My parents love family dinners. That’s no big deal, because a lot of parents love to gather their kids and have a nice meal together. I for one, don’t mind getting together to eat with my folks either.
But what does bug me is my parents’ definition of a “family dinner”. For me, a family dinner is a dinner with our immediate family, my wife and anyone that my siblings might be seeing at the time. We have a meal, either at home or at some restaurant, and do family stuff. Talk, chat, whatever. It could be fun, it could lead to arguments, but at least it’s a family thing.
For my parents, however, a family dinner is a dinner with our immediate family, my wife, anyone that my siblings might seeing at the time, and anyone else that wants to be there. Like, anybody at all. It could be one of my uncles, or my dad’s friends, or some obscure random distant cousin of theirs from Hong Kong.
In my opinion, the inclusion of completely random people like will immediately disqualify the dinner as a family dinner, and thus my mother should not be guilt-tripping me to attend such a dinner because it’s a “family dinner”. Because it’s not. Your classmate from university? I don’t know him. Never seen him before. Even if I did, it really doesn’t count if I was 2 months old at the time.
But it doesn’t matter to my parents. They’ll just bring us along to the dinner, and we’ll meet some random friends of theirs. We’ll be introduced and presented to the strangers, they’ll exclaim “What a lovely daughter-in-law you have!” and then just smile blankly at me while shaking my hand. This will all take place in the first 5 minutes of dinner. After that, my parents and their friends will chit-chat over the entire dinner, while we try to pass the time discretely playing iPhone games – our presence will no longer be acknowledged after that initial presentation.
Okay, this shit is understandable when we’re just kids. After all, you can’t just leave a 5 year old at home alone, right? And besides, we were 5 years old… what alternate plans would we have?
But by the time we’re teenagers, we do have other plans, and the maturity to be left home alone. Even if I didn’t have exciting plans to go to a concert/movie/party with some friends, I’d really much rather stay at home and watch TV than be bored shitless at a dinner like this. Hell, I’d rather stay home and study than sit in a restaurant trying to make the napkin spontaneously combust with the sheer intensity of my frustration. Seriously, when I was a teen we didn’t have smart phones, and my parents considered it rude to read at the dinner table (at least with smart phones, you could pretend you were replying to work emails). It is just insanely boring!
Now my siblings and I are all adults, so my parents can’t exactly just force us to go to these dinners anymore. But by calling them “family dinners”, they can coerce us to go along as a display of family spirit. But I really just can’t understand why. Why the fuck would you want to drag your kids along to a dinner that’s really just between you and your friends, completely waste their time and generating so much resentment in the process? Is it really that important to present your kids to your friends in that first 5 mins? You’ve got an iPad and an iPhone… why not just show them pictures of us or something instead?!?
If you want to spend time with the family, then have an actual family dinner and let it get hijacked by Joe Shmoe from China, with that awful comb-over haircut. Because if you don’t… well one of these days I might finally set the restaurant ablaze with the power of my mind and the built-up frustration from 30 years of boring dinners!