Author Topic: making assumptions about family relationsships  (Read 59303 times)

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mom2four

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making assumptions about family relationsships
« on: September 06, 2010, 12:20:36 PM »
Older DS aged 16 just returned from a trip by long distance bus and ferry to visit my parents with younger DD aged 4. He was a bit shocked because several people had assumed that he was his sister's father. This happens to older DD aged 19 a lot (someone assuming she is the mother of her sister) and she really hates it. You have to be careful with teenagers but generally I don't think there is anything rude about assuming that an adult who is with a child is that child's parent. That may not be a case but it can be difficult to completely avoid any assumptions. Asking doesn't necessarily help in my opinion. If someone is offended by an assumption they will most likely also be offended if you ask. It's the mere thought that counts. At least I know DD was offended when she - then aged 15 - was waiting for DH in a doctor's waiting room and the doctor came out and asked if she was his wife.

The difficulty also occurs if you don't know if two people are a couple or maybe father and daughter. If you have to make a guess or ask I think it is better to assume or ask if they are a couple. If you are wrong you have most likely only offended the daughter. If you make the assumption the other way around you will offend both if you are wrong.

I suppose the etiquette correct thing is to never assume anything about the relationships of others but it can be a bit difficult in real life. When do you think an assumption or a question about a relationship is rude? An example of an assumption or question I find rude and strange but have been met with several times is that because of the age difference between my children now 19, 16, 12 and 4, the youngest must have a different father than her siblings. This is not the case but is probably in part caused by the fact that DH looks much younger than me (he isn't)

Lisbeth

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Re: making assumptions about family relationsships
« Reply #1 on: September 06, 2010, 12:32:22 PM »
It's rude when it's accompanied by nasty looks or insulting comments.

A scenario where, say, a receptionist in a doctor's office simply assumes that the older child is the parent of the younger child isn't rude in and of itself.  But if someone made a snarky remark about teenage kids having s*e*x and being the parent of a kid, that would be rude.
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Dazi

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Re: making assumptions about family relationsships
« Reply #2 on: September 06, 2010, 01:20:48 PM »
Everyone always assumes my brother is my boyfriend/husband.  We find it funny now, not so much when we were teens.

It's rude when it's accompanied by nasty looks or insulting comments.

A scenario where, say, a receptionist in a doctor's office simply assumes that the older child is the parent of the younger child isn't rude in and of itself.  But if someone made a snarky remark about teenage kids having s*e*x and being the parent of a kid, that would be rude.

True...also sometimes it is really difficult for some people to judge age.

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wolfie

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Re: making assumptions about family relationsships
« Reply #3 on: September 06, 2010, 01:27:05 PM »
Honestly I can\'t come up with a situation where it would be appropriate to ask. You might be curious but for the most part it isn\'t any of your business and it doesn\'t matter what the relationship between two people is. Even all the cases i can come up with don\'t really pan out. Receptionist at the doctor\'s office? nope - relationship doesn\'t matter - she just needs to check you in. The only cases i can really come up with are in the ER or other emergency type situations.

Rosgrana

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Re: making assumptions about family relationsships
« Reply #4 on: September 06, 2010, 01:46:22 PM »
I can see situations where it's appropriate to ask. For example, if someone brings a child to join the library, I have to ask if they are the parent/guardian - only someone with parental responsibility can give permission for the child to have internet access. In the Doctor scenario above, parents have more rights to information than any other adult accompanying a child. That said, the asking has to be done politely and non-judgementally.

HorseFreak

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Re: making assumptions about family relationsships
« Reply #5 on: September 06, 2010, 02:14:40 PM »
I was at a car dealership with my dad when I was 22 and he was in his early 50's. He picked out his vehicle and was being harassed by the outside warranty company (I have no idea why they were there since Ford sells their own). The rep was a rather slimy guy who leered at me and asked if I was his wife. My dad told him no, I was his daughter. The guy gave him a wink and an elbow nudge and said, "Oh that's too bad, I was going to congratulate you on your young wife!" I almost vomited, my dad did not look amused and refused to speak further to him and we reported it to the sales manager we were friendly with. Never saw that guy again. Who seriously says that out loud like I'm a deaf piece of property?!?!?

ETA: To make it worse, I looked no older than 17 or 18 at the time.
« Last Edit: September 06, 2010, 03:43:45 PM by horsphreak »

Animala

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Re: making assumptions about family relationsships
« Reply #6 on: September 06, 2010, 02:51:03 PM »
After working with children for a few years, I never, ever make assumptions.  I have also learned a handy phrase when needed.  Instead of saying your mom or your grandma I say your adult.  For instance when a little one is wandering around the store I will ask "Where is your adult?" and child almost always provides the information like "I don't know where grandma is.".  It doesn't fit every situation, but it really helps.

How about making a T-shirt for your daughter that has a picture of little DD and says something like best little sister ever?
« Last Edit: February 12, 2011, 05:50:30 PM by Animala »

567Kate

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Re: making assumptions about family relationsships
« Reply #7 on: September 06, 2010, 09:36:19 PM »
I'm really not sure when you would have to make an assumption. For a professional setting like a doctor's office, I think something like "What is your relationship to the patient?" is fine to use with everyone. For a social situation, you can probably figure it out in conversation. "I don't think we've met yet. I'm Stephanie," and hope they respond with "Oh hi, I'm Susie, Bob's daughter."

Betelnut

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Re: making assumptions about family relationsships
« Reply #8 on: September 06, 2010, 10:20:50 PM »
This happens to me all the time since I adopted my daughter (now 4) when I was 45.  I'm assumed to be the grandmother.  Since that isn't really an "insulting" assumption, it doesn't bother me.  I just lightly say, "No, actually, I'm her Mom."

Because of this though, I'm better about not making assumptions myself.
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suzieQ

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Re: making assumptions about family relationsships
« Reply #9 on: September 06, 2010, 10:47:27 PM »
My Dad and I have been mistaken for a couple off and on since I was a teen. I never thought anything much about it - flattered that I looked older than I was when I was younger. He introduced me as his wife to a co-worker once. LOL He immediately told her he was joking of course. We think it's kind of funny.

Swimmer_Heather

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Re: making assumptions about family relationsships
« Reply #10 on: September 06, 2010, 11:02:20 PM »
I was at a car dealership with my dad when I was 22 and he was in his early 50's. He picked out his vehicle and was being harassed by the outside warranty company (I have no idea why they were there since Ford sells their own). The rep was a rather slimy guy who leered at me and asked if I was his wife. My dad told him no, I was his daughter. The guy gave him a wink and an elbow nudge and said, "Oh that's too bad, I was going to congratulate you on your young wife!" I almost vomited, my dad did not look amused and refused to speak further to him and we reported it to the sales manager we were friendly with. Never saw that guy again. Who seriously says that out loud like I'm a deaf piece of property?!?!?

Wow, that's incredibly creepy and rude. :(  It's good you reported that kind of behaviour.

I agree, because of the age-related assumptions it can be discourteous to voice these assumptions.  It's not usually very tactful to ask a mother if she's a grandmother, or a teen if he's a father; and the other direction of age assumptions can be just as irritating.  The worst is of course if the accidental assumption is accompanied by more damaging judgements, like "You must be a teen parent *and* you must be worthless".  I like the idea of talking about a child's 'adult' and requesting them to clarify the relationship--a good strategy to avoid assumptions!

JoanOfArc

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Re: making assumptions about family relationsships
« Reply #11 on: September 06, 2010, 11:39:20 PM »
I think asking a child who/where their adult is is a good solution- I used it when I worked at a children's attraction.  In other cases, I usually can figure it out from conversation/how they are acting.  If not, I try to find a tactful way to inquire.  It doesn't always work, but usually, in social situations, you can find a way to do it. 
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Millionaire Maria

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Re: making assumptions about family relationsships
« Reply #12 on: September 07, 2010, 02:51:35 AM »
I think that the etiquettely correct thing for most people to do is to be gracious when someone makes a mistake. There are far worse things to be offended over and unless you can tell that the person is being condescending in their assumption, I think we should let these roll off our backs.
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pinkunicorn

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Re: making assumptions about family relationsships
« Reply #13 on: September 07, 2010, 10:45:16 AM »
I'm gonna park my POD truck right here.

People shouldn't speculate (and especially shouldn't comment) on things that are none of their business. But that's no reason to let their problem become our problem by taking offense.

The OP's son on the ferry--nothing but an interesting assumption.

Professional personnel--these people do need to know relationship status of people accompanying each other. There's a difference in the amount of information they can share with a spouse/parent versus a sibling, friend, etc.
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squashedfrog

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Re: making assumptions about family relationsships
« Reply #14 on: September 07, 2010, 10:50:59 AM »
A while back I had a girl come up to me at a party and ask if my brothers GF (then 29) was my daughter.  I was 25 at the time.

Needless to say, it was not a well received comment.  :(