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May 2011
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Ys [userpic]

Spawned by a conversation with my husband (fenton, who may make a poll of his own, he's playing with his new permanent account) and his sister (zylch, who doesn't (yet) have a paid account and so just has a post on the subject).

Hypothetical situation: You throw an annual holiday party for your colleagues, who range in age from 23 to near on retiring. This is the only social event that you host/attend in a given year (no, not even having friends over for dinner or movies). You have two children whose ages range from 3 to 10 during the years that you do this.

ETA: It is generally polite to ask one way or another, when you're not the one hosting. In this poll I'm not talking about failing to ask or making blind assumptions, I'm asking, "What's the general cultural assumption/norm in your world?" At one point in the poll I made a comment about asking first; what I meant there was really something like, "It varies so much that I have to ask every time or I wouldn't know," or something along those lines, not "I ask to be polite." Just FYI.

Poll #511085 Parties and Children

How do you deal with your children during the party?

They're treated just like anyone else who's attending the party.
Allow the children to be present until their normal bedtime, at which point they are put to bed.
Feed them dinner early, present them briefly to your colleagues, and then send them to go play quietly in their rooms. (Think Sound of Music.)
Don't allow them to meet the guests at all. Demand that they play quietly in their rooms the whole time. If possible, pretend that they don't exist. (Think Harry Potter.)
Something else. (see below)

If not one of the above, how do you deal with it?

Do you expect the same basic convention when you go to a party someone else is hosting?

Yes, but I ask first because it varies in my social group
No, most of the parties I go to have different standards
Something else. (see below)

Other parties-and-children expectations:

If you have kids, do you expect to bring them with you to most parties? Do you expect other people to bring their kids to most parties you go to?

Yes, it's rare that I go to a party where children aren't expected
Yes, but there are generally arrangements made there for the kids seperate from the adults
No, parties are for getting away from the kids
Something else. (see below)

Yet more other parties-and-children expectations:

Do these expectations change significantly in your mind based on whether the party/gathering is "formal" or "informal"? (For these purposes, assume "formal" means "the most formal thing I ever bother to go to/host"...if you don't ever go to White Tie dinners, then don't answer as to what you would expect there. This is about what you generally do/assume/experience.)

Yes, very different assumptions between formal and informal gatherings
Only subtle or occasional differences
No, not really all that different
Something else. (see below)

What else about formality?

I'm sure I forgot some important bits. Feel free to tell me in comments.

Current Mood: curiouscurious

I didnt take the poll but I will say that I am increasingly irritated by people who make *assumptions* about bringing their kids to things that are *clearly* not intended for them.

I am going out next Tuesday to dinner with some friends, at a restaurant chosen because of the quality of their food and margaritas. It's not cheap. Someone I dont know, but who knows someone *else* who is going (and hence was invited by that person) just assumed their four year old was included in the invite. *THAT* irks me. It *should* be pretty clear by the nature of the event that this isn't something one necessarily wants kids to attend.

But for some reason this concept sailed right over their heads.

I agree, but that's a fairly different phenomenon than what I'm talking about. It's always polite to ask, but there are generally cultural assumptions about what the answers will normally be. (There are always exceptions in any culture, of course, but I'm mostly looking at the norms.)

There's a reason for this questioning, of course. *grin*

I do not think there was a single failed assumption here. I think there were two. You are assuming something is obvious that clearly wasn't. They are asssuming someone is welcome who clearly wasn't. Neither party specified kid details in communication, so I hold both responsible, possibly the organizer of the event most responsible as they were presumed to be giving details out as appropriate. Not more so if there wasn't a concrete organizer and it was more of a friend invites friend who invites... sort of situation.

I think it's a damn sad hting, personally that anyone is expected to leave their kids out of their life as their default based on some sort of guess at activity cost, attire, etc.

How bout *adult evening*? With copious drinking?

Had I been the one to invite this person I would have made it quite clear, but it was exactly as you said-- friend invited friend. I just really did not anticipate this being a kid-friendly event, and in fact, it probably *wont* be, whether one is present or not.

"Adult evening" doesn't mean "no kid" evening to me. It means "not chucky cheese, nor the ritz". As for alcohol, I think kids should be exposed to healthy drinking behaviors. Kids in Europe are, and most of them don't have the issues we do in teens in this country.

They should have asked about the kid, yes. But your friend should have specified, too. It is a problem if someone drunk drives the kid home. But for all I know from the context, this couple may not drink, but may not want to hide drinking from their child, so they do not encourage its mysterious tantalizing lack later.

My point isn't that the 4 year old _belonged_ there. It is that there is more in heaven and earth than is dreamt of in my philosophy. I loathe judgements based on assumptions of "the obvious". I grew up with ADD and can tell you there is a whole lot less that is obvious than people imagine. Most days, the overwhelming majority of "the obvious" wasn't, and I got that taken out on me in hostility about assumptions other people made.

Were I in your shoes, I would feel silly feeling annoyed, when I made a choice to let someone else invite random people, I showed up, I stayed when the kid was there, etc.

For all I know, they are using their kid as a way of saying "Hey, I don't have the balls to say it, but I am really uncomfortable with a rowdy night out, and my husband is an alcoholic, so this kid is sort of our safety net, the foil that functions as the damper on the evening."

My point is that I don't think you have much ground for negative judgement if you did not specify no kids, cannot know what was going on in their minds, and aren't willing to say: Hey, good to meet you, but next time we should communicate better about the cutie there, because I think our signals got crossed and I find it hard to relax around kids when that's the point of the outing. No biggie this time, but next time we should just hammer out the specific so everyone is consistent on the expectations. Suzy was a doll, though, and I enjoyed meeting her. Or, hey, saw you were planning to bring the sprout, and I wanted to make sure we were on the same page about expectations. I was planning on this being a sort of rowdy night out drinking, and I don't want Suzy to wind up in a situation that makes everyone uncomfortable or exposes her to things you didn't expect. Should we plan the rowdy for another time, or were you okay with the little one being part of it, or...?

Were I in your shoes, I would be frustrated with being too uncomfortable to say something, instead of them for not really much wanting to leave their kid in the clutches of some kid who might well be the next unibomber or sex offender, about which they would be petrified all night, causing them to be unable to relax and wishing to leave to get home to make sure the child is still breathing, has all its appropriate parts and none of them appear to have been violated. Many parents consider a night out relaxing to mean it's informal enough that the kid isn't a burden if they would be less petrified and wound up with them there. For probably most parents at some stage (and a 4 year old little girl is a big stage) they are terrified of leaving them. Many parents find it damn hard to relax where a babysitter is mentioned.

And I have heard a lot of the horror stories from parents who called our nanny agency in tears telling me about the nightmares they'd lived through by other agency's placements. I don't blame them for wanting their kid with them. Hell, I am not sure I would blame them for deliberately trying to sneak the kid into the evening knowing you didn't really want her around, in the hope that no one would say anything and it would turn out okay, and they wouldn't have the huge expense and fear factor as part of the night.

I mean, I would expect something different from myself personally, but I have seen the terror in the eyes of too many parents to really be willing to say they shouldn't try the slightly smarmy if the payoff in safety is worth that cost, and it is a situation where the other adults should be able to defend their boundaries if it really is a violation. I would rather a million 4 year olds than the stories I have heard or been a part of.

This seems much simpler to me than all that. When someone invites someone, they invite *THAT* person. Not anyone else. One individual. Anything else is generally said - You and your boyfriend, you and your spouse, you and your family...

The default is: The person who was invited is the one who was invited. If I want to bring someone with me I *ask*. "Would you mind if..." "Does this invitation include..." It's about precision in language.

People have excellent reasons for wanting to bring their kids. But the point is that the kids *are not invited by default any more than anyone else on planet earth*, and if that's a problem, then people can *ask*, or they can *stay home*.

The "safety net" for "my husband is an alcoholic, etc." Is NOT "I'll bring my kid. It's "I'm gonna sit this one out." Anything else puts *your* problem onto *everyone else* at the gathering. No one will fault you if you say "Hey, listen, I gotta stay home with the kids. Maybe next time." But I promise you there's gonna be an issue if the kid starts throwing a tantrum in that restaurant. Guaranteed. It's much easier to find a way to say "Hey Id rather not do this, thanks anyway" than it is to come up with the safety net theory.

Whereas this isnt such a big deal(though I am annoyed) in this case I assure you it becomes a HUGE deal at events like weddings, when people assume that the invitiation that *clearly* states "X and Y" includes X, Y and four kids.

The choices were not "bring child" or ""throw child to the wolves." The other options included *not going at all*, or at least *asking* if it was okay. Again,-- the default is not "everyone." the default is "who was invited."

I would rather a million 4 year olds than the stories I have heard or been a part of.
And I would rather that the parents *just stayed home with their kids* rather than risk the horror stories.

"This seems much simpler to me than all that."

I understand that you feel that way. I dissagree with the implied statement "This is obvious" which is where "This seems simple" comes from.

"When someone invites someone, they invite *THAT* person. Not anyone else. One individual. Anything else is generally said - You and your boyfriend, you and your spouse, you and your family...The default is: The person who was invited is the one who was invited. If I want to bring someone with me I *ask*. "Would you mind if..." "Does this invitation include..." It's about precision in language."

I am glad that your world contains such clear rules for you. Having easily available rules and defaults that seem obvious to you probably makes it much easier to function without having to be much much more concretely explicit about your speech or constantly aware of the liklihood that there is probably something you're fucking up somewhere because you don't get the rules. I wish that it worked that way for all of us. For many of us your "default" might as well be advanced physics in terms of how obvious, simple or default it is to us.

You are more than welcome to believe we all come with this set of defaults, but I expect that you will be consistently dissapointed over these "simple" assumptions that were assumed to be understood from words left out of sentences at some point that would have specified.

The rest of the detail was getting the point lost, so I will leave it out here. The reason I proposed it was to illustrate that to most of us your simple obvious rule might not actually be, and your opinion of how they absolutely should handle things might well be vastly different than theirs.

"Whereas this isnt such a big deal(though I am annoyed) in this case I assure you it becomes a HUGE deal at events like weddings, when people assume that the invitiation that *clearly* states "X and Y" includes X, Y and four kids."

See, whereas I consider it rude to assume people's families are left out of wedding attendance without making a reason explicit in the invite, too, because I know a lot of people who have lost friends because they didn't come when they assumed that the spud wasn't invited. They did not go or send a gift as they were not truly welcome at the event if their whole family wasn't. Had they been welcome, their children would not have been excluded, to their minds, and this eventually caused friendships to fail because the marrying party resented them not attending or sending a gift when they meant the whole family to be welcome and expected their support, while the guest felt specifically excluded by not having it addressed and not wanting to be rude by asking to bring them when they clearly weren't wanted and that would be putting the couple on the spot. Seemed like a damn stupid end to a friendship to me over different "obvious" meanings of a few little words and vastly different beliefs about what "being rude" meant on the subject. I am sure such assumptions have cost many other people relationships they valued because everyone considered something to be obvious and simple. Personally I have enough problems maintaining relationships that I find that a completely absurd way to lose people, so I encourage them that I will not be annoyed at wrong guesses and will just solve them for next time instead of feeling justified myself for annoyance that they didn't accurately read my mind and share my every word definition.

To add even more information to this:

I posted the restaurant menu and a review in a link, where it also gives a list of criteria on how the restaurant was rated. One of those criteris was:

Good for kids: No.

You would be wrong about how often I am disappointed by my set of defaults. In fact the reason I'm as annoyed as I am is that this hasnt happened to me in *years*. While I understand your point, I think you are speaking from a position that is more exception than rule. Since I dont know the person who did this (not invited by me, but by a friend), I was suprised by this as *no one* I would have invited would have made this assumption. In fact, as you can see, anathemad, who has two children herself, was also invited to this event, and never thought for a moment that she would bring her children. It's also why she's *not attending*, which I totally understand, and I will find a way to see her (with her kids) some other time.

Re: weddings-

The person paying the bills makes the rules. They are *not* obligated in any way , shape or form to invite children to an event where they have to pay that much money per head, regardless of the age of the person at the table. They don;t need *any* reason other than "No. We don't want this." It's *their* wedding. *They* make the rules. Guests are certainly welcome to say "sorry, can't make it." which was my point all along in this.

Do you know that they reviewed the menu? I wouldn't have bothered to try and if I had, would not have probably read through the justifications for ratings.

"You would be wrong..."

I do not mean you would be dissapointed millions of times about the issue of kids welcomness based on certain word combinations. I mean that the entire genre of "manner rules" that are presumed obvious are guarenteed dissapointments eventually with someone, somewhere. I am not saying my kid assumptions are "standard". I am saying that there is no such thing as a homogeneous 100% of the time reaction to anything when it comes to human behavior, and that I can promise for every manner rule anyone on this planet has, there is at least one person who totally is ignorant of the rule. Therefore in my life it is insane to bother to be annoyed that they didn't share my rule instead of just confronting and resolving the issue going forward.

It is clear that this new person is not a part of your relatively homogeneous (in terms of manners and their associated behaviors) friend set, but you knew that when the person was invited by someone else. So why expect them to be? This is like a game of telephone and then getting annoyed at it.

Julie: Hey, I am having a pink party, wanna come?
Jenny: Sure, can I invite Susan?
Julie: Sure.
Jenny: Hey, this friend of mine is having a party, Susan, and I want you to come. Can you?
Susan: Hey, cool. Sure.
Susan: Good lord, she's a psycho. Why on earth did Jenny want to introduce me to her? Note to self, do not trust Jenny's judgement of people.

Holding people to rules they are ignorant of, whether because it was left out of a relay or they came from a different planet or for any other reason, seems pretty unproductive as responses go. That, really, is all.

"The person paying the bills makes the rules. They are *not* obligated..."

Absolutely. To me, though, it's a stupid reason to refuse to be clear to people with families, especially considering I may not invite a baby that will be born by the time of the wedding, but who I could not possibly anticipate in making out invitations, and whose existance would prevent the mother's attendance if not invited. It's cool by me to say "Hey, guys, expensive formal event with no kids, please. We understand if that doesn't work for you and respect that, but need to keep control of the finances on this thing."

I would vastly prefer that to them thinking they're not welcome, that it is rude to ask, or a million other things that might cause the failure of someone being there who I wanted to share the day with. You are welcome to say nothing more in your wedding invite than "Somewhere, some day, something will happen in a white dress", but I think not many people would show. So each person picks a threshold of useful data to impart. What you pick will exclude some people you didn't want to exclude if you just pick the words based on "obvious" instead of "as precise as I can figure out how to be". That might be fine with you. It's not fine with me.

"They don't need *any* reason other than "No. We don't want this.""

They can have the rule that everyone there has to wear a lamp shade on their head, for all I care. But if they make the rule and assume that everyone understands that from saying "There will be light" in the invite, or because you are in Germany and that is standard practice across all of Germany, they won't have all the guests meet the rule. It would be much more effective to say "please do not bring your children" instead of being irritated that they didn't know they must wear a lampshade because they came from Norway.

This is about communication and resolving conflicting assumptions and being as explicit as possible, not weddings or standard kid rules. You could send ten people the same one sentance and at least one of them would get something totally different than what you meant. You then have a choice between being annoyed that they can't read, or explaining yourself. To me, being annoyed is unproductive, pointless pettiness instead of a resolution that would allow positive emotions for and from all parties instead.

I dont *CARE* if they read the menu-- MY job was to provide the information. You can lead a horse to water.... But if the horse is being shown where the water is, and still isnt drinking it, and there's no other water around, I still call it a stupid horse.

I think the real part where we differ is that you are much more easygoing about what happens on your time/money than I am. Just that simple. That's not a value judgement. It's an observation.

There's no particular way to "be productive" in this situation as I have no intention of making this particular person part of my social circle anyway. The only thing I can do is realize that when dealing with this specific *macro* group of people that I do in fact *have* to spell it out, which I frankly resent, but I will do it anyway because it's better than the alternatives.

My larger complaint in *all* of this is that the polite thing to do is *ask*, especially when you're being invited by someone who is *not* the person organizing the event. Had someone asked me, I'd have said no.

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(no subject) - (Anonymous)   Expand  

Er...why is the choice between agency babysitter horror and bringing kids to an adult party? What happened to simply not going to the party? (Not to mention that there often exists other options than agency babysitters -- family friends, relatives, other parents you trade off with. Or do what we do in my family, and the parents trade off which parent stays home with the kids and which goes out?)

"Er...why is the choice between agency babysitter horror and bringing kids to an adult party?"

It isn't. That misses the point.

"What happened to simply not going to the party?"

Great question. I could propose 30 possibilities as literal answers, but they too would be beside the point.

My point was that people who hold "to do x is obviously rude and innapropriate behavior" assumptions are likely to create a lot of dissapointment for themselves when they get peeved at people over minutia instead of just assuming everyone means well and didn't have the same set of rules, and resolving the problem for the future.

I'm just responding to your anecdote about people being terrified of leaving the kid with an agency sitter as a reason for bringing a kid to a party. I don't believe that's a valid reason. There may be plenty of valid reasons, but that's not one.

No, but IMHO it's a great reason to eliminate "I go and leave them at home" as an answer, and leave yourself with the choice, "I go and take them" or "I stay home."

Which was, as far as I could tell, her point.