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Bride throwing bouquet for guests to catch

The question

I'm having an adults-only destination wedding next year. This morning, a close friend informed me that unless she was able to bring her three small children (6 and under), she wouldn't attend. Since having children, she's apparently developed a phobia about flying without them – and so it's all of them or none of them. This is a close friend of more than 20 years who would likely be in my wedding party. I've been at or involved in every major milestone of her life and find this news hurtful and hard to swallow. I don't want children at my wedding and, as a family, they travel by air constantly so I know flying itself isn't an issue. I'm having a hard time understanding why she can't leave the kids at home and be there for me after so many years of friendship. As someone who hasn't had children, am I being selfish?

The answer

Quite the reverse, I think. Seems to me your friend is the one being selfish.

We live in such a kid-centric, or one might even say kid-worshipping, culture these days, one wherein everyone endlessly pats themselves on the back for the "unselfish" act of parenting (big deal: every species has done it since the dawn of time). We've lost sight of the fact that parents can be selfish, too.

And one big way parents can be selfish is by inflicting their kids on situations where it's clearly not appropriate. Like families (oh boy, I can feel myself getting into trouble here) who bring their obnoxious, tantrum-prone kids to a nice, quiet adult restaurant and then chuckle indulgently as their little monsters run roughshod all over the place. I want to grab these errant parents by the lapels: "Ever heard of a sitter? Or Chuck E. Cheese?"

(And P.S., I do have kids. Three of 'em! I love kids. Just not … everywhere, all the time.)

Even when people bring their progeny – surprise! – to an adult party, I can feel my heart sink: "Ah. So it's going to be that kind of party, is it? Sigh." Soon as I see some dude come through the door with little junior in a Baby Bjorn, big grin of parental pride on his face, I start planning my exit strategy.

(In these circumstances I believe it's okay to use your own kids in your excuse: "Yeah, I have to go early, unfortunately. The sitter called. She isn't feeling well." And tossing a little hintsky to Baby Bjorn guy: "It's too bad, I was looking forward to some adult conversation."Or, glancing at the baby on his chest: "Hey, by the way, if you're looking for a sitter, I could give you a number.")

Honestly, I don't understand your friend's attitude on any level. First of all, who has a phobia about flying without their kids? The only phobia – or precaution – I've ever heard of in this department is people who fly separately so if one plane goes down, the kids will still have one parent.

Is her thinking that she doesn't want them to be without a mom, so if she goes down she wants to take them with her? That's odd enough that maybe we should just pass over it. Anyway, planes take off every few minutes all over the world all the time. It's not a rational fear – thus making it her problem, not yours.

Also, doesn't she want to have fun? Bust loose, take a break? The last "destination wedding" I went to, in a dusty little beachfront town in Mexico, was a freakin' blast. Everyone went down for the week. So you'd see each other at breakfast or walking along the beach or having margaritas and chips and salsa in the afternoon, wind ruffling your hair, sand tickling your toes. It was like … going to a seaside party college for a week, except without grades or professors or classes.

Why would anyone want to wreck that by bringing three little kids to chase around?

But above all, as I've said before: If you're not the bride, it's a measure of your spiritual development the extent to which you realize the wedding really isn't about you.

For her sake and yours, I'd stand firm on the no-kids policy.

Here's an idea. Tell her you want her to come over and check out your gown. Then try it on, and as you're showing it to her say: "Look, I've been planning my wedding for months, and we just can't accommodate people's kids. If I said yes to you I'd have to say yes to everyone else who wanted to bring their children, and we can't swing that. But your friendship means the world to me. I want you in my wedding party, and to be a witness of this huge event in my life. Please say you'll get a sitter and come?"

If she can say no to that, especially with you standing there like a vision in your dress, then she may not be as good a friend as you think she is. In which case, wish her well and have a ball without her.

What am I supposed to do now?

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