An email from a friend arrived in my inbox this week. He was soliciting advice. Here's his question.
Our older son notified us by text that he and his wife could come over for Easter Sunday dinner. We dutifully dropped $50 on primo lamb chops, wild rice, asparagus, a freshly baked pie, and a six-pack of craft beer. Our son arrived empty handed, though he quickly filled one by grabbing a beer from the refrigerator, handing a sparkling water to his wife. The fact that the pair brought nothing cast a pall of entitlement over the holiday dinner. Was I wrong to feel this way? Could this have been my own fault for subsidizing him for so long? I look forward to your sage guidance.
Readers, what would you tell hm? Here's the stab I made at handing out sage guidance on life's little and big inter-personal problems.
We feel what we feel and you feel lousy about your son not acknowledging the effort you made. It might have helped if he had thanked you for making such a great dinner.
But this may not be an entitlement issue. Adult kids are still kids and when they come home for a "special" dinner they don't see themselves as guests but as your son, and sons or daughters don't usually think to bring "guest gifts" or "chip in" offerings to their parents. Also it may be a generational thing. Every year we are invited to a neighbor's house for Passover dinner along with their two adult kids and their families as well as cousins and the cousins' kids. I always call to see what I can bring (usually dessert). But it turns out that I am almost alone in that. My neighbor tells me that I and an "older" cousin are the only ones who offer to bring anything. The grown kids and cousins never do.
If these kids were invited to a friend's house for a big get-together, would they bring a six pack or a bottle of wine? Probably. But parents seem to be another story.
I checked in with Paterfamilias. He leaned toward letting it slide. His rationale: The relationship with adult children is so important and delicately balanced, why let something relatively minor become an issue.
Any of you readers want to take a crack at this?