Carolyn Hax: Friends who agreed to child-free trip are bringing kids

Adapted from an online discussion.

Hi, Carolyn: I’ve been planning a vacation with a few friends for several months. The group is a mixture of singles and marrieds, and two of the couples have one small child each. In planning this trip, the parents all said upfront that they were going to leave the kids with grandparents so it could be a “real vacation.” This was my understanding when I agreed to it. Deposits and vacation plans were made.

Now, with two weeks before showtime, one couple’s babysitters fell through, so they’re bringing their kid. Once they shared this news, the other parent couple said they’d bring their kid, too, almost as a favor to the first couple (company for the kid). I love these children — who call me “Auntie” — but now I don’t want to go on the trip anymore. One little kid I could have gracefully worked around. Two change the entire tone and tenor of the trip and take four of my friends away from me, because they will now be tied up for hours each day with kid things.

The money is already spent, and I am sensitive to making the parents feel bad or abandoned. But I feel as if my trip has been ruined in advance. What’s the right move here?

Baited and Switched: I am so angry on your behalf that I can’t think of an answer right away. You lost something significant, but if you speak up, you’re an ogre.

Here are your bad options, as I see them:

· Cancel and lose money.

· Go and try to make the best of a trip you would never have agreed to go on.

· Speak up and say, “Wait, bringing kids is not the trip I agreed to!,” knowing this will probably introduce awkwardness in some form. That’s because their choices are to bring the kids anyway, mindful the whole time that you’re angry about it; leave the kids home with B-team care and feel coerced; and drop out of the trip and both lose money and deduct good friends from the friend experience you planned and paid for. Am I leaving anything out?

· Ask them to bring along or hire a parents’ helper of some kind who can free the parents up for evenings and some small excursions, at a minimum. This is big $$$, but I’m sure the sitter at home was going to run them a lot to begin with, so maybe it’s cost-neutral.

I think the best of these bad options is to talk to your friends about making this trip as close as possible to the one originally conceived, but it’s delicate and will depend on the quality of the friendships and thickness of everyone’s skin. And openness to changes.

I invited comments to make up for my blind spots. A sampling:

· Wow. That’s a lot of Hax anger. What’s wrong with just going and having fun with the rest of the child-frees, and spending time with the parents when you can?

· It really does change the tenor of the trip. The kids can’t do a lot of cool stuff, and they have to eat and nap and go to sleep at specific times. The group may have planned on restaurants that aren’t kid-friendly. Something goes wrong, the toddler sets up a ruckus and an excursion is ruined. It’s just a different trip now.

· I have kids but can’t stand most other kids, nor how annoying parents can be around their kids. I wouldn’t want to go, either.

· The parents who lost the caregiver should have canceled and stayed home rather than unilaterally changing the terms of the vacation for everyone else.

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