“We Weren’t Invited to Our Grandson’s Bris!”

My wife and I have a brand new grandson a few days old, and my son and daughter-in-law are going to have a bris ceremony and party in a couple of days. The issue is that our daughter-in-law’s mother and father (divorced and both remarried), who are extremely pushy and obnoxious, called my wife to tell us that they would like us to split the expenses for the party. We were dumbfounded! In our 47 years of marriage and many events, we never heard of such a thing, and we always put on family events ourselves for our children.

Now the parents, ex-parents, new spouses, and whoever have moved forward and sent out invitations that listed them as the hosts of the event and no mention of my wife and me. Further, they did not send out an invitation to us. I can only assume it is because we did not indicate that we would pick up the cost. So we can only assume we were not invited.

My wife and I are crushed. We cannot believe we are being excluded. My wife is in tears. In the fifteen years my son and daughter-in-law have been married, we have taken her in and made her an equal in our family unit with all our children. There has never been any distinction between any of our children and their wives or husbands. My wife has been lavish in her attention to our daughter-in-law, even sometimes at the expense of our children.

The daughter-in-law had a rocky childhood in a dysfunctional family, but that is almost forty years ago. We noted that when they got married we put on a beautiful wedding for them when her parents wouldn’t, and we invited the parents to it. Our new grandson is so adorable that we would hate to miss out on this event. However, we both feel so stepped on and abused that we are dismayed as to what to do.

At our age (70+), we should know what to do, but we are afraid of the outcome if we decline to go. However, my wife and I are so insulted that our son would take money over family that we are having a hard time choking this down. He was not raised that way and never exhibited these traits.

How should we handle this? Should we confront both my son and daughter-in-law or just my son? Should we go and just sit quietly in the corner or decline?

Hope to hear your thoughts soon as we only have a couple of days. — To Bris or Not to Bris

I definitely would not just show up at this bris that you believe you’ve been purposely not invited to. First, find out if what you suspect is true. Call up your son and ask him point-blank if you are welcome at the bris. (Speaking to your DIL, since you say you’re so close to her, wouldn’t be wrong, but I think speaking to your son is a better option since he doesn’t have the same sort of “baggage” with the in-laws that his wife likely has.) Explain to your son that you were asked to help pay for half the expenses of the party and you were unprepared for that request and are afraid you may have offended his in-laws. Express how much you love him and your DIL and your new grandson and that it would mean the world to you to be present at the baby’s bris.

If he tells you that you’re welcome, go and be gracious to the hosts. Thank them for hosting and compliment them on a lovely celebration. If he tells you that you aren’t invited, then things are a little more complicated. I would then speak directly to your DIL and express to her how much you love her and your new grandson and how you’re hurt to be excluded from the bris, and ask her to appeal to her parents.

On one hand, I’m inclined to say say that this isn’t her or your son’s fault — that they aren’t the ones throwing the party. But they’re grown adults and the party is in honor of their son. They have some control here. They could have chosen to pay for the party themselves, for example, and invite whomever they wanted, and they could have made it as small as they needed to accommodate their budget. A bris doesn’t have to be very expensive. A mohel and some bagels and lox is pretty much all you need. On the other hand, you say that your DIL had a rocky childhood in a dysfunctional family, and while that’s no excuse to hurt your feelings now, it may explain the continuing dysfunction in the family.

I hope you don’t miss your grandson’s bris, but if you do, keep in mind that it’s but an hour or two in his very young life — one that, thankfully, he will have zero memory of. And while the memory of your hurt feelings likely won’t fade so fast, you can choose to be empathetic to your DIL and your son, to be forgiving to the other set(s) of grandparents who have their own set of limitations, and to celebrate the birth of your grandson in a different way — one that doesn’t even have to involve scissors and tears.

I’ve been in my relationship for about five months, but we’ve been friends for nearly a year. He’s 34 and I’m 23. He’s been divorced for two years and I’m his first post-divorce relationship. It feels to me as if things are moving fast. He’s the first guy I’ve dated who’s been older, and he is the first guy I have ever seriously dated. I’m very interested in him and he makes me his priority, but how do I let him know without hurting his feeling that I think we’re moving too fast and I need time to fix myself? His actions are “I love you and I want marriage,” but his words are few. Should I just not say anything and wait to see where we are actually heading? — Moving Too Fast

No, you should not ever “say nothing” if you’re feeling something that someone else should know. And I can’t think of a better example of something someone else should know than one person feeling too rushed in a relationship. YOU are the driver of your life. This is as much your relationship as it is his. YOU are partially in charge of deciding where you are “actually heading,” so don’t passively wait for someone else to decide that for you! Tell your boyfriend that you’re enjoying the relationship but you get the impression he is wanting more than you are ready to give just yet. Tell him that marriage isn’t anywhere on your agenda at the moment and you want to take time enjoying each other’s company while figuring out what you want. If that hurts his feelings or he can’t deal with that or he decides that you’re simply at different places in your lives and he doesn’t want to wait for you to be on the same page, then this isn’t the right guy or the right time.

In addition, the idea that you think you need to “fix yourself” is also something that needs to be considered and expressed. If you really think that, then you probably shouldn’t be in a relationship at all, let alone a serious one with someone so much older who’s already expressing interest in marriage. This is the time to be honest with yourself and honest with him. Feelings may be hurt (including yours), but that doesn’t mean it’s wrong to express them.


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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy@dearwendy.com.


  1. Skyblossom says:

    LW1 Your DIL’s dysfunctional family is still very dysfunctional. Whether or not you attend the bris you need to be the stable, loving influence in his life that they won’t be. He very much needs your presence in his life. Every time her family is being rude (dysfunctional) keep that in mind. They will probably be highly irritating quite frequently and all you can do is take the high road for the sake of your grandson. As an adult he will look back and appreciate what you did for him and understand that it wasn’t always easy. You will need to be the role model that her family can’t possibly be. He needs this to have a normal, happy life.

  2. I’m confused by LW1. He & his wife are (pearl cluthingly) upset they were asked to share costs and also upset that, after declining to do so, they’re not being included as hosts on the invitation? He says they always pay for their own family events and the bris is for their family so were they hoping to pay for the whole thing? How does he even know what’s on the invitation if they didn’t get one?

    Then, rather than calling up their son and just asking if there’s a problem, they’re sitting around in tears, “assuming” they’re not welcome to the bris at all – throwing around terms like stepped on and abused. Which set of parents here are supposed to be obnoxious and dysfunctional?

    Maybe the invitiation was lost in the mail. Maybe they didn’t think it was necessary to send a formal invite to the grandparents because of course you’d be there. Maybe there really is a problem and they’re tired of your overdramatic reactions. Maybe in the time you spent writing to an advice column, you could have picked up the phone and cleared this all up with direct communication.

    1. Skyblossom says:

      The LW is saying that they paid for their own children and assumed that their son and DIL would pay for the grandchildren.

      Not receiving an invitation would normally mean you aren’t invited. They definitely should talk to their son. Their quandary is trying to decide whether they should show up if they aren’t invited and sad to not be invited.

      1. ele4phant says:

        I’m really confused whether they meant in their family whether the expectation was that parents paid for their children’s events (meaning the expectation was that the son and DIL would pay for their child’s bris) or whether they meant that *they* always paid for *their* children’s events (meaning they – the LWs – would pay for the bris because it was their son’s event).

        It was confusing.

      2. Even if they thought their son & dil would pay for their own kid’s event, having the other set of grandparents say, ‘hey, how about we go in together and pay for this bris/party for the kids?’ shouldn’t really be a “dumbfounding” conversation.

        Of course, they certainly could have been rude or demading in how they made the request – we really don’t know. Even so, it doesn’t have to be a drama-fest on the part of the lw to say, “I’m sorry, we assumed son & dil were taking care of the bris. I’m afraid we’re not in a position to help with the costs.” Alternately, if they have the money (and wanted to), they could offer to contribute a certain amount or offer to do some of the work – ordering/making food, picking things up, helping decorate…

        Then you call son and say, ‘We got a call from your in-laws. How generous of them to help you pay for the bris. I’m sorry we can’t go in with them on it, but what can we do to help?’ If the in-laws make a stink about it, that’s on them. LW doesn’t need to get caught up in it.

    2. Bittergaymark says:

      You stole my thunder here by first using the oh so perfect phrase… pearl-clutching — but my yes. I agree. Yikes… LW1. It’s an awful lot of drama over a barbaric genital mutilation ceremony… I kid, I kid. (For the record, I’m cut and have no problem with it.) Next time, gee I dunno, cohost the motherfucking party instead of all being judgemental jerkoffs about even the mere suggestion of doing so.

  3. I’m confused, were the LW and his wife planning on paying for the party themselves? Then when the in-laws asked to split the cost, they said no, and now the in-laws are paying for it in full? That seems shady on the in-laws’ part. But also, I agree that they don’t know for sure if they aren’t invited. They need to talk to their son and DIL ASAP.

    1. Bittergaymark says:

      The wording is confusing. Skyblossom interprets this a totally different way… But, like you, the tone made me feel the LW was somehow aghast the inlaws weren’t paying for EVERYTHING by themselves and had the audacity to ask the pearlclutchers to cohost…

      1. I actually thought the reverse, that the LW and his wife wanted to pay for everything, and were insulted that the in-laws wanted to help out and pay half. But maybe I’m wrong, now that I’m re-reading it, and seeing Skyblossom’s interpretation. The wording is definitely confusing!

    2. dinoceros says:

      I thought the LW assumed the in-laws would foot the whole bill, and then got offended to be asked to chip in. Possibly because the LW paid for the wedding? Or something.

  4. I’m baffled by LW1. A bris is a religious celebration. It’s not an invitation only event. I can’t imagine the baby’s grandparents would be turned away at the door. They should come, be gracious guests, and celebrate their grandson entering into the covenant. Mazal Tov!

    1. SpaceySteph says:

      It really depends. Sometimes the bris is done at the synagogue and the whole community is welcome. But frequently it is done in the home or a private event space. If at synagogue then it is not an invitation only event. But if it’s being held in a private space then showing up uninvited is just like crashing a wedding or inviting yourself to a dinner party.

      I’m really willing to bet though that regardless of which way they are doing it, the son and DIL are not trying to exclude the LW- they either assume they will attend and an invite isnt necessary or they don’t know her parents are pulling some kind of power play by trying to exclude them. A brief chat with son should clear everything up.

  5. ele4phant says:

    Yeah – color me confused. We’re you planning to host the bris celebration yourselves, and then refused to split and they undercut you (maybe?).

    I am not Jewish, so is it typical a) for the paternal parents (or anyone not the baby’s parents) to host and b) are they a substantial cost? Maybe I’m missing some context here that if I were Jewish I would understand the slights better.

    Aside from that, it’s not clear to me that you weren’t invited – definitely get confirmation – although you know for sure you weren’t giving hosting credit so that alone may be a big enough rub.

    But – if there are no such expectations then I kind of think maybe you’re both at fault. Obviously, it sucks that they cut you off from any hosting if that’s something you wanted to contribute to, but by the same token, were you initially planning to cut *them* out? That’d be kind of crappy on your part.

    1. LisforLeslie says:

      Often grandparents want to host but there’s no rule. A bris should be a low-key event. Bagels, lox, cream cheese, egg salad. Coffee and soda. You meet the baby, eat a bagel then hear the ear piercing scream of a child then see one or two of the men looking a little green around the gills.

      Jew’s don’t have baby showers. It’s a “don’t count your chicken before it hatches” superstition so it’s also a time when the parents receive baby gifts. For girls there is usually a naming ceremony.

      To me it just sounds like two families who don’t do things the same way. Speak to your son. Have him clear the air with the in-laws. If you show up to the house and are turned away it’s a shonda.

  6. Skyblossom says:

    I think LW1 is saying that they always paid for their own children and now expect their son and his wife to pay for the grandson. They are stunned that there is an expectation that they keep paying even though the son and DIL are in their forties and should be able to pay for their own child.

    The LW also says that the in-laws are controlling. It might seem nice that the parents are paying but that usually comes with string and is one way to control the son and the DIL and the grandson. I am working with someone who has been fighting this battle for twenty years. The concept of boundaries didn’t exist when she was married and the MIL was pushy, changing the venue, changing the bridesmaids dresses, etc. She is still pushy. Still trying to control everything. She buys things and then tries to push them on her son’s family so that she can control every party and every holiday. She tried to change the venue for the grandsons 18th birthday party and tried to change the decorations and tried to change the menu. The LW’s son needs to be aware that gifts often come with very controlling strings, such as your own parents not being given an invitation. The son and DIL would be much better off hosting their own party and being in control of their lives.

    1. Northern Star says:

      That’s how I read it, too. Regardless of what exactly happened: I can’t IMAGINE a situation where loving grandparents would be excluded, even if they declined to pick up the tab for a bris. I guess relatives got invites, so that’s why they know who’s hosting and what the invites say?

      They have to talk to their son. Immediately. If the son says there was a misunderstanding (maybe they assumed an invite wasn’t necessary, because they’ll obviously go), great! If they’re not invited because of a-hole in-laws (and there is zero excuse for excluding the other grandparents barring abuse or estrangement), that would definitely be hurtful and reveal a lot about their kid’s character. 🙁

      1. Skyblossom says:

        Their son and the DIL may not know that his parents didn’t receive an invitation. If they do know and are fine with it then that does show their kid’s character. If the son wasn’t raised by controling people he may not have any idea how other families pull these kinds of exclusionary things.

      2. Northern Star says:

        Yeah, you’re right! If they simply don’t show, it could hurt son and DIL’s feelings a lot (totally possible they don’t know about the missing invite).

  7. I hope that next time they don’t let themselves be surprised and have the foreskin to anticipate problems before they occur.

    1. One more remark like that and you’re cut off!

      1. These threats will leave me hiding like a turtle in its shell.

  8. Query to other MOT commenters: Has it been your experience that there are usually formal invitations to brises, with hosts, etc listed? It’s usually my experience that because of the accelerated time frame and the need for travel plans, people are usually notified by email, phone. I’ve been invited to like ten brises and never received a formal invitation of the kind they’re describing.

    It’s really strange how passive-aggressive they’re being. Call your kid. What happens if you don’t show up and they’re expecting you?

    1. LisforLeslie says:

      Agreed on the invite thing. You only have a few days so it’s usually a phone call or an email from a relative with “so and so had the baby. Everyone is healthy. They named him Hawthorne after father’s grandfather Hymie. The bris is on Saturday. They’re registered at Babies R Us under Rachel and Ross Rosenberg.”

    2. Iskhabibble says:

      I agree on the invite thing too; usually it’s just a mass e-mail, because it’s time sensitive. Honestly, a bris is about a baby joining the community, which is why usually everyone in the community is welcome! And I’m really surprised by the whole “paying for it” debacle–I’ve never been to a bris that wasn’t really simple. As Wendy says, you just need a mohel and bagels and lox.

  9. Juliecatharine says:

    LW1 be very aware that new babies, much like weddings, are prime time for emotional land mines and relationship-ending drama over stupid stuff that normally wouldn’t rise to that level of conflict. It’s (probably) not right but you need to tread carefully here or risk a major breach in the relationship with your son and new grandson. Leave your pride out of it, trust me.

    1. for_cutie says:

      I agree. These are new parents we are talking about who are exhausted and managing a huge life change. I have no idea why a phone call from the in-laws has set off the LW so much, and dredged up all of this old baggage (…but we paid for the wedding 15 years ago!). I bet the son and DIL were just relieved to have someone else planning the details, I would be.

  10. I also can’t believe that LW1 and his wife are freaking out, in tears, and writing letters to advice columns rather than PICKING UP THE DAMN PHONE and calling their son! This is a VERY easily solved problem. FFS.

  11. LW1: Everything is unclear in your post, and probably in your mind. This is a drama full of misunderstandings and indirect talks. Just speak to your son, and share the costs with the other grandparents if necessary, or offer to bring wine or whatever is useful to the party. Don’t get so upset on the basis of assumptions.

  12. LW1 – This reminds me of why so many movies bother me. I find myself yelling at the screen “Just TALK to each other!” Here is my concern. You have already gotten mad and had this fight in your head before you have confronted anyone. Before you call your son, make sure you get yourself in the right frame of mind where you aren’t assuming too much. All you know right now is that you refused to contribute money and are not considered a host. That is all. Just give everyone the benefit of the doubt until you have more information.

  13. dinoceros says:

    I would emphasize the part about finding out if you were invited or not. You talk about this one conversation you had with your son’s in-laws but make no mention (that I recall) of actually talking to your son and daughter-in-law. Have you spoken to them or asked? To be honest, I don’t think I’d ever send a formal invitation to anything to my parents. They’d think I was super weird. The way I see these situations is either that you have a history of receiving this type of behavior from someone and should expect some and drama, or if you’ve never encountered it before, then you should probably not jump to conclusions and assume the worst of them. And I’m not sure why you’re mad that they told everyone they are throwing it, since you presumably declined to throw it with them.

  14. LW1: I’m not sure why your first thought wouldn’t be to just call up your kid and see if there were a miss-understanding? Why is your first thought that you are being ousted? Do you know have a healthy enough relationship with you son that you can just call and ask these things? I think that maybe the only actual problem you have here. If you did refuse to pay of course they aren’t going to list you as being the hosts.

  15. We didn’t know if we were having a boy or a girl, so I was tentatively planning to have a bris right up until the moment my husband said “It’s a girl!” and then we both cried. Honestly, now that I know what its like to have a newborn… I’m glad I had a girl because even the thought of putting on a bris exhausts me.

    LW had a son (and I think must be Jewish or I feel like that’d be something useful for context here) so I’m sure if she thinks about it she can remember what its like to be sore (at 8 days post partum I was still taking 4 advil every 6 hours, occasionally crying when I stood up wrong, and had to take a break halfway up the stairs) and exhausted and overwhelmed and then on top of that having to plan a bris. Recommend she channels those feelings and approaches her son and DIL with all the empathy and tenderness she can possibly muster here. Maybe they abdicated planning to her parents because they were willing and far more able to do the work. My parents likely would have done the same. I mean we would have paid for it, but I was so not in a state to be calling caterers.

    1. Avatar photo Dear Wendy says:

      Omg, we had a bris for Jackson and I remember thinking what a cruel tradition it is for the MOM (nevermind the baby) to have to host essentially a family party a week after giving birth.

    2. LW – seriously read this! It is so true that having a newborn is so overwhelming.

  16. You should have waited until he was in his thirties like Abraham did with Isaac.

    1. Iskhabibble says:

      Actually, Isaac got his bris at 8 days old which is where the law comes from! Ishamel was old enough to choose to have a bris, which is why Muslim boys tend to be older when they get cut. The whole Abraham sacrificing Isaac thing is unrelated to the bris (although they both take place in parasha Vayeira) and, as you pointed out, happened 30 years later. (And yes, it’s super weird.)

      1. For some reason I had this vague recollection from day school that after the aborted sacrifice Abraham had pulled out the ole wire stripper to execute his covenant with G-d , but I see that you are correct.

  17. Telegrammar says:

    Maybe I’m being slow this morning but when I read this:
    “[They] called my wife to tell us that they would like us to split the expenses for the party. We were dumbfounded! In our 47 years of marriage and many events, we never heard of such a thing, and we always put on family events ourselves for our children.”

    Were the in-laws throwing the party originally and then suddenly asked LW to split expenses with them or was LW originally hosting and then suddenly the in-laws asked to split expenses with them over the party (so they could be considered hosts)?

    1. I think that they thought that it was the responsibility of son and DIL to put on the bris for *their* own child rather than rely on grandparents, as grandparents had done for their own children.

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