for using his wife as a prop. The party location insults her? Please.
Adapted from a recent online discussion. Email Carolyn at email@example.com, follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/carolyn.hax or chat with her online at noon Eastern time each Friday at www.washingtonpost.com.