Ask Amy: Elder wonders why parents socialize with kids in tow
When I was growing up, I never saw my parents or their friends socialize along with their children.
My parents always had friends their own age, and so did the children.
In the last 30 to 40 years, I have watched my siblings, nieces and nephews, and even my friends socializing with their children.
They have even brought their young children to parties where there would be a lot of bad behavior going on.
I don't understand this phenomenon. Is it because it makes these parents feel younger, or was there some kind of loneliness in their youth?
What could they possibly talk about with these kids, having such an age difference?
— Beyond Curious
It is safe to say that parents did a lot of things when you were growing up that they don't do now (my father used to send me to the store on my bike to buy his cigarettes).
When you were growing up, the majority of households had one parent who was more or less a full-time parent. This parent spent a lot of time with the children, and so when there was an opportunity to spend time with adults, the parents hired a babysitter.
A recent (pre-pandemic) finding from the Bureau of Labor Statistics states that in American households with married parents, 64 percent of these families have both parents who are employed.
Parents now seem to have integrated their children more into their adult lives, and are also much more engaged in the lives of their children than were parents in previous generations. (Did your folks attend your school events?)
A higher proportion of parents are in single-parent working households now. These parents include their children in adult activities sometimes out of guilt, and sometimes necessity.
Many parents don't feel comfortable leaving the children with a babysitter, unless the person is a family member.
Childcare is expensive, and hard to come by. Fewer teenagers babysit (perhaps because they are all at cocktail parties with their parents).
My spouse and I socialize with a group of about 12 people, several times a year.
One person in the group, "Jon," is quite outspoken on all issues.
We purposely avoid discussing politics, but Jon can overreact regarding many different social issues and current events.
Jon will assert his opinion, but when someone else brings up an opposing view, Jon gets vocal, sometimes shouting, calling people sophomoric names, gesticulating, and often — and repeatedly — telling others that if they don't like the way things are right now, they are welcome to leave the country.
He drowns out any opposing conversation. The host and hostess are silent during these episodes.
This situation is extremely unpleasant and ruins the evening because everyone feels extremely uncomfortable.
How do you suggest we handle these events and/or this person? We are considering declining future invitations, even though we enjoy the rest of the group.
I'm not sure why none of the other 11 adults at the table don't step in to ask "Jon" to display courteous and adult behavior.
We parents are forever telling our children to stand tall against bullies, and yet here you are saying you would stay home rather than ask someone you are dining with to change his tone and convey even minimal manners.
One or both of the hosts should step in when this is happening to say, "Jon, you're a guest here. Please lower your voice, and I'd appreciate it if you didn't insult people at our table."
Furthermore, if you are at a group event in the future and Jon behaves this way (and you genuinely believe he has ruined the evening), you should tell him so, either in the moment or afterward, when you can choose your words carefully: "Jon, last night you shouted at your friends and insulted several of us. Your behavior ruined the evening for me. This is not the first time. You don't seem to enjoy these get-togethers, and I know I don't enjoy them when you behave that way."
I vehemently disagree with your terrible advice to "Teacher," who ignored her parent's "bigotry" at family gatherings.
I could not believe that you told this woman to openly disrespect her 80-year-old parents — at their own home!
These elderly people were behaving disrespectfully, with no feedback from their daughter regarding how their statements had been received over the years. I believe she owes them an honest reaction.
Write to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068, or email@example.com.