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posted: 7/10/2011 12:01 AM

Aunt finds inner pettiness over godparent choice

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Q. We just got an invitation to the baptism of my seventh nephew on my husband's side. Once again we were not considered as godparents. I feel snubbed.

My husband and I are members of a church of the same denomination as his siblings, but a more liberal synod. In my family, as in my husband's, naming someone as a godparent is a way to forge a stronger connection between an aunt and uncle (or family friend) and a specific child. I feel like the refusal of my husband's siblings to regard us as spiritual equals is a way of pushing us further from their kids' lives.

I have no desire to go to this umpteenth baptism, but that feels like a petty reaction. Is this a legitimate snub? Should I talk to my sister-in-law about it? My husband thinks this is no big deal, and would still like his brother and sister to be the godparents for our future (hypothetical) offspring.

A. Since you regard being a godparent as a way to forge a stronger connection with your nephew, and since you want badly to be his godparent, you're saying you want badly to forge a stronger connection to your nephew. 1 + 1 (equal sign) 2.

Boycotting the baptism in a wounded huff would be petty, yes, and that's the main reason to suck it up and go -- but you also need to go because nothing would undermine your own purpose more tidily than staying home.

Your hurt feelings sound real, painful and justified, and exclusion is a big deal, even when it's inadvertent or not about you, as it may be here. Regardless, your husband's approach better serves your needs. Patch your ego, open your heart to all seven nephews, and go.

Q. My granddaughter will be having her second birthday soon and my daughter would like me to come to the party. Reasonable request, except it is hard for me emotionally to deal with my ex.

We divorced 15 years ago after I confronted her with evidence of an affair. She confessed to three affairs in a span of five years. I suspect there was also one going on with one of my best friends. Of course there were denials and lies. She ended up marrying that friend about a year after we divorced.

At the time my daughter was 14 and I didn't want to subject her to a custody battle, so I moved out and relocated close to her. I remarried two years later and left the area. I have since moved back to within an hour's drive of my daughter.

When she asked if I would come to the party, I said I wasn't in a good place emotionally to attend with my ex/her mom present and asked if we could celebrate her birthday separately.

My daughter was disappointed. She asked: "Does this mean you won't come to any events?" I told her I would think about the birthday invitation.

I know being an adult means I should be able to put this behind me. But, it is hard for me to feel that I can be part of one big happy family, pretend nothing happened, and interact with my ex and my one-time friend. Is that an unreasonable request?

A. What is this, Suck It Up and Go Day?

Your daughter isn't inviting you to "pretend nothing happened." That's a leap you made to justify not going.

Please instead take the invitation at face value. It's appropriate that both maternal grandparents be included.

Since it wouldn't be appropriate for those grandparents to hijack the party by hurling insults at (or pointedly ignoring) each other, please also see the invitation as motivation to find a way to be civil to your ex, and her current, that is neither forced, sarcastic nor phony.

Try this: 15 years after the fact, these two are more strangers to you than anything else. They hurt you terribly, yes, but probably through their own selfishness more than any animus toward you. Perhaps they deserve each other.

And you deserve a place at your grandkid's party, arguably more than they do.

You don't say whether you've dodged your ex all this time -- surely there have been graduations, at least? -- but if you have been boycotting your daughter's milestones since the late 1990s just to avoid your ex, then please go to the nearest mirror (I'll wait ...), look yourself in the eye, and say: "Seriously?"

Too mean. How 'bout: "I can do better."

Specifically, you can realize you're more capable of complicated emotional transactions than you think, and accept the invitation. If it will help temper your dread and/or pre-empt a scene, arrange to meet your ex-wife and ex-friend for coffee beforehand so you can practice operating in genial-detachment mode. Talk about your kid, your grandkid, the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow, whatever your courage demands.

• Email Carolyn at tellme@washpost.com, or chat with her online at 11 a.m. Central time each Friday at www.washingtonpost.com.

$PHOTOCREDIT_ON$ 2011 The Washington Post$PHOTOCREDIT_OFF$

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