cross-cultural birthday expectations=MAJOR HEADACHE - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 9 Old 12-07-2010, 01:27 PM - Thread Starter
 
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my dh is from Peru.  his whole family is here, he came when he was 16.  our dd is turning 5.  we usually have a big family birthday party. we both come form big families, and so this was usually a party with everyone here at the house, its like 6 hours long, the kids get bored and rowdy, its uber-expensive to feed so many people for a little kids birthday.  its probably around 40-50 people who come.

this year, dd is turning 5. she has been to a couple "theme" type kids parties at chuck e. cheese, or various places that offer a kid focused party for a few hours. this is what she wanted.  so, there is a bead store nearby in a cool antique mall that offers birthday parties. she wanted either this or an ice-skating party.  so, after much discussion, i thought dh adn i agreed to have the party for her little cousins and some friends at the bead place. 

after i sent invites and confirmed the date with the bead place, it turns out no, he never agreed (or at least doesn't remember).  he is worried about offending his family - who all expect to be invited to a birthday party.  i mean, really? do 16 year old cousins REALLY want to go to a 5 year olds party?? nah, they don't. they get BORED! They're 16!!!!

so, now we are going to have ALL of our families invited (cause if we invite ALL of his family, then i feel rude not inviting mine) and the kids, AND its just at a mall with the little ones beading necklaces and bracelets.  i am going to call and add about 6 people to our list of beaders. 

augh.  it was quite a "discussion" we had about it too.  it is so frustrating. i jsut wanted to let my kid have a regular 5 year old birthday party that she wants.  most of the time when we have the big famliy parties, most of his sibs are late, mine are on time.  so this means we eat late, we cut the cake late, my family leaves as soon as the cake is cut (cause they have already been there for 4+ hours) often her cousins on my side aren't even there for the cake cause his side takes so long. 

i am so happy that his family loves my kids so much. i am so glad she has so many loving relatives in her life.  but seriously!!! she's only turning 5! she really doesn't need a 6 hour birthday party!

 

how do others deal with this type of situation?  oh, and he feels that he has offended his family cause it is a traditional crazy long family party.  i know some people do friends party and then family party - but with so many people involved, i feel like it is really overboard to have 2 parties every year.  if it was just grandparents and parents for the family party, ok, that's cool, but seriously 2 parties is too much for me.  a lot of my neices/nephews on his side struggle with this.  they want a traditional American party where they hang out with friends and similar aged cousins, not a 16 year olds birthday with a bunch of 6 adn 7 year olds running around. but their parents really don't udnerstand.

sorry this is so long.  thanks for reading if you have made it through!!

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#2 of 9 Old 12-07-2010, 01:48 PM
 
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my partner is peruvian and i've luckily avoided throwing one of those huge, hours long, table full of sweets birthday parties that peruvians love so much. i do not like hosting parties! but i feel your pain. it's tradition! and birthday parties are a family affair, not just for kids. the ones i go to usually end up turning into adult parties with music, dancing and beer coming out once it gets later on in the night. i think it is great that peruvians are so family friendly, without being completely child-centric. i much prefer those kind of parties to the ones where there are entire classes of kids invited to a party and the kids just end up going sugar wild while the parents are meagerly trying to do kids games.

also, peruvians have a much different sense of time than most westerners, i would just plan that into your schedule. on the bright side, it makes things much more relaxed as long as you are willing to stop looking at the clock.

that said, hosting a theme party like that, my vote is for holding two parties: a family affair at home and the bead thing with the child's friends. what does your kid think about the family parties? do they enjoy them? if she hates them, then that's a reason not to have them, but if she likes having the family around, why not do both? i do think if you do both your husband should take the reins as far as planning the family party, so you don't end up doing double duty.

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#3 of 9 Old 12-07-2010, 01:52 PM
 
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Just sending an empathic reply your way. I don't know if there is a solution, or a good solution. It is what it is,  in immigrant families. Sometimes, it's much better than what they would be assimilated into...sometimes it's more complicated. If you weren't getting together for the 5-yr-old's party, you would be getting together for something else, right? (and still having to pay for all those people to eat). Is there any way that people will bring things over to help feed everyone? At least in my family and DH's family, people bring foods over when there is a large gathering. Can you order pizza for the teens?

 

We would have some of these issues if we lived closer to family.

 

I see this being a possible issue in our house, with respect to slumber parties. I grew up on slumber parties. I hosted one for my birthday, every year from age 7 to about 14. I spent at least 1-2 nights a week at my girlfriend's house from about age 12 to 18. I once stayed there for 2 weeks straight. (I had returned from a 3-week vacation with my parents and had HAD ENOUGH of them for a while!)

 

In DH's culture, they would never allow the child to spend the night at someone's house, unless it were a super-close relative. The thought of an overnight party is simply anathema. Having us host one would be just as inappropriate.


DS, 10/07. Allergies: peanut, egg, wheat. We've added dairy back in. And taken it back out again. It causes sandpaper skin with itchy patches and thrashing during sleep. Due w/ #2 late April, 2012.

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#4 of 9 Old 12-07-2010, 01:54 PM
 
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Agreed with everything la mamita said. Children's birthday parties in DH's culture (West Indian) are not for the children - they are for the family, and this includes children but is not limited to them. And it's going to last all day and night. The little ones get tired, but they have great memories of hanging around with family.


DS, 10/07. Allergies: peanut, egg, wheat. We've added dairy back in. And taken it back out again. It causes sandpaper skin with itchy patches and thrashing during sleep. Due w/ #2 late April, 2012.

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#5 of 9 Old 12-07-2010, 03:12 PM - Thread Starter
 
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i suppose that we could have had 2 parties, but it seemed silly cause she wanted to invite her same aged cousins - so half the family would show up anyway to the kids party.  i get that Peruvians are on a different schedule.  we planned that into our wedding invites.  i know that after 11 years together.  i think its great that the kids are always expected to be allowed everywehre, but i don't know that i would call it being kid-friendly. at least in dh's family, kids are expected to sit quietly and not mess with anything.  we had MIL's 75th birthday over the weekend. the kids got in trouble every where they went.  they couldn't be in the living room, cause that is wehre the guests were. they couldn't be in the large basement family room, cuae that was decorated for the dancing. the dining room had the food, the kitchen is always off limits.  there were a lot of kids and they had nothing to do, and nowhere to go.  we were the first to leave at 2 am, and i know most of th ekids didn't leave until after 3am.  they were pretty bored.  most of the older ones who have american friends ask me about american holiday traditions and tell me that when they grow up they won't do all night parties, that they hate them.  pretty much my ILs turn on the TV for 6 hours and expect the kids to zone out and stay out of trouble.

and the food thing isn't really that big of a deal.  its just venting. 

i hate dragging my kids out of places at 2 am caus ethey need to sleep.  but when i stay home with the kids, then the family gives dh trouble cause they are offended that we didn't bring a 2 year old to a party that goes till 2 am. 

plus, when we are hosting, as i said, my family ends up leaving before cake or someitmes before food is even served cause we wait so long for my ILs. my family doesnt' want to stay till 10 pm to eat dinner. they want to get their kids to sleep. i just think that is rude for half the guests to leave without eating or being part of the celebration.  and hey, its cool to be respectful of others traditioins and customs, but i think it should be a 2 way street.

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#6 of 9 Old 12-08-2010, 10:13 AM
 
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Can you surreptitiously the families different starting times?

 

Your family: "Hey, we;re getting started at 5."

His family:"We're cutting the cake at 3."

 

We have a friend who we threaten to do this to. She is consistently late to EVERY function, even professional ones. Yes, we know it's cultural, but in her case, it's so bad that her American husband (who is a stickler for deadlines anyway) drives separately, even for things that are an hour away in the city.

 

And the 2-way street argument, while I agree with it on the surface, once you start to unpack it and explore it, it becomes much more complex. In short, when I've had these conversations with DH (a West Indian immigrant), he reminds me that - as an immigrant - everything he is, and does, and experiences is a compromise from the culture in which he grew up in. When he's around his family, it is such a relief because he can go back to "being" who is "is." His family very much is his life, and the reason he even exists today. In some (many) ways, he feels he owes his life to them. His sister worked many jobs to bring him (and many other family members) here so that *he* could have the advantages offered here and not in his home country. And his family is DS's family - is and always will be. VERY difficult to explain these things on an anonymous internet forum. I pretty much step aside/try to assimilate myself when we're with DH's family. For example, I set all expectations of sleep aside. When we're visiting DH's family, DS stays up until 11, 12, 1am, and he sleeps in each morning.


DS, 10/07. Allergies: peanut, egg, wheat. We've added dairy back in. And taken it back out again. It causes sandpaper skin with itchy patches and thrashing during sleep. Due w/ #2 late April, 2012.

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#7 of 9 Old 12-11-2010, 12:53 PM
 
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I would not invite the entire families to the mall for beading.  That would just get really crazy.  You could have them come to the house afterwards for an after party celebration.  Serve cold foods buffet style, so there is no set sit down to eat time.  Put the kids to bed at a reasonable time, and insist that continuing festivities be held at a reasonable volume.

 

Chronic lateness isn't necessarily cultural in a family.  At one of my cousin's wedding I was the first person from the brides side of the family to show up (we had misread the invitation as 4 o'clock when it was half past 4) but the side of the church with the grooms family was already full.  Both families were Irish with a few other cultures married in.

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#8 of 9 Old 12-14-2010, 11:45 AM - Thread Starter
 
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yeah, we also give different times. it doesn't matter much though.  i have one SIL who has lived here long enough that she gets how americans like things to be on time, she always is reliable this way. 

and i get that 90% of dh's life is compromised to live in this country.  everything he does is the American way.  i know and i do understand that.  and i agree, when we are with my IL's most rules are out the window.  cake for breakfast? sure, stay up till 11? sure.  i don't complain to dh about it anymore, i have just accepted that that is the way it is.  and his family has also provided a lot for him.  i know how grateful he feels towards them.  so, i try not to get in the way of that.  but, my family has done a lot for me also.  i feel that same way towards my parents and family as he does.  and when it is inviting both families, i just think it is frustrating, and a little rude, for EVERYONE to accomodate one cultural norm.  i'm not asking his family to ignore what they are comfortable with, but they need to give a little - the same way i ask my family to give a little.  my family is willing to stay till 8 or 9 o'clock - just not till midnight to cut the cake for a 5 year old's birthday. 

Quote:
Originally Posted by ASusan View Post

Can you surreptitiously the families different starting times?

 

Your family: "Hey, we;re getting started at 5."

His family:"We're cutting the cake at 3."

 

We have a friend who we threaten to do this to. She is consistently late to EVERY function, even professional ones. Yes, we know it's cultural, but in her case, it's so bad that her American husband (who is a stickler for deadlines anyway) drives separately, even for things that are an hour away in the city.

 

And the 2-way street argument, while I agree with it on the surface, once you start to unpack it and explore it, it becomes much more complex. In short, when I've had these conversations with DH (a West Indian immigrant), he reminds me that - as an immigrant - everything he is, and does, and experiences is a compromise from the culture in which he grew up in. When he's around his family, it is such a relief because he can go back to "being" who is "is." His family very much is his life, and the reason he even exists today. In some (many) ways, he feels he owes his life to them. His sister worked many jobs to bring him (and many other family members) here so that *he* could have the advantages offered here and not in his home country. And his family is DS's family - is and always will be. VERY difficult to explain these things on an anonymous internet forum. I pretty much step aside/try to assimilate myself when we're with DH's family. For example, I set all expectations of sleep aside. When we're visiting DH's family, DS stays up until 11, 12, 1am, and he sleeps in each morning.

anyway, thanks to everyone who posted.  what ended up happening was, dh and i invited our parents over on dd's actual birthday for dinner and cake.  MIL didn't come - she was sick.  we didn't eat till close to 9, it was fine.
then the next day we did the party at the bead place.  everyone came, and EVERYONE had a great time.  even the teenage boys made bracelets for their mothers for x-mas.  and all my SILs told me that they really enjoyed it.  they were able to do a little x-mas shopping cause their kids were being watched and occupied.  there is a huge hall for artists studios in the mall and one SIL actually signed up for saturday oil painting classes. she loves to paint and never knew that place was there so she was really happy that she came.  and the kids liked it a lot.
so, it all worked out anyway - for all my complaining and anxiety, and even my SILs were giving DH a hard time cause he was still kind of grumpy about it and they liked it.

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#9 of 9 Old 12-15-2010, 09:34 AM
 
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Yay! So glad things worked out. I'm really impressed that the bead thing at the mall worked out for all involved. Paint-your-own pottery next year?


DS, 10/07. Allergies: peanut, egg, wheat. We've added dairy back in. And taken it back out again. It causes sandpaper skin with itchy patches and thrashing during sleep. Due w/ #2 late April, 2012.

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