DEAR ABBY: I met a young couple about a year ago. They invite me out for lunch every few months. They have several children they allow to run all over the place, climb over and under the table, cry and whine, and they make no effort to teach them proper behavior in restaurants. It's so annoying and embarrassing that I no longer want to go out with them. I cannot believe that they turn their children loose in restaurants without acknowledging that they are creating a not-so-nice experience for other diners.
If they ask me why, should I make up an excuse or tell them how I feel about their lack of parenting? I suspect they will be hypersensitive to any remarks I make, but I can't enjoy my meal while their children run wild. Those children need to learn some manners. I would rather eat out by myself than experience another episode. -- ALONE BUT NOT LONELY
DEAR ALONE: Rather than let these parents have it with both barrels, the next time you are invited to lunch, ask if the children will be included. When they tell you the kids are coming -- which they will -- respond that you would prefer "adult time." It would get your message across without it appearing you are criticizing their parental abilities.