Ask Natalie by Natalie Bencivenga

Invited to a party but don’t want to go if kids are invited, too? Sick of sister-in-law always “one-upping” you?

DEAR NATALIE: This is a corollary to your recent article on adult parties. I agree. I love kids too. However, we were invited to a party after 6 p.m. with cocktails. Another couple who does have young children replied by saying that their kids were allergic to peanuts. How do I gracefully ask if this is an adult party when we are not the hosts and we’ve already accepted the invitation? We just assumed no kids. My husband is now saying he won’t go if there are little kids there, nd it’s hard to find activities we can do together. We are not close to either couple. Your thoughts or suggestions would be most appreciated. — STUCK IN THE MIDDLE

DEAR STUCK IN THE MIDDLE: You can play this two ways. 1) You can just ask the host if this is a child-free event. Tell them you and your husband have limited time together and want to make your “date night” stress-free. You can admit that you assumed it was a child-free party, but that you want to be sure. Explain that you have nothing against kids being at events. 2) If you don’t want to be that direct, swing by for a quick hello and a cocktail and say that you have another commitment later in the evening. That way you don’t have to make in any more awkward than it needs to be. I don’t blame you one bit for wanting a child-free evening. You shouldn’t feel guilty for wanting to spend time with adults. In fact, it’s pretty presumptuous of the other couple to assume their children were even invited. In any case, it’s your time and you decide how to spend it.

DEAR NATALIE: For years my sister-in-law and I have not gotten along. She always has to one-up me, so to speak. It’s exhausting. I get a new car, she gets one. I get a new piece of jewelry, she gets one — and, of course, it has to be bigger. You get the idea. The holidays are always a disaster, where her children have to open their gifts first. Of course this big display is made about how many gifts and what they received compared with my children. It really upset my oldest daughter this year. She knows all too well what I am dealing with. My husband thinks I’m being petty, but I really want to tell my brother that his wife is making me crazy. Any ideas for how I can convince my brother to tell his wife to chill out? — ONE-UP NO FUN

DEAR ONE-UP NO FUN: This is the most first-world problem I have gotten in my inbox in a long time. I’m not trying to downplay what you are going through, but let’s look at this from another perspective. You have so much to be thankful for! New cars, new jewelry, family, an abundance of gifts at the holidays. Acknowledge the great people and things in your life. The fact that you are so hung up on your sister-in-law’s material possessions makes me think that you have played into her game. Do you think you’re being a little competitive, as well, but you’re not willing to admit it? I’m sorry that you’re feeling this way, but take your husband’s advice on this one and drop the pettiness. Your daughter is watching and you don’t want her to get caught up in this drama. Kids pay much more attention to things than we think they do. Limit your interactions with your sister-in-law. If you know the holidays will be challenging, meet up after opening gifts to see a holiday movie or eat together. Interact in ways that don’t necessarily focus on possessions.

Natalie's Networking Tip of the Week: Try not to immediately gravitate toward the people you already know at networking events. Say hello, but ask them instead to introduce you to someone new so that you can maximize your experience.

Please send your questions to Natalie Bencivenga to her email, nbencivenga@post-gazette.com; or through postal mail to Natalie Bencivenga, 358 North Shore Dr., Pittsburgh, PA 15212. Follow her on Twitter at @NBSeen and on Instagram @NatalieBenci

(This column was originally published by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.)