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Family Dining, Lazy Susan Style

I have a question about etiquette at Chinese restaurants that use a lazy susan in the center of the table.

For Mother’s Day, my sister and her husband invited family members to celebrate the occasion at a Chinese restaurant for dinner. There were a total of 12 of us seated at a large round table. at 12 o’clock and going clockwise, the seating was as follows: (this will be important later on). My brother in law, my sister, my father, my brother-in-law, my other sister, a 10 year old niece, myself, my aunt, my mother, a teenage niece, another teenage niece, and my 9 year old nephew. My sister and brother-in-law who hosted ordered 10 or 12 dishes. There was more than plenty of food for everyone. The restaurant served all the dishes pretty much at the same time, onto a lazy susan, which was centered in the middle of the round table.

As is customary, we each served ourselves a small portion, being careful not to move the lazy susan only until someone was finished serving themselves. So here is where the problem started. The lazy susan was being moved counter clockwise (yes, I am aware that the custom is clockwise, but my family beats to its own drum sometimes), and I would see my mom serve herself, then my aunt who was next to my mom. Since I was seated next to my aunt, I would obviously be next. However, my sister who was seated on the opposite side of my niece, who was to the right of next to me, kept reaching over me, just after my aunt finished serving herself, and taking the serving spoons from the dish in front of me, and serving my 10 year old niece, then serving herself, and then moving the lazy susan, back to me, finally allowing me to serve myself. When I was done, the lazy susan would skip along past my sister, who already served herself. Essentially the lazy susan would rotate to each person, my sister would jump the line in front of me, and once she was done serving her child and herself, she would either move the food back to me, or I would wait another full rotation until the dish was in front of me again. This happened over several rotations, before I finally called foul, and said something along the lines of, “Hey, the food will rotate to you, please just wait.” She got very angry at me, and told me the children should be served first, and her 10 year old daughter (my niece, who I love!), needed help, and of course I was being unreasonable and selfish, how dare I serve myself before the children.

We are a Chinese family, so it’s not like we have never used a lazy susan ever before. I don’t have any children, nor am I married, so my sister tried to further prove her point by pointing out that she is taking care of her children. Again, so obvious, and how could I not see this, except for the fact that I had no children of my own, and could not grasp this concept. Please help put this in perspective for me. What is the correct etiquette here? I feel that my sister not only displayed terrible table manners, but she is teaching my 10 year old niece bad table manners by allowing her to have a “me first” attitude, and not being accountable to customary manners that guide the entire table. Was I so wrong to put a halt to the herky jerky motions of the lazy susan my sister created? I tried not to ruin the dinner for everyone as the spat escalated, so I pretty much just stopped talking, and seethed inside.

(I also want to mention that my sister generally has decent manners, and her children usually say please and thank you, and are polite. Also, my other sister did not commandeer the lazy susan for her 9 year old son.)    0512-14

So you are at 6 o’clock position, niece is at 5 and sister is at 4 and the lazy susan is moving counter clockwise.   Your sister is reaching across her daughter to get to the food in front of you instead of waiting for the lazy susan to rotate to be in front of her daughter which what I would have expected to be done.  It’s fine for her to serve her child before herself and to do so when the food choices rotate into a position that corresponds to their seating location.   But had you considered that by her moving the lazy susan two spaces back and forth, it is actually imposing on everyone else at the table? It’s not just skipping you, that particularly dish at a specific position on the lazy susan is skipping others as well.  I don’t think your sister was specifically being rude to you and I suspect the rest of the family was inconvenienced by the erratic movement of the lazy susan but chose to just grin and bear it.


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  • just4kicks May 15, 2014, 4:38 am

    When my kids were too small to help themselves at buffets and pot licks etc., My hubby and I would always serve them first, then make our plates. This was because they ate slower than anyone else, would skip their veggies if it were up to them, and so they wouldn’t leave a huge mess for others. Maybe this was your sister’s thought process as well?

    • Brit May 15, 2014, 3:24 pm

      But she’s serving her child before the OP, when the plates have come to the OP. That’s the problem, that’s why she’s rude.

      • just4kicks May 15, 2014, 10:38 pm

        Good point, and yes, that IS rude.

    • AnaMaria May 15, 2014, 10:42 pm

      I am not Chinese, but I have a good friend who is who recently treated our circle of friends to a traditional dinner to celebrate his new job. He was serving us as the food was brought out (no lazy Susan at this particular restaurant), and he mentioned that he was used to doing so because it’s always the youngest person present who serves the others (minus those who are too young to be able to serve at all, of course). I know China is a vast country with a variety of cultures, so I’m not sure if this particular tradition is widespread or is more specific to a certain region, but I don’t know of any cultures where it is customary to serve children first (minus the frantic “get-some-food-in-front-of-them-before-a-meltdown-starts!). Sounds like sister was being a bit of a helicopter parent…

      • ___ May 16, 2014, 6:57 am

        well, the rule in my family is to serve the youngest first. (With exception for 1) guest and 2) on birthday, the person whose birthday is celebrated gets the first slice of the cake )
        But ! In the present case, the children can be served for the dishes in front of them and their parents so the rule would not apply.

    • Lis May 16, 2014, 8:09 am

      ‘Pot licks’ has to be the most amusing typo ever, I am now imagining a group meal along those lines. 🙂

      • The Elf May 16, 2014, 10:48 am

        I’ve tasted some dishes at a pot luck that were so good I wanted to pot lick……

    • nk May 16, 2014, 12:41 pm

      It’s fine to serve your children before yourself; that’s a parent’s prerogative. But to expect to serve your children before EVERYONE ELSE in line before them is special snowflake behavior.

  • just4kicks May 15, 2014, 4:39 am

    …that was pot LUCK, not lick….. :°)

  • Marozia May 15, 2014, 4:59 am

    Manners, manners, manners!! I do not care what colour, creed, race or age anyone is, people must learn to wait their turn, regardless. Children and elderly are not excepted.
    We use a lazy susan all the time and it is used clockwise. You take what you need when the dish is at your turn and if you want something else, you wait your turn and the LS is never moved until all persons have chosen their food and ready to move on to the next dish.

    • Jewel May 15, 2014, 4:44 pm

      I think the sister got so angry because the letter writer was right and it embarrassed her to be told so in front of the rest of the family. Assuming the sister is older than the LW, her reaction was probably also fueled a bit by her desire to remind her little sister of the pecking order. Rude is rude, though, so I hope the LW keeps drawing that line in the sand every time her sister tries to pull such nonsense. Definitely the bigger grievance is the sister’s reaction as opposed to the initial offense.

  • JO May 15, 2014, 5:04 am

    Obviously your sister was being rude by disrupting the flow of dinner. But even though we like a polite spine around here, it doesn’t sound like it was worth calling her out on this one. After all, it should not have taken that long for everyone to be served, even if she was holding things up a bit. And then dinner could have progressed pleasantly, and the lazy Susan forgotten.
    Having said that, I HATE IT when people use their children as an excuse to be rude or obnoxious. And I’ve seen it plenty. One particular incident that stands out in my mind: Waiting in line one day at a TJ Maxx store, a woman with a roughly 4-year-old child came up behind me. The child was being a bit rowdy, touching things on the shelves but not pulling them down or causing any real disruption. When the next cashier came available, the woman grabbed her child’s hand and started towards the counter. I spoke up, “excuse me, I was waiting first.” The woman turned and pointed to the child and said’ “she can’t wait that long, she’s just a kid!” I answered, “And how is she supposed to LEARN to wait her turn, if you let her think it’s OK to cut other people off?” OK, I’ll admit, not the most polite response I could have used. But it was fun to watch her sputter for a minute, and by that time another cashier had opened up anyway.

    • Raymee May 15, 2014, 2:40 pm

      Brilliant reply! And a very good point.

    • Snarkastic May 15, 2014, 2:58 pm

      Seemed perfectly polite to me. You’ve got guts. I applaud you.

  • Lo May 15, 2014, 5:49 am

    Wait a second; children served first??

    One of the things I’ve gotten from spending a lot of time with people from China is the notion that elders are served first. And that’s how we do things in our home as well. Furthermore, it would be quite correct for her to serve her child before she herself took any, but to inconvenience you by doing so? No way.

    Additionally the argument that you don’t have children and therefore don’t understand is a poor one; the last resort of people who know they are being unreasonable and can’t think of any better excuse but to attack an apparent “ignorance” You know good manners and she’s not practicing them.

    You’re not wrong, she was quite rude.

  • Brit May 15, 2014, 5:56 am

    “how could I not see this, except for the fact that I had no children of my own, and could not grasp this concept”

    Your sister lost me any sympathy with that one. As a parent, I cannot *stand* that argument – smug, self-righteous, stupid and at times, downright cruel. She was rude, that was ruder and sorry, but how can the average 10 year old not serve herself from a bowl on a lazy susan?

    • JO May 15, 2014, 2:33 pm

      I second this!!!

    • Snarkastic May 15, 2014, 2:59 pm

      I find that kids today are able to do less and less for themselves at any age.

      • Cat May 15, 2014, 3:41 pm

        It’s not that the kids can’t do it; it’s the “helicopter” parents who insist on doing everything and involving themselves in everything their children do. I have heard of parents coming to a college graduate’s job interview to make sure they were getting perks. What they don’t get are the jobs.

        Let the ten year old wait her turn, choose her own portions, and eat her own food.

      • just4kicks May 15, 2014, 10:42 pm

        I have this argument with my husband. Our kids range in age from ten to sixteen. I insist that they do chores around the house. I am a stay home, and my husband thinks I shouldn’t make them since I don’t have an outside job. It’s not because I don’t have time to empty trash or the dishwasher, it’s to teach them a little responsibility.

        • NostalgicGal May 20, 2014, 11:42 pm

          While I lived under my parents’ roof, I had to contribute. It doesn’t matter how many worked outside the house or stayed at home. You lived there you did your share. I was taught to be independent. WHEN I crossed that stage at graduation, I then became an employable independent person; and I could either get a job for that summer and contribute my third to all expenses, or WORK for my dad on the farm, and trust me, I worked. He had a daughter answering to ‘hired hand’ from the Monday after our Sunday HS graduation to the day he drove me to the dorm at college in the fall. He told me the only other obligation he had to me once I graduated, was one free trip to and one free trip from, college. I never called for my second free trip.

          Just4kicks, your kids live there, they owe their fair share to the household. Furthermore, an hour worked is an hour worked, whether it is outside the home for wages or inside the home to contribute to what needs doing. I have brought home the loaf at times and my DH was house-spouse, other times he snagged the bacon; sometimes we both worked. An hour worked is still an hour worked. The worst actually was when I worked at home with office/studio in the basement. My commute was a flight of stairs, but that didn’t mean that I was available… I still had work to do and I still had to work… the hardest part was convincing everyone else I truly was at work and needed to get my work done. Especially the DH who worked in a building located elsewhere. Right behind them were friends that would call as ‘I’m at home so I’m free’ oh no I’m not.

          just4kicks, they should be contributing and your DH should be treating you as a working equal.

          • just4kicks May 23, 2014, 1:27 pm

            I love the term “house spouse”! Thank you for agreeing with me. This is an uphill battle. I’ve pointed out many times over the years, that while his job is 9-5, a stay home mom/dad is a 24 hour one. Up with sick kids, the son waking me up at 11:30pm to say “oops, sorry mom but I need my baseball uniform clean and dry before I leave for school”, etc. I have worked a variety of part times jobs over the years and my husband has helped out with laundry and dinner and so forth. But he and I disagree that while I’m unemployed at the moment, that the kids CAN and will empty the dishwasher or bring the dirty laundry downstairs.

  • Nemesis May 15, 2014, 6:26 am

    Chinese etiquette is very clear on this. The elders are always served first, and the children are always served last.

    In fact, the most polite form is for the adult children to stand, serve the food to the parents first, then other siblings, then their young kids, and finally themselves.

    Your sister is beyond rude.

  • --Lia May 15, 2014, 6:31 am

    It would seem to me that the whole beauty of the lazy susan idea is that there’s something in front of everyone at every time. So everyone could be serving themselves from the dish that’s in front of them at that moment. I see no reason why children should have to be served each item first if they have something on their plates so they’re not hungry. I’m with you that there’s no reason for anyone to jump the line, but I’d also suggest that in this situation there’s an authority ahead of me, ahead of the traditional way of doing things, ahead of our admin. That’s your mother. I’d give her final say in this matter. While your sister and her husband may have been hosting by organizing and issuing the invitations, and while there were other mothers at the table, the senior mother and real guest of honor was your mother. If she chose not to object to your sister’s way of doing things, defer to her decision out of respect for her. Everything else is just a squabble between sisters, and I’m sure she saw plenty when the two of you were little girls.

  • clairedelune May 15, 2014, 7:11 am

    Your sister was behaving both rudely and bizarrely, but if she honestly believes that a 10 year-old needs *help* with the basic task of serving herself food, then the child is the one I feel sorriest for here. That coddled girl is going to be so unprepared for adult life.

  • Abby May 15, 2014, 7:17 am

    So, kids should get served first, then what is sister’s excuse for serving *herself* out of turn? I might think Sister had a leg to stand on if her child was really young, getting squirmy, and Sister said to OP, hey can you just drop a spoonful on Jr.’s plate real quick? But to reach over the niece, and yank the plate out of OP’s hands, then call OP selfish? Sounds to me like Sister just didn’t want to wait her turn, but did not feel comfortable budging in front of her mom and aunt, so had to wait to budge until it was the turn of someone Sister considered more junior to her. It wouldn’t surprise me to hear that Sister has been dismissive of OP in the past.

    I don’t have sisters, but of my girlfriends that do, this just sounds like par for the course, especially if it’s an older sister. I can totally see my best friend’s older sister pulling something like this on my best friend, right down to calling her rude in front of anyone if my best friend chose to speak up.

  • Tracy W May 15, 2014, 7:20 am

    I think the sister was being rude (leaving aside some specific cultural rule which doesn’t seem relevant here as you’d know it what with being family).

    General rules I know are wait for your turn and host and host’s children hold back. So by both rules your sister was rude.

  • Jewel May 15, 2014, 7:24 am

    This reminds me of a clip from a movie I saw recently featuring actor Mandy Patinkin. A woman cuts in line to be with her friend. He approaches her to ask what’s up. The woman indignantly states that she deserves to cut because “I have CHILDREN waiting in the car”. His retort is to point out reasons why several others standing behind her in the line also deserve to cut in line, but didn’t. Then, he orders her to get to the back of the line and “don’t use your children like that. It’s shameful”.

    Unless your sister’s kids have some medical condition where they can’t wait 10 seconds for their turn without experiencing bodily harm, you might consider using a similar tactic with your sister next time she pulls this stunt. Simply point out that everyone at the table as equally important reasons to want to get their food first but are patiently waiting. “Grandma needs to take her heart medication with food”, “Uncle Joe hasn’t eaten all day”, and “Mom is paying for this food”. Then, finish off with the grand finale of “don’t use your children to cut in line. It’s shameful”.

    Or, you could just do what I did as a child to another kid who reached across me to cut in line: bite her arm. 🙂

  • Wendy B. May 15, 2014, 7:43 am

    My first question is, under what circumstances do children get served first? Apparently it’s not a cultural thing here, since she was the only one doing it.

    I have no idea what a solution is other than calling her out on it…and I’d do it repeatedly, or offer to switch seats with her so she doesn’t have to “wait” so long.

  • cdubz May 15, 2014, 7:59 am

    Definitely rude, but dinner service in front of the entire family is not the place to bring it up. Later, in a private setting, with your mother or aunt to back you up would be a little more appropriate. I agree that she was not only inconveniencing you, but everyone at the table.

    Perhaps she thought because this was a “Mother’s Day” dinner, she should be honored as well and be one of the first served? It might have grated on her nerves that you, who had no children, were served before her, who had a child. Still rude behavior either way, especially if it was agreed on beforehand that this dinner was just for honoring your mother and aunt.

    • Stacey Frith-Smith May 15, 2014, 5:59 pm

      Cdubz- I think you have hit the nail squarely on the head. Perhaps jealous older sister couldn’t stand to be out of the limelight. Neither the hostess nor the main honoree- so she grabbed what bit of precedence she could manage while hiding behind the fiction of “my CHILD has to be attended to”. It makes more sense than any other hypothesis I’ve seen offered and would explain the behavior- even if it doesn’t excuse the motivation. It makes her a pitiable figure.

      • just4kicks May 16, 2014, 11:44 am

        My older sister lives in a different state as my parents and my family do. She brought her two young kids up for a visit a few years ago and we went pumpkin picking with my folks and all our kids. My then 10 year old son, would get car sick on long car trips. He did well on the way there, but as soon as we pulled onto my parents street on the way back, he started to heave. My dad quickly pulled into their driveway, and we jumped out of the car. My sister reached across my vomiting son to get HER daughter out of the car because “if she even SEES anyone throwing up, she will too!!!!” Ummm, can we please get the child who is ACTUALLY throwing up all over himself and crying out of the car BEFORE your little princess?!? One of the many reasons we no longer speak. She is famous in our family for her kids being more important than anyone else’s. She isn’t doing them any favors when they grow up and realize the world does not revolve solely around them. …..And no, my kids aren’t perfect angels, but they do have manners.

    • lakey May 15, 2014, 7:18 pm

      In a Chinese restaurant with a lazy Susan serving tool and 10 -12 entrees in platters, no one is being served first. Everyone is being served at the same time from the platters in front of them on the lazy Susan. Maybe you haven’t done this. Everyone is seated at a large, round table. The large round lazy Susan is in the middle with 10- 12 platters of food arranged around it. There is a platter of food sitting on the lazy Susan in front of pretty much each person at the table. The sister should not have been reaching across the OP to take food from the platter in front of the OP. She should have been taking food from the platter in front of her. The sister’s behavior was illogical.

      And I do not think the OP should have made a big deal out of it, but I do think she should have quietly asked her sister to stop reaching across her and wait for the lazy Susan to turn. Quietly.

      • Stacey Frith-Smith May 15, 2014, 10:13 pm

        Your idea is correct. It is only a person who seeks attention and drama that would interrupt this flow. Which is exactly what OP’s older sister did. Most of us have seen a few Lazy Susans…so I do get the gist.

      • cdubz May 16, 2014, 8:06 am

        While it is true that there is always a platter of food in front of everyone, because of the behavior of sister, a few particular platters were passing by OP without giving her the chance to serve herself from them. Thus, she’s waiting to get some of dish X, but sister grabs the spoon and serves herself and child first, and then turns the lazy susan so OP can’t grab any of dish X until it comes back around. I can see how this would greatly interrupt the flow of the meal, and it would be a little frustrating if OP had been looking forward to dish X all evening.

        Plus, sister had already made clear to OP she wasn’t going to listen to her because she didn’t have children, so I suggested having Mom talk to her because she is someone sister would listen to (at least, I know if my mother said something to me about my behavior, I would darn well listen to what she had to say).

        • cdubz May 16, 2014, 8:18 am

          Not to mention the fact that in order for OP to serve herself at the same time as everyone else, she only had two options: reach over her aunt or reach over her niece. I think everyone is missing this point.

          So yes, sister was making a point of serving herself before OP. Sister was rude and trying to make a (passive aggressive) point: that she felt she was more important than OP, and that she should be served first.

  • Melissa May 15, 2014, 8:04 am

    Sometimes grinning and bearing it is the best course. This seems a minor issue….the more you let minor issues go, the happier your life will be.

    • sabko May 19, 2014, 12:26 pm

      Yes, you are correct, it is a minor issue, and an alternate course of action would have been to grin and bear it and keep the peace. However, the other point being made is that Sister is being rude and subtly teaching her daughter by example that it is OK to be impatient and selfish, and it’s OK to justify one’s behavior by having a demented rationale. Someone has to raise a red flag to that.

  • Yet Another Laura May 15, 2014, 8:39 am

    I love lazy susans and have used them before in large groups. You’re not wrong to call out on being skipped. Others may feel the same as you but were probably secretly relieved not to have to be the one to speak up. That way, bad behavior gets called out and they get the benefits and you get labeled as the “selfish one who insists on actually to eat in a timely manner”. Funny what gets labeled as selfish.

    The large (15+) groups I dined with included small children in single digits. The server placed the food in front of the person who ordered it. Everyone served themselves at the same time. Then that dish was up for grabs for anyone. The tea and water pitchers and appetizers were shared. Whoever moved the lazy susan established the direction for at least a rotation, or until everyone was done acquiring food. Back and forth occurred late in the meal when it only needed to be moved sporadically.

    The worst that happened was someone didn’t notice someone hadn’t finished serving themselves and a simple, “Hey, I’m not done yet” led to “Oops, sorry” and a return to the original position. The children wanted to play of course, but their parents made sure they didn’t touch the lazy susan.

  • Margaret May 15, 2014, 8:41 am

    Your sister is married and has children. Whoopee. Reminds me of the “I have a CHILD” Special Snowflake story on the Community page where the woman wants to go first in line at the grocery store because she is special – she has a CHILD with her.

    I think your sister is wrong of two counts: 1) she doesn’t understand turn taking on a lazy susan – when it rotates to you, it’s your turn, not the next child’s turn and 2) isn’t the Chinese culture all about respect for your elders? I am assuming you are older than your niece, don’t hog all the food, and your niece isn’t starving by waiting the 30 seconds it takes you to get a helping of fried rice.

  • JesBelle May 15, 2014, 8:52 am

    A 10-year-old can’t serve herself? My 4-year-old can get food from a serving bowl to his plate. Granted, I’d help him in a restaurant since his technique is far from perfect, but I hope by ten he could manage by himself. Sounds like someone needs to land the helicopter once in awhile instead of swooping in to make sure her kid is getting adequate nutrients before a childless (i.e. selfish) Auntie can take it all.

    It makes me wonder if the OP didn’t take a little more than her fair share (or what Sister considered fair) of something in the past — maybe some favorite of Niece’s. She did sit in a position that was “upstream” of the OP if the family had decided not to spin dinner widdershins.

  • GEna May 15, 2014, 9:05 am

    While your sister may have been rude, it doesn’t seem like anything to get excited about. In my family, we generally fix the kid’s plates first. Not because we think they are so special, but because they take so long to eat.

    When I’m hosting buffet style dinners, when calling people to start serving, I usually start with the parents of the young ones. “Susie, why don’t you go ahead and make little Tony’s plate? Karen, you too.”

  • AMC May 15, 2014, 9:07 am

    Your sister was being rude. First, in my family, I was always taught as a kid to allow the older matriarchs and patriarchs to go through the food line first. But since the food was being served on a lazy susan, the order of who receives which food first was set when everyone was seated. While it’s fine for her to help serve her child, there was no reason for her to jump the line in front of you. I have a child, and I would never do that because it’s rude and inconsiderate. Your sister should have waited her turn.

  • EllenS May 15, 2014, 9:19 am

    I know what a lazy suzan is, but have never been served this way, so I’m trying to picture it. Aren’t there dishes all the way around?

    Sister’s way seems like she and her child would not actually come out ahead, because it is so inefficient. I mean, if the goal is to get a taste of every dish, letting the lazy susan move smoothly is going to get there faster for everyone, including the kids.

    I also wonder why a 10 year old child needs “help” serving herself with utensils she is already accustomed to use. Does she have a disability?Are her arms really that much shorter than her mom’s? My 6 year old serves herself from the stovetop, much less from a dish on the table in front of her.

    This sounds like Sister was using the dinner as an excuse to stomp on OP and put her in a “one-down” position, and I don’t blame OP for being stung by it. However, the wisest course is to not take the bait.

    Since Neice was between you and sister, the smartest way to nip this in the bud would be to help Niece yourself. That way you maintain control of the turn, and Sister has nothing to complain about.

  • PJ May 15, 2014, 9:20 am

    It sounds to me like you sister (if she normally has decent manners and has taught them to her daughter) messed up by getting over-eager and skipping over you. The problem is she displayed absolutely no grace in being called on it. To play the “you don’t understand becuase you don’t have kids” card was not nice (I’m saying this as a person with 3 kids myself).

    If she was consistent, she would have criticized your mom and your aunt as well for having the audacity to serve themselves before the children, too. Why not let the whole lazy susan make its round while the two kids are served and everyone waits? In your situation, I probably would have suggested exactly that: the adults all wait for the two kids to be served (count the 2 teenagers as adults) before any of us takes another serving of anything, and see how the rest of the family responds.

    I also have to wonder at what age a child becomes capable of serving themselves. My son and many nieces and nephews (of varying degrees of politeness and maturity) did so regularly around the age of 8.

  • Cat May 15, 2014, 9:30 am

    If you were all starving and there was only one slice of bread in the house, I would allow the child to eat it. To demand that someone wait until, not only the child was served, but also your sister, is downright selfish.
    I know that, in traditional Chinese families, birth order and gender have a great deal to do with respect. This seems more of the American idea of “Me and mine first.” I would have said nothing; I would simply have stopped the lazy susan with one hand while I served myself with the other. I take it that the child was not screaming in hunger, but was simply waiting to get her food like everyone else. At age ten, she is old enough to serve herself. I take it she is allowed to feed herself.

  • Lisa May 15, 2014, 10:05 am

    Really? Life is too short to worry about stuff like this.

    • Melissa May 15, 2014, 3:28 pm

      Hear, hear.

    • e. May 15, 2014, 5:20 pm

      That could be said about at least 80% of the stuff posted here. But that doesn’t diminish the OP’s feelings about it.

    • Brit May 16, 2014, 4:51 am

      Life is also too short to let someone treat you like an idiot then tell you it’s your fault because you’re childless.

    • Elizabeth May 20, 2014, 3:36 pm

      No, not really. These are (poor) examples for the children present.

  • Thistlebird May 15, 2014, 10:44 am

    The notion that children should be served first and need help may be arguably true… but at TEN years old, really?

    Yeah, I might try to serve my three-year-old quickly (within the bounds of etiquette) or at least before myself, knowing that children that age get very hungry and it’s hard for them to wait, but to do that for a ten-year-old is saying to her either “You’re still a baby and need me to take care of you” or “You’re a special snowflake and should be served first”… or both. A ten-year-old is old enough to be given the respect of being expected to observe etiquette.

  • twik May 15, 2014, 10:47 am

    Certainly “children first” is not a standard way of eating, and in fact in previous generations it was, in most cultures, much the opposite. In any case, assuming that your family is buying enough food for all, it’s rather silly. Unless the child is about to collapse from hypoglycemia, waiting until one other person has served herself is no hardship.

    I think your sister is somehow staking a claim of precedence here, based on the fact that she is a mother and you are not. I would expect to see this pattern extended to more than eating in restaurants.

    If there’s ever an inheritance, be prepared for her to demand *all* the family heirlooms (not to mention any money), because she has children.

  • PrincessButtercup May 15, 2014, 10:58 am

    Ah the old “my child is a god/goddess!” behavior. So old and disgusting yet it won’t die. Unless the child was suffering from low blood sugar because of lack of food, there is no reason to rush ahead of you. And it was just ahead of you, so she’s inconveniencing everyone so her child doesn’t have to wait 30 seconds for her turn.

    I see this a lot at potlucks. Parents often shove or race to the front of the line because “my kid needs to eat” and then stand there holding up the line urging the kid to get over there and tell them what they want. Then they slowly go down the food line asking if the child wants every single dish and the child spends a while hmmming before they decide whether they want it. Meanwhile the line of people wait and wait. Some of which are elderly and can’t stand very well or actually suffer from a medical condition such as diabetes that causes them to truly need to eat now. And don’t dare skip in front of mother and child because apparently the child needs to see the whole table, at once, from their current vantage point, so they can know if they want something else down the line, and you’ll block that ability, never mind mom is still going to stand at every single dish along the way and debate it before moving on!

    Can ya tell this entitlement teaching gets on my nerves?! haha But yeah, sister was in the wrong and teaching her child bad manners and a “me first” attitude. And since you would likely only take a few seconds to get your serving there was absolutely no justification for it.

  • Politrix May 15, 2014, 11:07 am

    Not sure why your sister would “jump the line,” but unless your sister habitually does this (and you admit her manners are generally “decent”), and as long as no one was in jeopardy of going without food (and you say there was “more than plenty,” which, at a Chinese dinner, almost goes without saying) then I don’t see why you had to start unnecessary drama by calling her out like that. From what I read above, it sounds to me like you have issues with your sister that go far beyond dining etiquette. If you don’t see her often, or have to deal with her on a regular basis (meaning, very often, not just on every holiday or special occasion), I’d ask myself if a Mother’s Day dinner ( which she and her husband were hosting, no less) is really the place to address a faux pas such as this one.

    • Politrix May 15, 2014, 2:44 pm

      EDIT: I re-read the post, and I realize my mistake, sorry — the rude sister wasn’t the one hosting the dinner, it was the other sister. She was still rude, but I still wouldn’t call her out on it unless she always does this.

  • Asharah May 15, 2014, 11:08 am

    Why would a 10-year-old need help serving herself?

    • admin May 15, 2014, 1:28 pm

      Perhaps the OP was discreetly hiding a reason the 10-year old could not serve herself.

      • Cat May 15, 2014, 3:52 pm

        It could also be possible that Mommy dearest has to control every aspect of the child’s life. I was not allowed to choose my own clothing until I was nineteen; and I could not get a driver’s license until I was twenty-one (legal age in those days) because Mommy said “I was not going anywhere”.

    • Rayner May 15, 2014, 5:13 pm

      It can also be if the table is large, and the child small, the mother simply served her rather than risk a mess.

      Short arms, hot food, not something you want to combine.

  • Nannerdoman May 15, 2014, 11:16 am

    I can see the LW’s point of view here. While her sister does wind up inconveniencing the whole table, it’s the LW’s turn at the dishes that’s specifically being usurped. Her sister compounds the offense by the “you’re-not-a-mother-so-you-don’t-understand” attitude. It all smacks of the sister’s having an attitude that the LW just isn’t that important in the scheme of things. I wish that another family member (maybe their mother?) had chimed in and said, “Yes, Veronica, let Betty serve herself first!”

  • dahllaz May 15, 2014, 11:23 am

    Seems to me like she was being rude, to you and everyone else.

    Is it normal for the children to be fed first in other circumstances? In my family, the elders dished up first and then the kids.
    When we would eat somewhere with a lazy susan, we just waited until it came around during the first time dishing up. After that, it was more of a ‘free for all’ because we all ate at different speeds and would just spin it around to what we wanted when we wanted it.

  • Livvy17 May 15, 2014, 11:25 am

    Going out of turn is rude. If there were any out-of-turn rules, they would probably focus on getting food to the elder members of the family.

    In this case, there’s no excuse – even if I make large jumps in reasoning that are unsupported by the story (such as daughter desperately needs to have food due to some medical condition) the lazy-susan style system means that everyone starts with food in front of them, so that’s not an excuse. It’s unreasonable and rude for your sister to inconvenience everyone, disrupt an efficient system, and cause a conflict just to give her child (who, if anything should go AFTER her aunt) helpings of a particular dish before ONE particular person.

    Her argument is illogical too….didn’t the nieces and nephews at 11, 10 & 9 go first, then followed by the mother and aunt? If it’s kids first, why didn’t they skip the mom & aunt? Why bother with the lazy susan at all? If the sister’s logic were true, all dishes should be first served to her daughter, then to each child in order of age, until winding up at the most senior member of the table. Why does the sister get to take her turn as well, just because she’s the mother of that kid? There’s no logic here.

  • The Elf May 15, 2014, 11:44 am

    ….Aaaaand that’s when I’d just start lifting the dishes off the Lazy Susan as they went past.

    • NostalgicGal May 20, 2014, 11:53 pm

      I like that

  • Laura May 15, 2014, 11:53 am

    A 10 year old should be able to serve herself and not have Mommy help her. Sister was being rude.

  • PWH May 15, 2014, 12:05 pm

    It sounds like your Sister may have been in a rush to serve her daughter and used it as an excuse not to wait and to serve herself at the same time. I agree it was rude and inconvienced not only you, but everyone else at the table and it would have been nice if you Sister had said “Excuse me”. It seems strange though that she would serve one child, but not the other. Your niece may have mentioned to her Mom that she was very hungry.
    Whenever we have a family dinner with my inlaws, my six year old nephew is served first. This usually ensures he doesn’t misbehave because he’s hungry or inpatient.

    • Cat May 15, 2014, 3:52 pm

      It also ensures that he never learns to wait his turn.

  • Wild Irish Rose May 15, 2014, 12:06 pm

    All I have to say is that 10 seems a little old to have your mother still preparing your plate.

    • Becca May 15, 2014, 1:39 pm

      Agreed (unless the niece had a condition that made serving herself difficult, of course, but that doesn’t sound like the case here).

    • Rayner May 15, 2014, 5:15 pm

      Depends on how big the table is/how tall the child is.

      I know I was a ridiculously short child, and serving myself in a restaurant with a higher table and lower chairs was a recipe for disaster so my parent did it for me. It wasn’t that I /couldn’t/ do it, it was just that it was easier and quicker to have someone do it for me.

    • Cat May 15, 2014, 8:35 pm

      I had a room-mate whose mother moved in with us to take care of little Debbie. She served Debbie’s plate because Debbie did not make “good food choices”. The first day of school, Mommy went into the classroom to tell the kids to be nice to Debbie because it was a new school and Debbie was nervous. Debbie was twenty-two and she was the teacher.
      You think I am making this up. I wish I were. I lasted one month and decided to leave Debbie and Mommy to face life together. At least Mommy could get out of Debbie’s bed and into a room of her own.

      • Wild Irish Rose May 16, 2014, 2:30 pm

        Ye gods and little fishes. How long and how strong were those apron strings, anyway???

        • NostalgicGal May 20, 2014, 11:55 pm

          Ohmighod I agree with WIR…

          I would’ve bailed in the first few days. Even if it meant sleeping in my car, or under the bridge. Wow!

  • Becca May 15, 2014, 12:09 pm

    If the children were supposed to be served first, then a) why were Mom and Aunt allowed to serve themselves before 10YO Niece and b) why was Sister serving herself before passing the dish back to OP, instead of waiting for the dish to arrive at her spot? Sounds like Sister was being impatient and using Niece as an excuse to get her food sooner.

  • Stacey Frith-Smith May 15, 2014, 12:47 pm

    The ones I really feel for here are your sister and husband, who probably never considered that by hosting Mother’s Day they were going to see a rerun of an old sibling rivalry. A little less entitlement on your part and on your sister’s would have made a more peaceful, less embarrassing day for all. Your sister sounds like she is skilled at getting you to react. You don’t have to accept ill treatment but you should choose how and when to make your point- and even which points are worth making. It’s a skill that will spare you stress, annoyance and embarrassment.

    • A different Tracy May 16, 2014, 1:01 pm

      How is it “entitled” to wish to serve yourself from the platter in front of you instead of having it whisked away by someone who cannot wait their turn?

      • Stacey Frith-Smith May 17, 2014, 12:20 am

        Older sister was rude. But OP fell into the trap she set when she responded by “calling her out”. I get the feeling OP’s sister is skilled at setting her younger sister up this way. But in addition to these 2, there are the hosts, the moms being honored, and other family observing. In consideration of them- can the objection come later? Or, can it be nonverbal- like guiding the Lazy Susan with her own hand? Hard to usurp her turn that way plus no arguing.

  • Ripple May 15, 2014, 12:49 pm

    I agree with Admin that everyone else was being inconvenienced by this. They had to wait for sister to finish and return the lazy susan back to the original position, then it gets forwarded three spaces (after you, then skips niece and sister), so not everyone was getting to sample all the food in the first rotation. Maybe everyone else was too busy chatting to notice or didn’t care. But yes, sister was being selfish. I think I would have grabbed the next dish off the lazy susan then put it back on so sister could serve herself and her daughter.

  • Ripple May 15, 2014, 12:51 pm

    By the way, all the other food was being served to others before it got to you-niece-sister, so why would it make a difference if you served yourself before niece?

  • Library Dragon May 15, 2014, 2:54 pm

    A 10 year old should have learned to wait her turn. In school she’s waited for the water fountain, to take a turn at a game, etc. At home she may have had to wait for the bathroom. It’s off that there was an insistence that the 10 year old be served first, but not the 9 year old. It seems like a power play on OP’s sister’s part. My base assumption was to ultimately draw attention to OP’s childless state. The fact that the sister inconvenienced not only the OP, but everyone using the Lazy Susan is rude. Reaching across and taking the serving utensils was rude. OP I can understand your mounting frustration. After the first serving the 10 year old wasn’t “starving” and could have taken a regular turn at the food.

    • Rayner May 15, 2014, 5:16 pm

      It’s not the ten year old’s fault. It was all the sister being a rude entitled whatsit.

      • Library Dragon May 15, 2014, 11:58 pm

        I didn’t say that it was the 10 year old’s fault, but that in other areas of her life she waits her turn. As in by 10 it is reasonable that she should have learned to take turns. As I stated, the mother is making some type of one-upmanship move. There was no reason for the OP’s sister to use her child for this power play.

  • Phitius May 15, 2014, 2:55 pm

    This seems so odd to me. Was the sister taking food from the dishes in front of her, her daughter, and the OP? Or was she jumping jumping ahead and ignoring what was in front her and her daughter? As I understand it, there would have been food to be served in front of each person so it makes no sense for her to be reaching anywhere but directly in front of her and the daughter. After all, the next movement of the lazy susan would have put the dish she just reached for in front of her daughter. Was waiting a few seconds really impossible?

    As the Admin said, this was disruptive to everyone as moving the lazy susan back and forth moved all the dishes back and forth.

    The sister was rude, and only compounded it when she was called out by using her child as a justification for her behavior. Particularly as getting her served first would make no sense given that there would be something in front of everyone the entire time. Even if there was a particular dish the child wanted, waiting for it to pass the OP wasn’t going to cause her to starve to death or miss out on it.

    Weird, man. Entitled and weird.

  • acr May 15, 2014, 3:09 pm

    OP, I don’t think you did anything wrong. If your sister did this once during the meal, then let it go. But to do this little dance for every 10 or 12 dishes? Just ridiculous.

  • MollyMonster May 15, 2014, 3:15 pm

    I too don’t understand the sister. If there were 12 people and 10-12 dishes, there should have been a dish in front of everyone nearly every rotation of the lazy susan. If niece ended up with something she didn’t like in front of her at first, it is only a short while before something else comes along. Reaching across niece to get at the food in front of aunt while ignoring the food in front of sister and niece is just weird and inefficient. It probably throws off the people at the other stations too so I am surprised they didn’t say anything or put their hand on the lazy susan to stop it rotating before they were ready.

    Perhaps, OP, next time tell your sister that you will be sure to get some to niece while you have the spoon in your hand. Preempt her.

    • Lera99 May 16, 2014, 11:03 am

      I think what is happening is they are letting the Grandmother get first choice on each dish.
      So no one is serving themselves until the dish that was in front of Grandma first makes it to them.

      So dish #1 goes to Grandma and no one else is serving themselves anything.
      Mom will now grab her first food from dish #1 as Grandma help herself to dish #2. No one else has severed themselves anything.
      Then letter writer should be helping herself to dish #1, as Mom gets dish #2 and Grandma starts on dish #3.

      BUT the sister isn’t willing to wait. Grandma and Mom have now been served.
      It’s MOTHER’S DAY and the single sister with no kids is going to get food before her? No WAY! This will not be allowed!

      So sister grabs the Lazy Susan to bring dish #1 to her (skipping Letter Writer) serves herself and her 10 year old child.

      Then sister rotates the Lazy Susan back to Letter Writer so she can serve herself from dish #1.

      It is weird, and hostile, and when sister is confronted she makes a lame excuse about children needing to be fed first.

      I think this had to do with it being Mother’s Day and the sister resenting single, childless, Letter Writer being in place to receive dishes BEFORE sister who is an actual mother after all.

  • Jenn50 May 15, 2014, 3:28 pm

    When our kids were TINY and unable to be reasoned with, the standard in my social set was to get something in front of them first so they wouldn’t get upset and cause a ruckus. It took a little longer with my daughter, who has autism, but at eight years old, we’ve been looking at “feed me first” in the rear-view mirror for a good three years. At ten? There would be a smoking crater left where my kids were standing if they didn’t wait politely for their turn. Especially if there was already something on their plate that they could start with, if low blood sugar was a factor. Your sister was rude, and the whole thing smacks of entitlement with a side of childless-shaming to boot. That said, I probably would have just rolled my eyes and let it go to avoid a snarl-fest at a family meal, except for when the turntable got moved before I’d had my turn. At that point, I’d likely pipe up with, “Oops, hang on! I didn’t get my turn yet; Sissy just couldn’t wait to snag the beef and broccoli.”

  • Anonymous May 15, 2014, 3:37 pm

    If Niece (or any of the kids, for that matter) really had to get their food first, why not just make them each a plate in advance, so that they’d have their food as soon as they sat down at the table? I know it’s not customary to do it that way, but the family is already breaking some customs by rotating the Lazy Susan counterclockwise rather than clockwise, and Sister already broke that modified custom by yanking the food away from the OP and serving herself and Niece out of turn, so maybe the “plate and serve the kids’ food first” approach would work for this family.

  • Politrix May 15, 2014, 4:18 pm

    While on principle I agree with everyone about the “kids-are-not-special-snowflakes-and-can-wait-like-the-rest-of-us,” from my reading of the post the ten-year-old had nothing to do with this, and I kind of feel like she’s starting to (unfairly) bear the brunt of the attack for her mom’s rudeness. The OP even says that he/she LOVES [sic] the niece, and the 10-year-old’s reluctance to “jump the line” probably accounts for her mom putting the food on her plate for her. (She, too, was probably mortified at her mom’s behavior.)
    Again, I might be making assumptions, but the way I’m reading this, it really sounds to me like there are some underlying issues between the OP and the sister, and the poor kid is simply the pawn caught in the middle. As I said earlier, I would have just let the (minor) rudeness slight, if this was a one-time thing — no reason to ruin Mother’s Day dinner and add to the ten-year-old’s (and everyone else’s) embarrassment and discomfort.

  • Rosie May 15, 2014, 6:29 pm

    So much drama over such an unimportant issue. Everyone presumably got fed and had what they wanted. The siblings mother should have gone first, of course; they were celebrating her, weren’t they? After that, then everyone should just give & take and not worry about who got what when. Jeez. I’m sure Mom was so grateful to listen to her family squabble over calling dibs on who went next. Way to go making her day with her family pleasant and happy. They should be ashamed of themselves.

    • Elizabeth May 20, 2014, 3:40 pm

      I quite disagree – learning to wait your turn is a skill mastered by age 5. While Sister clearly missed this, she is now teaching her daughter the same. And then the rest of the world tolerates Princess …

  • crebj May 15, 2014, 9:36 pm

    What would have happened if you’d traded places with your niece? That way, if I read the seating correctly, your sister could have served her child and herself, and then it would have been your turn.

  • Tara May 15, 2014, 9:47 pm

    Since when do children get served first? I’m not that old (32) but growing up, children were always served LAST. The adults get first pick of the good stuff, and the kids can eat what’s left over.

    • Anonymous May 16, 2014, 11:54 am

      Well, I was taught, “take a reasonable serving on the first go-round, so that everyone has a chance at everything, and nobody gets seconds until everyone gets firsts,” but nobody got to claim Permanent Dibs On Going First just because they were the youngest or the oldest.