As soon as I read the letter in Social Qs from a man who felt he was being "talked over and generally excluded" from dinner conversations with adult children, I started counting. How many friends did I know who had complained about the same thing. They had had successful careers, experienced the joys of parenting and proudly headed the table at family functions. From Thanksgiving dinners to Christmas feasts, Passover Seders to Easter breakfasts, they had steered the conversation and made sure the value of their point of view was heard.
And now? Well, now the adult children are in charge and it is hard to have our voices heard--no less to take command. "They're no longer interested in my opinion," one friend put it. This was after a Christmas dinner hosted by his son (from his first marriage) and attended by his wife and wife's kids (ditto), the adult children's spouses and the grandkids. It didn't seem to count that he had long provided wise business counsel to three of the four grown children, all of whom had gone on to succeed in business.
His brief lament mirrored the longer tale told to Philip Galanes' Social Q's:
I am fortunate to be in a great long-term marriage that produced a wonderful daughter and an amazing college-age granddaughter. But lately, they have told me, in plain English, that my opinions and standards (from my education at a parochial school and military academy) don’t count for much. The last time we had dinner, they talked over me and generally excluded me from the conversation. My opinions were dismissed, and my values were derided. These are the three most important women in the world to me. How do I get them to stop using me as a piñata?
Philip Galanes suggests the writer might be dominating conversation and not falling in line with the more democratic approach of the current times. Here's Galanes point:
We all have a right to our opinions, of course. But one of the interesting shifts in the past few years has been a greater public awareness of who feels entitled to speak up and expect their views to be heard — and who doesn’t. You may not suffer from blind privilege, but it’s a question worth considering.
If you have been holding the Talking Stick for too long, perhaps the women have become impatient for their turns. So, share it! And especially because they are so dear to you, make an effort to understand how their views differ from yours. In my experience, the respect in that gesture is often reciprocated.