Aunt feels stifled by kids’ rigid schedules

Q: My husband has three siblings and we are the youngest couple, and the only people without kids. My nieces and nephews are 6, 5, 3 and a baby. I have a small family and no experience with kids. When we all get together, the schedule my brothers- and sisters-in-law impose seems strict. The kids have to eat and go to bed at specific times, and everything we do is centered on this. When we are with them, it feels rigid and it dampens my enjoyment of spending time together. My husband thinks we should go along with it. I think we shouldn’t be expected to all the time, and it’s reasonable that the occasional outing or event isn’t so rigid. Next time we all see each other, I want to suggest going with the flow more. My husband said if I wanted to say something I should, but he is on record that it’s a bad idea. I don’t see what’s so bad about mixing styles of outings. I don’t think their having kids means they get to dictate the way the thing goes for everybody. Should I bring this up? Is there a good way to do it? I just think it would be fun to relax more.


A: If your definition of “fun” includes young children who are overtired, over-stimulated and hungry, and brothers- and sisters-in-law who, try as they might, will never forget the day their sibling-by-marriage with zero kid experience tried to tell them how to raise their kids, then, yes, you should go for it.

Trust me. How you phrase it won’t matter.

I’m a youngest, too, was an auntie for years before I had kids, and spent vacations and holidays under the thumb of 40-pound dictators. It’s confining, yes.

But tight schedules are important for keeping kids from shrieking the benevolence out of those dictatorships. If you think eating dinner at 5:30 p.m. puts a damper on things, then try enjoying your twilight dinner against the backdrop of a tantrum in three-part disharmony. Alone, as parents calm down their kids.

If you haven’t yet, then you might have those so-rigid parents to thank for it.

Where you’re correct is in recognizing that your schedule needn’t be centered on the kids. If you want to eat later or sightsee through nap time, then do so — independently. You’re tethered to their schedule, yes, but only at times you agree to be tethered to the rest of the group.

Hug your husband, too. Wise man.

Email Carolyn Hax at, or chat with her online at noon each Friday at

Washington Post Writers Group