Dear Rachel,

My grandson is in a play with his kindergarten class and very much wants me to come. I had been planning on making the trip, even though it is quite a ways away, but just the other day I found out that my aunt, who is turning ninety, is having a birthday party that day. I told my son that I won't be able to make my grandson's play, and he is really upset with me. But I feel that I will have many occasions to do things with my grandson (and he does not even have a speaking part in the play) and very few, if any, more things to do for my aunt. My aunt, unfortunately, does not really recall who I am because of her age, but I feel it is important that I be there. Am I making a mistake?

Concerned Grandma

Dear Concerned Grandma,

Firstly, you are incredibly fortunate that you have two such wonderful things to choose from: the birthday of an aunt who has been blessed with living such a full and long life, and the play of your young grandson. Now, the question of course, is which one do you choose?

And while it would be great if it was so clear-cut about which one to attend, in this case it isn't. No matter what you ultimately decide (and this is something that really only you can decide), you will miss out on something else that is important. It is easy for me, when not involved in this situation, to think I would know what I would choose, but it is an opinion; there is no ultimate right or wrong here.

However, I think the best way of making this decision is to ask yourself: who will miss you more if you are not there? You wrote that your aunt does not even really remember who you are. If that is the case, why do you feel the need to go? Do you want to be there to support her and to be there for the other family members who will be in attendance? Do you hope that if you go she will know and understand that you are there? Clearly, because of her age, I am sure you are concerned that there may not be so many other opportunities to celebrate with her, and that is a valid concern. However, at the same time, is it so essential that you actually be at party, or more that you make the effort to spend time with her?

On the other hand, there is no question that your grandson will miss you if you are not there. This play, while truly nothing important in the scheme of things, is incredibly important to his world and his life at this point in time. It does not matter if he has the lead role or just stands in the back, this is a major thing for a five-year-old and he wants his grandma there to share it with him.

The other consideration is that you will be able to explain to those at the birthday party why you are not able to be there. They, as adults, will understand. Your grandson, however, is just a child who will not be able to comprehend why you cannot be in attendance. Yet, on the flip side, this could be a very important lesson about understand the needs of other people and recognizing that it is also very important to visit and be there for an elderly relative.

The main difference seems to be that your grandson's play cannot be rescheduled, and more than him wanting to spend time with you, he wants you to see him in the play. Your aunt, on the other hand, should be visited and you should spend time with her. But must that be specifically at her birthday party, or is it possible for you to spend time with her before the party or after? Can you arrange a time to visit her and speak to her and maybe do something just with the two of you for her birthday? Chances are that if your whole extended family and friends will be at the party, she will be too overwhelmed anyway to really notice who is or isn't there.

If you do choose to be with your aunt, then speak to your son and see if the play can be videotaped. Maybe you can take a trip to visit your grandson right after and watch the video with him and have him act out the scenes and sing you the songs. Maybe there is a way of doing something special with him while explaining to him who your aunt is and about her life and why she is so special and why you felt it was important to be with her on her birthday.

Ultimately, as you struggle with this decision, recognize that you are blessed to have a grandson who wants to spend time with you and have you in his life. You are blessed to have a son who cares that you are a part of your grandson's life. And you are blessed to have an aunt that is still celebrating birthdays. May you always be blessed to have situations where you are choosing between two joyous and exciting occasions!

Rachel