Author Topic: Help managing a family situation politely  (Read 5519 times)

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POF

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Help managing a family situation politely
« on: May 18, 2013, 10:07:16 AM »
I am not close with my father , he is attention seeking, bullying and probably a bit narcissistic.  I do travel to see my parents once or twice a year - because I am closer to my mother.

Thanks to the direct and indirect advice here - I have learned to set boundaries, pick my battles and realize that the family issues are my parents - not me.

We are traveling to visit for a long weekend.  My Dad likes to think he is the world's best cook ever - and in fact he is far from it.  It doesn't matter what we think or like - he just wants praise and attention for these so called fabulous meals.  I usually say thanks, it was good - I do not over do the praise because it feeds the monster.

He talks more to DH than to me .... ( DH is a saint with him ) and told DH he is making a "big shrimp feed" when we come home. Here's the problem

DS15 - doesn't like shrimp at all - they make him gag eat none
DS16 - likes them OK - but not the way they will be cooked - steamed / served cold in the shell. He will eat a regular helping ... but not a ton
I like them
DH doesn't like them - but will eat some to be polite.

I say we tell my Mom that it sounds great - but not to make too many because only one of really like it and the others don't.  But my dad will get mad and sulk and then may not even eat with us.  He pulled this last visit - he wanted to take us to chain buffet for breakfast ( 20 miles away )  - where we had eaten before and it was really awful and expensive . I had to say we did not want to go - could we do X instead, can I buy - etc. - he pouted the rest of the visit and refused to have meals with us.

DH says - just suck it up... he's old, in bad health and if we wants to do it fine.  The problem is that Dad will harass the kids about not eating a bazillion shrimp.  ( Overeating to the point of being sick is another issue of his ). If one of them say - nope I'm good after having one serving.... he'll pout, get cranky and keep on about how we do not like his food.

My mom is no use - she's an enabler.  I am hoping that they are including the entire family in this shindig - because then it will be diluted a bit.  But as I write this out - I realize let him serve what he wants and we will eat a polite serving ( I'll eat a big serving ) and we can bean dip.  Frankly - its rude to comment on what other people eat.

So maybe some moral support and coaching would be helpful.  The other potential issue is that sometimes he cooks without a recipe and he will terribly oversalt things - almost to the point of being inedible.  I have to limit my sodium - so if that happens, maybe I'll have to sneak them in to the garbage.

Thanks for listening and I would appreciate the advice -  See them 2 or 3 times a year so it's not worth it to have a big blow out over one meal.  But I'd really just like to enjoy it without all the pressure.

POF





ti_ax

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Re: Help managing a family situation politely
« Reply #1 on: May 18, 2013, 10:37:53 AM »
Have you read the "Magic Words" thread in the other section? http://www.etiquettehell.com/smf/index.php?topic=126586.0

You already know how to be polite. Your problem is that your father is unreasonable. There's no way to make him become reasonable. I'm sorry.

Oh Joy

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Re: Help managing a family situation politely
« Reply #2 on: May 18, 2013, 10:59:31 AM »
Can you focus your responses on his effort and care rather than the food?  For example, no need to say it was delicious when you can thank him for working so hard to make a family meal?

Best wishes.

cicero

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Re: Help managing a family situation politely
« Reply #3 on: May 18, 2013, 11:07:12 AM »
What is the worst that could happen? Your dad will pout? Let him pout. He'll not eat with you? Well frankly, if you have to spend mealtimes on eggshells because you're worried he's going to get mad, well let yourself enjoy a meal or two without the stress. :-)

Let him serve what he wants and you ( you and your family) eat your normal portions. If it's too salty, then don't eat it. Your health is more important than a grown man's hissy fit. Is there a restaurant around there that you can enjoy? How about presenting them with a fait accompli 'mom/dad we are taking you out to dinner on Sunday. ChezTresGarbage? Oh, no, we already made reservations at the MuchNicerPlace''

eta: because the android spell checker think it knows what i want to say...
« Last Edit: May 18, 2013, 12:47:48 PM by cicero »

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kudeebee

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Re: Help managing a family situation politely
« Reply #4 on: May 18, 2013, 12:15:17 PM »
I agree with you that you should tell your mom that the shrimp feed sounds great, but to tell dad not to make too much as unfortunately, you are the only one who likes cold shrimp so will be the only one from your family eating them.  It would be a shame for him to spend a lot of money on shrimp for them to be not eaten and then thrown away. 

Once you have told her, it is out of your hands.  If he still insists on making them, that is his choice. However, your family does not have to eat them.  I would not make the boys eat any if they don't want to, nor your dh.  If they are too salty for you and since you must watch sodium intake, don't eat them just to pacify your dad.  If he starts to bully the boys, stop it immediately "Dad, the boys do not like this type of shrimp so they do not have to eat them."  "Dad, I am under doctor's orders to watch my salt intake.  Unfortunately, these are too salty and I am unable to eat them." 

If he chooses to pout and hide, that is on him, not you.  He is a grown man and you cannot control his actions.  As long as you are polite in your interactions, there really isn't more that you can do.

POF

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Re: Help managing a family situation politely
« Reply #5 on: May 18, 2013, 12:39:34 PM »
Thanks everyone,

its hard even at the age of 50, to give up that ideal of family harmony. I tend to try to be the damily pleaser and make everyone happy - and then I realize it doesn't work anyway. 

TootsNYC

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Re: Help managing a family situation politely
« Reply #6 on: May 18, 2013, 01:08:21 PM »
Have you read the "Magic Words" thread in the other section? http://www.etiquettehell.com/smf/index.php?topic=126586.0

You already know how to be polite. Your problem is that your father is unreasonable. There's no way to make him become reasonable. I'm sorry.

I agree.

Let him be grumpy--just stop caring about whether he's happy. Know for yourself that you have done the polite thing, and then let him be responsible for his own overreaction. He's not really hurting anyone but himself.

When he pouts, etc., you guys just get even more charming and pleasant and appealing.

And, every tiny little "break" in his demeanor, shower it with attention. Think of it as "behavior modification," the way a really good day-care worker would handle a toddler who is sulking. She'd ignore the sulk, right? And the moment the kid looked interested in anything other than sulking, a good daycare worker would be friendly and warm so that the kid had every reason to stop sulking. And the daycare worker would probably ignore the sulk and simply never mention it. No need to lecture--lectures backfire (even if they're as light as "see how much fun when you're not sulking?"). But the daycare worker might say, "Oh, that was fun to read that book together, wasn't it?" thereby emphasizing the positive things that did happen.

I think that it's an incredibly good tactic in MANY situations to "channel your inner daycare worker."

Outdoor Girl

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Re: Help managing a family situation politely
« Reply #7 on: May 18, 2013, 02:02:44 PM »
My favourite expression that I've learned here on eHell is 'S/he'll get over it or s/he'll die mad.'  I told that one to my ball team when someone was (jokingly) mad with someone else when he sent her home and she got thrown out at the plate.  They loved it.

I just like the shrug your shoulders 'whatever' aspect of it.  If you have acted reasonably and the other person doesn't, there really isn't anything you can do about it.  Except shrug your shoulders and carry on.
I have CDO.  It is like OCD but with the letters in alphabetical order, as they should be.
Ontario

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Re: Help managing a family situation politely
« Reply #8 on: May 18, 2013, 02:12:14 PM »
I think that it's an incredibly good tactic in MANY situations to "channel your inner daycare worker."

I'm starting to realise that almost all social problems are best dealt with by forgetting that the person looks like an adult. Once I first realised this, it was obvious that nearly all tricky situations were actually just people acting like babies. Very few were actually problems worth worrying about. If they're throwing a toddler temper tantrum, then don't try to reason with them, since it wouldn't work on a two-year-old. If they're being stubborn because they didn't get their way, then ignore the image of a grown man and concentrate on placating the toddler he's acting like.

*inviteseller

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Re: Help managing a family situation politely
« Reply #9 on: May 18, 2013, 02:22:13 PM »
Tell him (or your mom) that you are the only shrimp eater and it is on him if he chooses to still go ahead with his feast because you are NOT going to force your kids to eat it.  If he starts a tantrum because he choose to not listen, I suggest getting up and leaving with your DH and the kids and going out to eat (take mom with you if you can).


bopper

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Re: Help managing a family situation politely
« Reply #10 on: May 20, 2013, 10:27:45 AM »
The Narcissist doesn't care if you don't like the shrimp.  He gets his narcissistic supply because "he is doing the big shrimp feast!" That is awesome, right?
But if you don't like it, he still get narcissistic supply because of his comments about you all not eating it.
Usually all this works because normal people like yourself try to make the Narcissist happy.
You have to talk to your kids ahead of time and say "I talked to Grandma and told her that most of us don't really care for shrimp but Grandpa is insisting on doing it anyway.
Grandpa is like that. So I want you to eat as much as you care too.  Grandpa may say something, but I just want you to say "Thanks for cooking, but I don't really care for shrimp."
He might imply that you are ungrateful.   But in this case I want you to ignore that because he insisted on making something most of us do not like."

Blondie

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Re: Help managing a family situation politely
« Reply #11 on: May 20, 2013, 10:35:41 AM »
Tell him (or your mom) that you are the only shrimp eater and it is on him if he chooses to still go ahead with his feast because you are NOT going to force your kids to eat it.  If he starts a tantrum because he choose to not listen, I suggest getting up and leaving with your DH and the kids and going out to eat (take mom with you if you can).

POD to this- I am not sure why you would tell your mom that it sounds good, when obviously for most of your family, it doesn't. Put the responsibility on his primary enabler to deal with the fall out, and make sure your family gets food they like without a hint of guilt, as you have, from the beginning said that it wouldn't work for your family. And while you are at it, tell your husband he doesn't have to eat for anyone's pleasure but his own.
"He attacked everything in life with a mix of extraordinary genius and naive incompetence, and it was often difficult to tell which was which." Douglas Adams

TootsNYC

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Re: Help managing a family situation politely
« Reply #12 on: May 20, 2013, 11:06:29 AM »
I think that it's an incredibly good tactic in MANY situations to "channel your inner daycare worker."

I'm starting to realise that almost all social problems are best dealt with by forgetting that the person looks like an adult. Once I first realised this, it was obvious that nearly all tricky situations were actually just people acting like babies. Very few were actually problems worth worrying about. If they're throwing a toddler temper tantrum, then don't try to reason with them, since it wouldn't work on a two-year-old. If they're being stubborn because they didn't get their way, then ignore the image of a grown man and concentrate on placating the toddler he's acting like.

But my point is, you *don't* placate a tantruming toddler.

You ignore the tantrum. You ignore the bad behavior. You cheerfully and reasonable act as though it doesn't exist.

(You also don't provoke them or jolly them along, of course. You give them the space they need to get over their extreme emotion.)

You simply act reasonably and let their tantrum or sulk go completely unremarked on.

Margo

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Re: Help managing a family situation politely
« Reply #13 on: May 20, 2013, 11:20:26 AM »
POD to this- I am not sure why you would tell your mom that it sounds good, when obviously for most of your family, it doesn't. Put the responsibility on his primary enabler to deal with the fall out, and make sure your family gets food they like without a hint of guilt, as you have, from the beginning said that it wouldn't work for your family. And while you are at it, tell your husband he doesn't have to eat for anyone's pleasure but his own.

I would also speak to your children and let *them* know that it is OK to politely decline.

I would call or e-mail and make the position clear "Hi Mom / Dad - As you know, *I*love shrimp, which is why I said 'great' when you mentioned you were planning to cook them, but after I finished talking to you I realised that they're not such a great choice. DS1 can't eat them, and neither DH or DS2 are that keen. If you plan to make shrimp, please bear in mind that between the 4 of us we'll only eat maybe 2 portions. Would you like us to bring / order something else for DS1 and DH to eat? I don't want you to feel you have to cook 2 separate meals if you don't want to.  Also, just a reminder that I have to keep my sodium levels low - much as I love your shrimp, I won't be able to eat it if it's salty "

(And follow through. Even if the other meal is just something like a bag of dried pasta and a jar of sauce, or even some bread and sandwich fillings, or the local pizza place on speed dial)

If there is something which you DO all like, you could suggest that (especially if it is something which goes with shrimp or can be made with or without shrimp)
And be ready to speak up if your parents try to put pressure on your son's to eat / eat more shrimp to make clear that no, they don't need to eat it / take a second helping.


Hmmmmm

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Re: Help managing a family situation politely
« Reply #14 on: May 20, 2013, 12:22:53 PM »
I agree with the other posters asking why you'd say it "sounds good".  It doesn't sound good. It sounds like they would be spending time and money on something that your family wouldn't enjoy but believe it would be well received.

I think you need to respond to this suggestion as if you would if you were dealing with a reasonable person.

"Mom & Dad, thanks for the offer of the shrimp feast, but my family is not much of shrimp eaters and I don't want you to go the trouble and end up dissapointed. If you're looking for food ideas we all love X,Y, and Z."

Honestly, if I had informed family members I was planning to do a large shrimp feast when they visited to only find out when food hit the table that they were not interested in shrimp, I might pout a little too.