Join the Party

The family and I attended the annual big Czech dinner get-together tonight.

Lest you think this is odd… my husband’s parents came to the U.S. from the Czech Republic in the late 60s (then Czechoslovakia). Since then they have accumulated a smörgåsbord of Czech friends, who all have kids, and there are lots of grandkids, etc. So once a year around the holidays they plan this big brunch or dinner and a whole bunch of jabbering Czech people come and catch up and eat and fawn over each other’s grandkids. They are nice people and it is generally a good time.

First gripe though, is that this event has grown, a lot.  It first happened 3 or 4 years ago, and maybe there were 30 people there.  I’d estimate today at least 70 people were there.  This isn’t a bad thing, except that those that plan it I think are consistently underestimating the attendance and the group ends up packed in a space too small, especially given the amount of mingling and number of small children running about.  This vexes me to no end, but at least this year we were all in one room, vs. last year where the restaurant had us in two rooms, and the elder folks decided one room would be all the grandparents and the other room would be the kids & grandkids.  Stellar.

Anyway, onto the whole purpose of explaining this.  In attendance today were 3 boys, I’d say in the 8-10 year age bracket, who brought along their handheld game system doohickeys.  Damned if these boys didn’t spend the whole four hours of the party with their noses in their laps, save maybe the 5 minutes it took them to wolf down their food.

I was nine once, and I remember how awkward it could be to attend adult-focused parties.  At that age, you’re too big to run around with the little kids, too small to expect adults to not talk to you like a preschooler, and you’re at a socially defensive age where it’s weird and uneasy to just chat up the kids your age that might be around.

But you know what?  You learn social skills by enduring those situations.  You might get to meet someone interesting.  You might get so bored that you do resort to running around with the little kids and find you have fun doing it.  At the very least you are forced to spend a bit of time with your relatives and family friends.

As a relatively new parent, I’m currently learning as I go, feeling out for me where I want to be on the Passive:Autocratic Continuum* and what works best for me and my family.  Please, though, if I ever become the kind of parent who is so permissive that I allow my child to act this way at a social event, please punch me in the face.

*(c) me, 2008

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2 responses to “Join the Party

  1. We’re such mean, entertain-yourself parents that we don’t even allow those handheld things outside of each child’s bedroom. They’re viewed as more of a time-out thing (and they don’t have the nice game systems, just single-game-whatevers) than a source of entertainment.

    The other week, we went out to a very nice restaurant for Willem’s birthday. We indulged in a little self-congratulation as we settled in, because the last time we were there, we risked it and took both kids, and they behaved beautifully. A little drawing on plain paper with a pen from my purse, but otherwise just sitting and chatting like, well, people. So when another family walked in last week with an 8ish-year-old, I thought, “Oh, see, we’re not the only ones.” At first I literally thought the child was autistic, because he was walking oddly with his head down – then I realized he had a handheld game, and played it from sometime before he walked in the door until he left. He didn’t even stop to eat – just used only one hand.

    Blech.

  2. Oh, yes. I am quite familiar with this phenomena. My brother and sister-in-law allow their son to bring his when we go out to dinner, and their daughter gets to bring the DVD player.

    My other sister-in-law was shocked that we didn’t bring a DVD player for my son to use in our recent drive from Florida to CT and back. G-d forbid we actually talk, sing, or just sit and reflect as we watch the landscape go by. Now I do understand why people use them on long drives like this, but a 2 hour dinner?

    Um, yes. I know which way this family will doing things.

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