Meeting your partner’s parents for the first time is a daunting experience. Will they like you? Are they nice people? Will you like them?
Conversely, having your parents meet your partner for the first time is equally stressful. What if they hate him or her? What if they don’t get along?
For some people, these what-ifs have the potential to be deal breakers.
However, I’m of the opinion that having your parents meet your partner’s parents has the most potential for problems. To me, that’s the stuff nightmares are made of. Who hosts? When and where? Who pays for the meal? Who should reach out first? What if there are glaring differences or clashing personalities… quiet vs outspoken, paleo vs vegan, huggers vs non-huggers?
A poor outcome could impact on the couple’s future.
Recently, my brother and his fiancée had their parentals meet. I forewarned my brother to keep dad’s alcohol beverages to a minimum in a bid to prevent his brain-to-mouth filter from disintegrating completely. I reminded him of my experience where dad (a few beers in) thought talking about his prostate problems and cystoscopy (with detailed explanation of how the tubing goes into the penis) were good conversation starters. I suggested perhaps reminding dad about common social etiquette and avoiding controversial discussion topics.
But my brother wasn’t worried. In fact, he wanted dad to be himself… warts and all. It actually made me feel shit for being embarrassed by dad’s lack of decorum. While I worried and stressed over having the perfect meeting, my brother was self-secured and unfazed by any negative eventualities. He took things as they came. I wondered if my fixation of having my parents present a good impression made me a shallow person?
According to my brother and our parents, the meeting went well. With no language barriers, the men discovered that as young lads they were neighbours in Vietnam. They had similar tales of their refugee experience and found many commonalities. Both had no qualms pulling out their cameras, phones and tripods to record the meeting. My brother said the women got along well and my mum even invited them over for tea, which is unheard of for my extremely introverted mother.
I’m happy for my brother. Having the in-laws and our parents gets along is wonderful and I wish it were so in my case. Unfortunately, for me, there is a language and cultural barrier and both sides aren’t particularly eager to find common ground. It makes organising special occasions like the kids’ birthday parties difficult, usually with only one side invited or two events held.
Sometimes I wonder whether things could have turned out differently had I been less anxious about formalities and etiquette. I wonder whether the relationship between the parents could have taken a different route had I bridged the gap in cultural and language barriers. But ultimately, I know I am not responsible for the actions or inactions of grown adults. I had no control on the situation or situations that have occurred since.
I hope when it’s time for me to meet my children’s partner’s family, I’ll graciously set aside my ego and reserve judgements. I hope I will embrace them with open arms or at least be civil. I would do this for the sake of my children and their happiness.
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