Though my father is the youngest of three, he was the first to marry and have children. In fact, he had three before either of his siblings had any- I am the eldest and my sister is 5 years younger than me. My parents were very careful to teach us good manners and self-sufficiency. Unfortunately his elder sister did not bother with her children. “Jane” is the eldest child herself, and I suspect has always been the favorite, by the way that my grandparents put up with and coddle the most ridiculous behavior in her kids. She married “John” when I was about three and I was the flower girl in her wedding. Her son, “Ben” was born shortly after my little sister, and was spoiled rotten from the beginning. He had a common, but serious, food allergy, and because of this his mother is extremely protective and goes out of her way to make special meals for him and cater to his every whim. Even as a kid I thought it was bizarre that when Ben wanted a glass of water, he would loudly demand that Jane get up from the meal she’d eaten one bite of (too busy rushing around for him to eat), to go get him some from the fridge, even though he was more than old enough to get it himself (eleven and twelve years old). However, the real crowning jewels of the family are Ben’s younger siblings, twins “Edward” and “Eliza.” Luckily for Ben, once they were born he had to start learning to fend for himself somewhat, and hasn’t turned out quite as socially inept as we’d feared.
The twins were born when their mother was in her early forties and from my vague understanding as a child at the time, I think she had some trouble with conceiving or miscarriages. Additionally, Edward has the severe food allergy that his brother has, along with many others. He is allergic to most common dietary staples, and had a lot of close calls when he was little. He and his sister are generally afforded the special treatment you associate with “miracle babies.” Eliza has no allergies; she can eat anything she wants, but is the pickiest child you’ve ever met. Jane regularly makes separate meals for each of her children, and her husband, who is little better than a child himself. When the family gets together, every wish and whim of the twins is granted by parents and grandparents. Eliza loves to be the center of attention and monopolize the conversation at all times. She demands, and is granted, a seat at the “adults” table, next to whomever she likes. Unfortunately, that always seems to be me. I am ten years older and for some inexplicable reason the little cousins have always been fascinated with me, though I am terrible with kids and prefer to be as far from them as possible, and I have always been that way. On top of that, their table manners are atrocious and the nearest persons usually get treated to a view of whatever they happen to be chewing, as well as getting showered with crumbs and spit the whole time. Asharah's comment: If OP doesn't want to sit next to the kids, she should just say no. And if precious darling has a meltdown, it's the parents problem, not hers.
I could tell hundreds of stories about those two but a recent event was particularly offensive. My grandparents live several thousand miles away, but they had recently flown out to spend some time visiting with Aunt Jane and family, who live about three hours’ drive away from me. This visit coincided with my grandfather’s 85th birthday. He is a wonderful, sweet man, extremely intelligent, and has had a fascinating life. I persuaded my brother, who normally avoids family events, to drive up with me to our aunt’s and have dinner with Grandpa for his birthday. I was looking forward to catching up with them, but due to commitments brother and I both had the next day, we would have to drive back the same evening. We go out to dinner with grandparents, Jane and Eliza. Eliza, of course, dictates the seating arrangement, so in a very noisy Italian restaurant my brother and I are seated as far as possible from the grandfather we were honoring, and Eliza puts herself next to me and between me and the rest of the table. Asharah's comment: Again, OP should just speak up if she wants to sit by and talk with the grandparents.
She proceeds to monopolize the whole conversation, as per usual, and I barely got to say a word to my grandparents. However, in an attempt to let the rest of the party talk in peace, I distracted Eliza with talk about dance (I have been a dancer my whole life, and she had been studying ballet in imitation of me). She had been having some frustrations in class, so most of the dinner was spent talking about that. Oh well, I think, the restaurant is noisy anyways, I can just talk to Grandpa when we get back to the house for dessert. For the whole dinner and drive home, the whole conversation revolves around Eliza, with periodic attempts to change the conversation to something the adults found interesting always interrupted by this self-centered child. I had brought a cake with me from an excellent bakery at home, and we sat down and waited for the tea to brew so we could have dessert. At this point, we have temporarily succeeded in switching the topic of conversation away from elementary school dramas to a film my brother had been making, which our grandparents were very interested to hear about. Angry that she is not the focus of attention for thirty seconds, Eliza stands up in her chair and loudly demands, “Why aren’t you all listening to me? I CAN’T GET A WORD IN EDGEWISE!!!” The table goes silent for a few minutes as we process that most ridiculous of statements, but neither her parents nor grandparents said anything to her. I think I may have muttered something about “Grownup conversations,” but I try not to correct other people’s children’s manners… it is neither my place nor my responsibility. Asharah's comment: I think this may actually be a case where "It takes a village..." does apply.
We cut the cake and begin passing around plates. Eliza, of course, has the first slice. The rest of us are waiting to eat until everyone has their piece- I thought this was a universal thing, but apparently not. Two bites in Eliza looks up and notices everyone isn’t eating yet. She may be an annoying child, but she is plenty bright. She pipes up and asks, “Are we supposed to wait for something? Why aren’t you eating?” To which I reply (not correcting or ordering, just explaining, and nicely at that- I had an extra supply of patience that day), “We are just waiting until everyone has their cake. It is nice to wait until everybody has theirs, so we can all begin together.” Eliza nods, and looks like she is considering this and thinks it makes sense, when her father, John (quiet until this point) pipes up, “Don’t worry about that, sweetie, that’s just for grownups.” Asharah's comment: Somebody smack him!
I beg your pardon? Last I knew, children started learning basic manners as soon as they were old enough to follow them. We were certainly taught to wait until everyone was served, and to wait to leave the table until everyone was finished or we had asked and received permission to clear our plates- especially if we wanted to sit with the adults. Apparently John thinks this is too much for children to handle. I pity her, the moment she turns eighteen so much is going to suddenly apply to her! It is also too much to ask the kid to go play and let the grownups talk to one another for ten minutes, given that some of us had driven six hours round trip to spend one evening together. And lest you think I am faulting a tiny child for not acting grown-up enough… the twins are eleven! Definitely old enough to be taught better- even, apparently, old enough to be starting to figure things out despite their clueless parent(s). 0716-09
Asharah's comment: I think OP needs to speak up more.