DEAR MISS MANNERS: My wife, 3-year-old, 19-month-old and myself were invited to a Mother's Day barbecue by my brother and sister-in-law. After the meal, my wife and I were asked to contribute $45 for the food.
Additionally, this was asked of my parents and grandmother. We didn't know this in advance, and we mentioned we never charged them for a gathering at our house (such as New Year's Eve). My parents figured this was the cost of a restaurant and didn't argue.
My wife and I are so insulted that we are debating not inviting them to our son's fourth birthday in three weeks. Now my parents have threatened that if we do not invite them, my parents will not attend either.
GENTLE READER: Whenever Miss Manners has mentioned the annual letters she gets from those whose relatives have charged them for Thanksgiving dinner, she is met with disbelief. And indeed, it is hard for decent people to imagine such a thing.
But, as you have experienced, there really are indecent people who make a mockery of family relations, and of the ancient and honorable virtue of hospitality. Miss Manners commiserates with you on being related to such people. And she suspects that your parents consider it not so much the price of a restaurant as the price of keeping up relations with your brother and sister-in-law.
She urges you not to retaliate. Charging them would, of course, be lowering yourself to condone this travesty, and excluding them would further trouble your parents. It will not be easy to say nothing, and to offer a demonstration of true family feeling and hospitality, but she believes that this is the only hope of making that point.