Saturday, November 7, 2009

Family Values

My husband and I knew that we grew up with a different set of family values. But what we didn't know was how even some of the more mundane things are different in our two upbringings.

For example, watching movies on tape or dvd. In my husband's family if you have to get up, they push stop or pause until you return. In my family, the movie continues. In my husband's family there are three people: my husband and his parents. It's considered rude to not pause because no one should miss a part of the movie. In my family there are four. If you pause it's considered rude to make the others wait for you to return. I don't think either side is wrong in what they determine as movie watching etiquette. It's just different.

So when my husband and I were married, I would try to quietly sneak out to use the restroom or get something to drink and he would pause. At first it was strange and then I would tell him to not pause. But he insisted on pausing anyway. We haven't solved that little hiccup yet. And I have a funny feeling that we won't because I think it's rude to keep people waiting and he thinks it's rude to have someone miss a part of the movie. We can't seem to compromise on the issue. I think though that if I leave he should not pause unless it something like answering the phone so it needs to be quiet. If he leaves, I don't mind pausing. And as for our children, they get bored and leave all the time anyway. You might as well forget about pausing until they're older. But we've never really talked about it.

The dinner issue has come up quite a bit however. In my husband's family, his mother did all the cooking (unless she was working). She'd put it on the table and they would pass the bowl/basket/plate. In my family, we had a large enough kitchen that my parents would both prepare a meal if the meal was large enough. Usually my mom would get out the cook books and start it. My dad would tend to it. The food stayed in the kitchen. It was buffet style or come as you go. Dinner was announced and you grabbed a plate and ate where you wanted to. We didn't normally sit down at a table unless we had company. In my husband's family you ate breakfast and lunch and dinner together if you were all together. In my family you made breakfast and lunch for yourself. My parents used to work early shift so I ate cereal in the morning and made my own lunch for school. This also happened on weekends. Sometimes my parents would make breakfast or lunch, but this was not as consistent as my husband's family.

The issue has come up in my house (my husband's and mine) over breakfast and lunch. My husband will ask me when I'm going to eat. Since I'm pregnant I eat when I feel hungry which could be any time. This confuses me because no one in my parents' house cares when you eat. If your hungry, you go and get it. My husband thinks that because we are both home that means we eat together. Dinner yes, but lunch and breakfast no. He says that it upsets him that I have this "fend for yourself attitude" about meals.

Even dinner, I cook it. But I don't normally put it on a plate for him and serve it. I leave it in the kitchen announce that dinner is done and make my own plate. We rarely sit down at a dinning room table. I don't like sitting at a dinning room table that much because for my husband it signals interaction time. He says that it was the time that his family discussed things and interacted. If I have to say something I say it regardless of a specific meal time. I think it's a bit rude to be talking while someone is eating or when you have food in your mouth. If you need to interact, I think it should be before or after the meal. But that also leads to another round of issues. For my husband the end of the meal signals go and do your own thing time. For me I think after dinner is fair game for discussions.

Personally this is how I ideally see dinner at home with my son and husband. I make dinner. Hubby makes his own plate and sits at table. I make son's plate and sit it in front of him or he makes his own depending on his age. I make my own. We sit and eat. After everyone is done, we sit and discuss things and then clear the dinner table. I think it's a waste to have to move a bunch of serving dishes to the dinning room table just to move them to the kitchen. More clean up duty. Dinner is served at 7pm.

I think that this is how my husband sees dinner. Table is set. Food is prepared and sat in middle of table. Each member fills plate and helps son with his. We start to eat and start talking. Food is finished. Dishes and food is cleaned up or put away. Family members separate to different parts of house for own personal time. Dinner is served at 5:30 or 6pm.

I have no idea about how to compromise on this issue. I think for my part I've already changed "my dinner attitude" because I've conceded to eating together at a dinner table and being the one to make the meals. Even when I was working I could only get my husband to make one meal a week. My husband doesn't see this as a strong enough compromise because he still wants the dialogue during dinner (which as I said I consider to be rude because that should be after dinner before desert time). And he wants the "me time" right afterwards. This leaves us both frustrated. He feels that I'm not interested in talking to him and I feel that he's more interested in playing his games for hours on end after we eat. When really it's just that our signals about when to approach each other are crossed.

It's not easy to give up on the comforts or learning patterns of childhood. For my husband dinner was the highlight of family life. For me, going out and exploring was the highlight of family life. Now my husband doesn't get his ideal dinner time and I don't get to go out to museums, movies, window shopping, etc. because my husband is a homebody. It's frustrating. Now throw in baby. What will he feel about meals and going out?

I will say this much. My mom wasn't the one into going places. She hates shopping. I would go with dad. So maybe my son will enjoy exploring with just mom. And learn some other cool way to interact with dad. I don't know. I think my husband is going way overboard with the whole meal issue. He has this expectation that we will commense with his ideal meal plan when his son is old enough. His son will not have a rotten life if he doesn't share in his father's version of an ideal family dinner.

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