Author Topic: making assumptions about family relationsships  (Read 59870 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

JacklynHyde

  • Member
  • **
  • Posts: 489
Re: making assumptions about family relationsships
« Reply #15 on: September 07, 2010, 05:28:23 PM »
I'm flashing back to five years ago when my dad was complimented about his hot young wife by his high school classmate.  Before my dad could explode, I calmly corrected the friend by explaining that I am the second oldest of his classmates' children as Dad and his lovely wife (who was laughing her head off on my other side) were married when he was 20 and I was born two years later.

The best part of this exchange?  It was at a funeral for another classmate's father.

Onyx_TKD

  • Hero Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 1313
Re: making assumptions about family relationsships
« Reply #16 on: September 07, 2010, 08:01:22 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 rel@tionships of others but it can be a bit difficult in real life. When do you think an assumption or a question about a rel@tionship 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)

When you say "Asking doesn't necessarily help," what kind of question did you have in mind? I think the doctor in your example could have very easily avoided that issue--he could either have asked your DH who had accompanied him (and gotten the answer "my daughter") before going out to the waiting room, or he could have phrased his question to your daughter in a manner with fewer assumptions: e.g. "Hi, are you here with Mr. Mom2four?" "Yes, I'm his daughter, [name]" or, if she didn't volunteer the relationship, he could ask "What is your relationship to Mr. Mom2four?" or even "Are you a relative?".

As far as assuming two people are a couple, how often are you in a situation where you need to make this assumption? There are a lot of reasons for two people to be out and about together besides being either a couple or parent and child. In addition to those possibilities, the two people could be friends, co-workers, roommates/housemates, siblings, other blood relations (e.g. cousins, uncle and niece...), etc. If you know one of the "couple", then let them introduce you to the other and you'll likely find out the relationship without making assumptions; if they don't volunteer the information, then do you really need to know (or assume)? If you have to assume something, then I'd assume that they are either friends or non-specified relatives until you are told otherwise.

The "couple" assumption really gets to me. While I don't recall ever being mistaken for anyone's parent or daughter, I do hang out with my older brother a good bit (similar interests and get along well), and more than one person has assumed that he was either my boyfriend or my fiance--trust me, both of us were quite wierded out by that assumption. (Clarification: A friend asking me, "So who was that guy you were with at the festival?", obviously guessing romantic interest, surprised me but was very funny; the guy who had just met both of us on a group trip asking "Oh, so this is your fiance?", obviously confident that we were romantic partners of some sort, was both shocking and kind of creepy.  :o) And if someone assumed I was my father's wife, I wouldn't be the only one offended; I really doubt my dad would appreciate either of the possible implications--that his "little girl" looks twice her age, or that he, a middle-aged man, would be married to a girl barely out of college (even if "cradle-robber" implications wouldn't bother him, the fact that the girl in question was his "little girl" would).

ChristiKayAnn

  • Guest
Re: making assumptions about family relationsships
« Reply #17 on: September 08, 2010, 12:43:54 PM »
I just heard a story that fits here from a friend of mine. 

B/g Friend has been dealing with serious illness for several years (3 different conditions that may end up being terminal and a laundry list of other conditions that while not as serious do effect his day to day life quite severely.) When these conditions were first becoming apparent Friend and his wife were in seminary to become pastors in the conservative Christian denomination we both belong to.  because of their class schedule his wife could not always accompany him to his doctors appointments so because it was a very frightening time one of the faculty members decided that he shouldn't go to these appointments alone and went with him. End b/g

So first appointment with a new doctor and Friend and Faculty Guy (FG) were sitting in the waiting room praying while waiting for his appointment. Friend is called back to see the doctor, gets up to go and leaves FG sitting in the waiting room and the nurse says "Oh and your partner can come too if you like Mr. Friend."  ::)  :D

Wow wouldn't these guys wives like to know what is going on with them.  >:D

Nora

  • Hero Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 3488
Re: making assumptions about family relationsships
« Reply #18 on: September 09, 2010, 05:49:01 AM »
My grandfather and I have gotten dirty looks when we walk down the street arm in arm. We have done so since I was a child, because it's cosy, and I tended to wander off because of my Ooooh-look-shiny syndrome, and it stuck. We are almost 50 years apart in age, and other than my skin being light brown, and he being very very dutch looking (e.g. very tall, and very white), we do look like family. Not everyone can see past ethnicity, and some people apparantly assume he's imported himself a girlfriend.  ::)
Just because someone is offended that does not mean they are in the right.

phred246

  • Member
  • **
  • Posts: 354
Re: making assumptions about family relationsships
« Reply #19 on: September 09, 2010, 11:35:03 PM »
Five years ago, I went to the Crayola Factory with my then 11 year old DD. We were invited to participate in a special activity for grandparents and their grandchildren. I just stared at the woman and informed her that DD was my daughter!

Work fascinates me! I can stare at it for hours!

DaisyLeigh

  • Member
  • **
  • Posts: 137
Re: making assumptions about family relationsships
« Reply #20 on: September 11, 2010, 09:33:08 AM »
You cannot blame people for innocent mistakes. I mean, nowadays it seems acceptable for teens to keep babies, so I can see where someone might think that the teen is a parent and not a sibling. Also, it is sometimes hard to judge age. Some people may think that the sibling looks much older than they really are. I am actually old enough to be my youngest son's grandma. If someone made that assumption, I would not be offended. Big whoop.

For goodness sake, unless the person is being rude and snarky, develop a thicker skin and be gracious about it.

Danismom

  • Hero Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 2030
Re: making assumptions about family relationsships
« Reply #21 on: September 11, 2010, 10:10:30 AM »
In my job, I regularly visit with patients before surgery.  These are cordial, supportive visits meant to offer encouragement and ease the anxiety of surgery.  Due to our setup, each patient may only have 1-2 visitors with them.  I have to have some way to ask who the people are in the room with the patient to assess the support that the patient has from family/friends.  I've learned not to assume though.  I have yet to find a way to ask that isn't awkward.  Right now, I usually use "Who is this with you, today?" or "How are you guys connected?"

One of the times that emphasized not to make assumptions:

The girlfriend was at the bedside while the wife was in the waiting room.  Yes, they knew about each other.  They sat on opposite sides of the waiting room while he was in surgery.  If I didn't know which was which, I really would have stepped in it had I guess wrong.

Everlee

  • Hero Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 1678
Re: making assumptions about family relationsships
« Reply #22 on: September 15, 2010, 02:23:20 PM »

How about making a T-shirt for your daughter that has a picture of little DD and says something like best little sister ever?

I agree with this for the OP's problem.  If I see a little girl that is wearing a shirt saying 'I love my brother' accompanied by an older boy, I would assume sibling.  Obviously that won't work in all situations.  I am 25 and am very close to my dad so we spend a lot of time together.  I would feel a little odd wearing an 'I love my daddy' shirt.   :)

Squeaks

  • Super Hero!
  • ****
  • Posts: 5026
Re: making assumptions about family relationsships
« Reply #23 on: September 15, 2010, 02:48:49 PM »
People can make strange assumptions based on circumstances and circumstances can affect perception.

I am reminded of a time when my boyfriend at the time took his little brother to the hospital for some tests/appointments (he was sick these visits were monthly).  Everyone kept calling me mom.

I was 20.  Brother was 12.  I can see them thinking the brother was younger as he was small, but geez it's a kids hospital they should be used to sick kids being small for their age.

To make it even weirder.  I am as pale as you can get, the brothers are Mexican, we look *nothing* alike.  I guess in someways i have to give them credit for being open minded about apperance,  but at the same time the brothers actually did look alike, but not a single acknowledgment of his presence, at least if they call him dad the whole thing would have seemed more logical to me.  Everyone there kept turning to me to talk to, even after explaining i was not related and he was, they still talked to me. . . . i fear they are just use to defaulting to the moms, which i find rather sad.

As for helpful advice.  Well when it comes up in my office i usually try to politely ask "are you together?" with an air of confusion.  That usually opens the door for them to elaborate on what the situation is. 

I also think sometimes trying to find the least likely relationship to be uncomfortable helps.  In the OP's example i think assuming parent is slightly better.  I suspect many a teen moms have felt uncomfortable and having to correct people who think their child is their sibling.  And I suspect some have been met with judgment on the reveal.  I can't see many people becoming judgmental or cold when it turns out to be a sibling, it seems more benign a correction.

Unless it is said with a sneer, if they are asking if they are the parent, likely the person is not judging them, but rather accepting that all is just fine. 

Another trick with kids when they are older is to ask them in a jokeing manner "Are you taking your little sister out today?"  can come across as playful and hopefully the kid will blurt out who they are. 


JacklynHyde

  • Member
  • **
  • Posts: 489
Re: making assumptions about family relationsships
« Reply #24 on: September 15, 2010, 05:02:49 PM »
A decade ago, I dated a man 16 years my senior who had a goddaughter 8 years my junior.  When we came up to visit her in college, one of her friends asked if I was her mom.  I almost put the lad through a wall... but somehow managed to calmly explain the minor age difference.  Ah, for an Interesting Assumption back in the day.

Kimblee

  • I look good in white....
  • Super Hero!
  • ****
  • Posts: 6686
  • "Hugs don't go Boom." "They don't? Since when?"
    • My Blog
Re: making assumptions about family relationsships
« Reply #25 on: September 15, 2010, 05:09:10 PM »
After working with children for a few year, 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 wondering 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?

Or matching shirts "I'm the big sister" and "I'm the baby sister"

HeebyJeebyLeebee

  • Super Hero!
  • ****
  • Posts: 5019
Re: making assumptions about family relationsships
« Reply #26 on: September 15, 2010, 05:46:54 PM »

How about making a T-shirt for your daughter that has a picture of little DD and says something like best little sister ever?

I agree with this for the OP's problem.  If I see a little girl that is wearing a shirt saying 'I love my brother' accompanied by an older boy, I would assume sibling.  Obviously that won't work in all situations.  I am 25 and am very close to my dad so we spend a lot of time together.  I would feel a little odd wearing an 'I love my daddy' shirt.   :)

LOL!  Past a certain age, I'd be concerned people thought the word "sugar" was missing from that shirt.   >:D 
I am grateful for the friends I have made on EHell and everything I have learned, but it is time I move on.

Skoffin

  • I am not a fish
  • Member
  • **
  • Posts: 506
  • The greatest Skoffin that ever Skoffed
Re: making assumptions about family relationsships
« Reply #27 on: September 28, 2010, 09:17:00 AM »
It's best not to make assumptions, and most often these questions are not needed to be asked. If it's for something important then perhaps it could be acceptable, although it would be best to find a better way of phrasing it.

I know times have changed and so certain things have become more prevalent, however I would be offended if someone made assumptions about my personal habits. Many people believe that my generation get around and many do so in their young teens, I however abhor such behaviour and I would not be pleased to get accused of doing the same just because I'm young. Perhaps sometimes there is no ill intent meant, however if I find something disgusting I don't want a stranger to imply I do that very thing. If it's not necessary to ask then there is no reason to, if you can't tell then don't think about it and certainly don't judge the people based on lack of knowledge to their situation.

Emmy

  • Hero Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 3796
Re: making assumptions about family relationsships
« Reply #28 on: October 01, 2010, 08:57:04 AM »
I do see how people will just blurt out what they perceive as the family relationship upon first impression.  I think the polite thing to do would be to simply correct them (while trying to hide any annoyance you might feel from the wrong assumption).  I imagine most clerks and other people don't take time to really analyze somebody before making an assumption.  They might just see an adult (or somebody who looks like an adult) with a small child and automatically assume a parent/child relationship without assessing how old the adult is.

That being said, I think the advise to let it roll off your back is good.  I do see how that can be difficult if the assumptions are considered insulting.  Assumptions such as being mistaken as your children's grandmother in your 30's, being handed the children's menu when you are 25, or being mistaken for your same age best friend's parent would take the wind out of my sails and I'm sure I wouldn't be the only one to feel that way.

Kelvar

  • Guest
Re: making assumptions about family relationsships
« Reply #29 on: October 04, 2010, 09:37:32 AM »
A few people have assumed my brother was my boyfriend. Most of the time we just thought it was a bit weird, the only time I got offended was when someone noticed my Taurus tattoo and asked his star sign, then started going into great detail about how it will affect out relationship, including scrabble preferences. :o
(Which would have been out of order even if we had been dating.)

The only other time it could have been an issue was when someone from school saw us shopping together at the weekend and promptly told my then-boyfriend he might need to talk to me about the other guy I was seeing. Luckily he assumed the best and asked for a description, then laughed his head off when he realised it was my brother they were worried about. ;D

The one I'm kind of dreading is when I have kids. I'm 25 and still get ID'd for alcohol (legal age here is 18) and often told I look much younger, especially when I'm wearing something 'immature' (like shorts, sandals and a t-shirt with a silly slogan). Unless I somehow look much older by the time I have kids I'm expecting a lot of comments about teenage pregnancy.