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Family hieararchies.... story of a BBQ gone WRONG

Discussion in 'Parenting' started by slingshotsally, Jul 4, 2011.

  1. slingshotsally

    slingshotsally Star commenter

    Hi all,
    It's been quite a while since I posted on this forum for a while. This could be quite long- I have been thinking about it for quite a while now.
    This weekend has just been a bit difficult and I thought I would find out what others have experienced in way of faimly hierarchies (sorry if I spelt that wrong).
    Husband, baby and I have been way to the seaside for the weekend to meet up parents in law. As it was also DH's aunt's birthday, we were obliged to go and pay a visit there too. His cousins and there children were also there.
    This is how the hieararchy was during this session- number denotes status (pecking order)
    1. Uncle (he held voluble court and didn't get off the shady swing - substitute throne)
    2. Aunt (spent time trying to get the food sorted- mostly in the kitchen)
    3. Elder Cousin (HT and earns a lot)
    4. Elder Cousin's Wife (mother of two, posh)
    5. Younger Cousin (Accountant, Tigger-like)
    6. Younger Cousin's Wife (Accountant, much like husband, mother of 1)
    7. EC's Children ( 8yrs and 10yrs)
    8. YC's Children ( baby and 3yr)
    9. My Parent's in Law
    10. My husband (Quite unassuming Techie)
    11. Me and my son (Unemployed teacher and 21mnth old,)
    The birthday party was a BBQ- Before I had my son I quite liked them.
    I must add that neither I nor my husband had a drink of alcohol at all during the day- the others I cannot vouch for.
    What happens next will make me sound dramatic, slightly over protective mummy and perhaps a touch irrational. You could roar with laughter...
    I went to the BBQ slightly worried, not sure exactly why- I usually find that no one really talks of real things anyway (in this extended family anyway). I try to fit in and keep conversation on the innocuous (spellling!), inane and the not too controversial topics well the blandest topics which will not offend anyone at all.
    However not on this particular occasion-
    My son is quite young but he sociable in the sense that he likes to try to play with other children by smiling, giggling, going up to them and sharing his ball. He did this repeatedly with his second cousins. Unfortunately neither of them responded. My son would then wander over to me or DH with the ball and we would play with him. He did this at least 6 times to the older children, and by that point I thought I should intervene. So I mentioned to the 8yr old girl that he would "really enjoy playing ball with you" and gave her the ball which she dropped and promptly walked off.
    When YC and family came the behaviour of the older cousins' could not have been more different. They rushed over and greeted them with happiness. Played with them and completely ignored my son. Even toys were not shared. My son went over to them and they simply ignored him.
    By this point I was starting to wonder just what he had to do to play with them. So I went to the kitchen and tried to calm a welling sense of panick/anxiety. I just wasn't sure what to do, I was also starting to see things in completely new light. I am of Asian origin, my son in also mixed race, all the cousins live in a "white area" and they simply aren't used to seeing children from a different cultural or ethnic background.
    At this point I was quite upset- So I told my mother in law that I wanted to leave as I felt uncomfortable at the treatment that my son was experiencing. Although he is quite young, he was starting to become bewildered by the continued rejection and I was getting angry about it. Then I started to cry. Next thing you know the Aunt goes off, the EC wife comes in.
    It just gets bad very quickly. They asked me what was wrong- I say what I have seen. EC's wife admits she has noticed it too and she was going to ask her children to play with him. I said to her that I wanted to leave as I felt that my son was being isolated deliberately and for him to continue experiencing this was not something I could tolerate watching for moment longer. I wanted to leave right then. She tried to rectify the matter however when she said that my actions of leaving would alienate him even further- I was offended. I have to say I said "don't talk about alienation- I am asian and so is he-you will never know what I or he will experience because of our colour" To which she replied "my children are not racist, they play with everyone"
    This is when it starts to get ugly- I did not accuse her or her children of racisim at all. She brought up herself. Up until that point it was the elephant in the room. I did point out that I had not said this at all and she had brought racism up herself.
    From then on there was just no point in me staying or taking the words back. I left with my son and DH. My husband was a bit bemused as he wasn't aware of what had taken place ( Conversation took place in the conservatory whilst the BBQ was out doors).
    I don't know why I am still upset- whenever my son has been in hospital (8 times with admissions for a minimum of 2 to 4 days at a time) they have never enquired about his health- not a phone call, email or text. They have NEVER shown any concern for his health or even the remotest interest in his rather young life at all. So I should not have been suprised if their children were as dismissive of my son as their parents.
    This is the only conversation of any real subject I have ever had with them in 6yrs if knowing them. And I am not sure I want to have any more even though I really want to maintain contact.
    Does what happened have more to do with family hierarchy than with race in this case?
    I just couldn't do the "inane" stuff anymore- with being "nice" and playing my "role" and knowing my "place" when I saw what the effect of it would be on my son.
    Sorry to go off piste- but I am just too stressed out to sleep.
  2. I'm sorry but I think, from what you've posted, you've completely overreacted. I also think that there's probably lots of back story that you haven't put here as you said you were worried about going to the BBQ before anything happened.
    She tried to get the older children to play with your, much younger, son. She was right, leaving would alienate him further, but the choice was yours.
    You brought up skin colour, you implied racism, sorry. Up until that point I read the whole thing as older children just not wanting to play with a younger boy who they don't seem to know as well as their other cousins. Not nice behaviour, but not racist either.
    I also don't see what family hierarchy has to do with this. You were at Aunt and Uncle's house, they and their children are bound to seem more at home, rather than some deliberate slight.
  3. I'm sorry you've been so upsset by this, but I think I have to agree with noeyedeer regarding the racism. It was you who brought race into it, and for the cousin's wife to defend herself and say she and her children aren't racist seems natural to me.
    In my experience children can be fussy about playing with another child just because they're younger. Maybe they see your son as a baby and want to play their own games without him. Not because your child is mixed race, necessarily, just because he's younger.I'm not saying this is right, but kids can be self involved and not see that they're upsetting another child.

    With regards to them not calling when your boy was ill, I think it's sad, but happens quite a lot. People get caught up in their own lives and maybe don;t think that a phone call would be appreciated. I know if I'd been in the situation where my baby was ill, fmaily might not contact me but would maybe be speaking to my parents who would keep them in the loop with information and they could pass on well wishes that way. Maybe your parents in law were keeping them aprised of the situation. Maybe the cousins didn't want to intrude on a difficult time. I'm not saying it's right, just that that might be what happened.

    Have you spoken to your husband about it? Does he think you overreacted or does he have the same view? It would be worth getting it all sorted out before you need to see them again, if you were feeling nervous before this BBQ, the next gathering might make you more nervous.
    Take care, BPG.
  4. slingshotsally

    slingshotsally Star commenter

    Hi all,
    Thanks for your advice noeyedeer and glitter kid.
    I did realise that you may think this was over reacting which in many ways it was...
    The back story is not interesting, sadly.
    When I was a child, I remember being told to share toys and be kind to my peers as it was drummed in to us that this was one way of being hospitable. This is not what I saw practiced towards my son.
    All I can say is that over reaction or not- there was colour divide. It's quite easy to say "it just children" when your child is not looking bewildered and confused. I would add the poice force wasn't considered institutionally racist until the Mcpherson enquiry either. The children's behaviour directly reflected their parent's in relation to my son. If not out and out racist then certainly a studied form of calculated indifference.
    My son goes to nursery and he plays with children of different cultures as well as children of different ages when I take him to the park or swimming pool. I didn't see his happiness and willingness to share his toys or engage in playful activity reciprocated in anyway at all.
    The children's mother also realised this was happening, her interpretion is more conventional but who would actually want to admit that their children may have been discriminatory. If you don't think that children of that age are capable of behaving in this manner due to skin colour then you are being disingenous.
    My father in law also noticed the behaviour as well. My husband knows that I don't burst a gasket only rarely and what I saw must have offended me very much.
    The reason I felt nervous before attending the BBQ was that I was worried they would be asking how the job search is going etc and to be honest I just didn't want to have the career question to deal with etc.
  5. slingshotsally

    slingshotsally Star commenter

    Just to add-
    My husband came home and wept after our son was put to bed. He acknowledged that this was also what he saw happen. However he didn't want to upset the family gathering and he wasn't certain what to say or how to bring the matter up.
  6. Hello You have obviously been really upset by this so ((((Badlyparkedgirl)))

    If my daughter was 8, I would hope she would be kind enough to play with a young toddler- so I can understand why that annoyed you... I hope she doesn't really think about their race- at that age they shouldn't. I would have taken her off, had a quiet word and expected her to try and include your son... My personal viewpoint.
    I can not say if I think it is racism, or what I feel as it is so hard to judge a situation when you aren't there but the fact that you are so upset does suggest that there was something in it. Sometimes there is just a vibe which is hard to put into words. - and obviously there must have been some nasty feeling for it to affect both you and your husband.

    I am sorry I can't really offer much advice- but hope you are feeling a bit better now xx
  7. I wasn't being disingenuous, just trying to point out that race might not be the only reason they didn't play with your son. Children can be discriminatory for all sorts of reasons.

    I think it's sad that the cousin and wife did not make more of an effort to include your child if their children were being stand offish.
    You didn't say before about the reaction of your FIL and OH. Clearly if they noticed the same thing as you then you are not overreacting.
    I hope you get it sorted out. Families are hard work, aren't they?[​IMG]

  8. could it not just be that the cousins are closer to each other than they are to you? i also think you brought the racism card up by mentioning being asian. the implication of your statement was that your son was being left out due to the colour of his skin. you also state that the cousin's children are from white areas - so again colour was playing on your mind.
    not a nice situation to be in. i can understand why you are so upset. often if we are sensitive about something we read a slight or an insult where none is intended. are the cousins siblings? if so they probably are closer to each other - and their children will be closer - than with you.
  9. Hi,
    When I was growing up, my family got on really well with my dad's sister and her family. I loved my cousins and would often stay at their house on a weekend, or vice versa. There were never any issues.
    One evening, we met my cousins, aunty and uncle for tea. All was fine. But when we got home, my dad got a phonecall of my aunty, was was livid. According to my eldest cousin, my dad had completely ignored her, and my aunty said some really nasty things to my dad.
    We weren't allowed to play round my cousins' house anymore, and vice versa. My dad and aunty barely speak. The last time I saw them all was at my wedding nearly three years ago, despite the fact that they live around the corner, and things were strained then.
    My dad is a lovely person and would never knowingly ignore someone. Looking back, I always think that perhaps my cousin was trying to get my dad's attention when he was busy or something.
    What I'm trying to say is that one over-reaction caused a rift between the family, that has lastest well over fifteen years now.
    I wasn't there on that day, so I can't comment on whether or not you over-reacted. However, it would be a shame to fall out with your husband's family over one incident.
    How does your husband feel about it all?
  10. hhhh

    hhhh Star commenter

    It may be that they thinkyour son is 'too young' to bother with- I have experienced this. your son is clearly bright and sociable for21 months, maybe the chilren and their parents thought he 'didn't matter' yet. I know that's wrong but I have seen this happen.
    Also, if the family haven't been close to you, their children would copy this, not necessarily cos of race. I have also experienced this, my father in law (my son's only granddad, and my boy is his only grandchild) has only seen my son once this year. Grandad is retired, in perfect health and lives down the road. When he did bother to come to our house just after I got home from hospital, he expected tea and food made for him and barged into me in the doorway cos he expected me to give way to him-I had had a CS and complications so should have been resting! I know it's horrible when family are like this.
    Myabe try to meet with smaller groups of the family to talk it over, but unfortunatley if people like that are in your family, t's hard.
  11. slingshotsally

    slingshotsally Star commenter

    Hi All,
    Thank you all for replying.
    I have reflected on my reaction to the playing was severe, and as a result I have written an aplogy too all concerned. Hopefully the apology will be accepted. I should have stayed when the mum offered to rectify the situation- so leaving meant that the situation could not be resolved.
    I also discussed this with a couple of parents who also have mixed race children to find out if this has happened to their children and what they have done to deal with this.
    One (male) advised that if I see this happen again, next time just approach the parents and have a quiet word. Just to say "I have noticed they are not playing with son and wondering if there is anything wrong".
    He is quite reasonable - his 2 children were at a wedding in Scotland. They were the only 2 mixed race.They were held in cells overnight, having been wrongly accused of theft. They were searched hand cuffed even though they had been nowhere near the victim. Not one of the other guests was inconvenienced in anyway.
    Anyway- take care all.
  12. Well, I think writing an apology was a very big thing of you to do- it can't have been easy and I really respect that. I hope you get a positive reaction from them... I think it is worth trying to maintain good terms, but the ball is in their court now.
    Hope you hear from them soon and have a better time at the next family meeting.
  13. I admire you for taking the first step, BPG. As moomoon says, the ball is in their court now, and I hope this is the first step in getting along with them.
    Hope the next BBQ goes well.

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