Here's a holiday surprise that no one wants - an uninvited child at an adult party.

Here's a holiday surprise that no one wants - an uninvited child at an adult party.

Bringing kids to an adult gathering is not only rude to the host or hostess, it's unfair to the other guests who may feel as though they have to act differently in the presence of children, party and etiquette specialists say.

It's also not fair to guests who made arrangements for the care of their children. "It's not acceptable to show up at any social event with an uninvited infant or child," said Cathi Fallon, the director of the Etiquette Institute of Columbus, Cincinnati and Dayton. "If you can't arrange for childcare, you politely decline the invitation."

Take your cue from the invitation, Fallon said. If it is addressed to the family or lists the names of the children, they are invited. If it's addressed to the adults in the home, they are the only ones invited, she explained.

Other clues as to whether an event is kid-friendly are the time and place of the event, added Emilie Duncan of Emilie Duncan Event Planning in Columbus. A party at an art gallery or hotel ballroom, or something late in the evening is probably intended for grown-ups.

If you have any doubts about who's invited to the event, call the host, she said. When you make the call, pose the question in such a way that it does not sound like you are trying to secure an invitation for the children. "Let the hostess know it's okay if they're not invited," Duncan said.

If the answer is no, do not try to pressure the host into making an exception, she said. Remember, an event intended for adults is not likely to be fun for children.

It's up to the hostess to determine what type of party she wishes to hold, Fallon said. "There's nothing wrong with not inviting children," she said. If you're uncomfortable attending without your children, don't go, Duncan added. "There's no mandate that says you have to go to every party to which you get invited."

Tips for hostesses wishing to have a kid-free event:

Carefully word and address the party invitations so parents know the event is for adults only. Stand your ground if parents try to include their kids. Tell them you understand their predicament and will miss them at the event. Send invitations early enough for parents to find a babysitter for the event.
Still not convinced that no one wants kids at an adult party? Google the topic and read the rants. Here are a few of our favorites:

"Most parents think their kids are the cutest (I know I did!), but they have to realize that other people don't see it that way. I don't think people have a right to inflict their kids on other people. If you can't afford a babysitter, stay home!" "I have been to parties in the past where there are always the people who think that no matter what, their children should be at a party. It's the one couple who never seems to notice that no one else brought children." "I am kind of aggravated that I can't host a party that is nice without it being suggested that I take on everyone's children, too." "I think it's ridiculous to expect you to change the tone of your event because the guests aren't willing to get a babysitter. Surely their kids don't go everywhere with them, and surely they wish to go out from time to time alone, like on a date, so they probably could use this as an excuse to do just that."
Don't have a babysitter? Use a little creativity!

Here are some options for finding child care.

Consider starting a babysitting co-op, in which parents take turns watching each other's children for free, suggested Julie Yeater, who organized one in her Dublin neighborhood. For every hour of babysitting a family completes, they earn one hour of free child care, she said.

Many parents like using the co-op because they don't have to spend money on date night child care, she said. "It's a big cost savings." Co-ops also are nice for parents who don't have family in town to watch their children or who are reluctant to leave their kids with a teenager, she said. Tip: Host regular co-op playgroups so children and parents become familiar with one another.

If you aren't able to start a formal co-op, find one other family to trade off child care with, Yeater suggested.
Tip: Choose a friend who has similar-age children and your kids will likely look forward to the play date.

Use a babysitting or nanny service. There are businesses that find and screen sitters for a fee, said event planner Emilie Duncan.
Tip: Ask if the company has sitters who specialize in working with infants, toddlers or older children.

Ask people who know your child if they babysit. Preschool teachers, teenage children of friends or co-workers are all potential sitters.
Tip: Invite the new sitter over for a short play date while you are home so you can watch how he or she interacts with your children.


Melissa Kossler Dutton has worked as a reporter for more than a decade. She's a frequent contributor to a variety of Ohio publications. She lives in Bexley with her husband and two sons.