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What would you do? Imagine you had elderly parents (88,89) and they lived about 2.5 hours away, they are fully functional, cognitively healthy, drive, cook, etc, and you and your husband decide it’s finally safe to visit since everyone is vaccinated. 

If you leave early in the morning, and would leave shortly after lunch, who provides lunch? The parents because it gives them an opportunity to be the hosts and show generosity? Or the guests to show respect for the elderly? Does it matter who initiates the visit? (Eg. if I call and say I want to visit, should I offer to being lunch? If parents call and suggest a visit, should they offer to serve lunch?)

 

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I would ask them if I can bring lunch. If they'd rather cook, I think offering to bring it would give them the opportunity to say they'd rather cook. Or bring ingredients already prepped and cook there. They'd probably appreciate if there are leftovers.

What have you done in the past regarding meals?

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I would offer to pick something up from their favorite restaurant and bring it to them. They can still host by providing the dessert and place to eat. But I would take any suggestions or preferences they may have. 

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I would ask whether they want to cook or whether I should bring lunch.
Normally whoever is being visited makes food, irrespective of who initiates the visit. (I have never encountered the latter unless people are feeble and ill - my grandmothers would have been insulted by such a proposal)

Edited by regentrude
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I also should mention that this would be a visit with a day’s notice, tops. Like, call and say “we’re thinking of coming tomorrow. Are you free?” And expectations of lunch, if they made it, would likely be sandwiches, not cooking. 

Edited by Amethyst
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On a spur of the moment visit like this, I would simply be telling parents that we will bring food.  I know my parents don't eat a lot anymore so it's not likely they would have enough food on hand to feed a group of unexpected visitors especially when my kids won't always eat the same things they do.  I wouldn't want to put the burden on them to have to run out to the grocery store (even if that was still easily in the realm of their capabilities).

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17 minutes ago, Amethyst said:

What would you do? Imagine you had elderly parents (88,89) and they lived about 2.5 hours away, they are fully functional, cognitively healthy, drive, cook, etc, and you and your husband decide it’s finally safe to visit since everyone is vaccinated. 

If you leave early in the morning, and would leave shortly after lunch, who provides lunch? The parents because it gives them an opportunity to be the hosts and show generosity? Or the guests to show respect for the elderly? Does it matter who initiates the visit? (Eg. if I call and say I want to visit, should I offer to being lunch? If parents call and suggest a visit, should they offer to serve lunch?)

My grandparents (because my parents did not live to be as old as yours), who were living in their own home, would have prepared lunch. There wouldn't even have been discussion about it. However, I might have called and said hey, I'm coming up to visit, and I'd like to take you out to lunch. It would not have occurred to me--or to them--that it was an opportunity for either of us to show anything. In our family, the host always provides a meal to guests. Now, I might have called and said we'd love to take them out to lunch, but they hardly ever ate out, so they would have felt weird.

My mil in her last years lived in an assisted living facility. Of course we always took her out to eat. It was part of the visit. When she lived in her own home, she always prepared meals.

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7 minutes ago, cjzimmer1 said:

On a spur of the moment visit like this, I would simply be telling parents that we will bring food.  I know my parents don't eat a lot anymore so it's not likely they would have enough food on hand to feed a group of unexpected visitors especially when my kids won't always eat the same things they do.  I wouldn't want to put the burden on them to have to run out to the grocery store (even if that was still easily in the realm of their capabilities).

I would do the same.  

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14 minutes ago, cjzimmer1 said:

On a spur of the moment visit like this, I would simply be telling parents that we will bring food.  I know my parents don't eat a lot anymore so it's not likely they would have enough food on hand to feed a group of unexpected visitors especially when my kids won't always eat the same things they do.  I wouldn't want to put the burden on them to have to run out to the grocery store (even if that was still easily in the realm of their capabilities).

I agree with this.

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My dad is only 73 and lives alone and still works, etc. and I still usually offer or ask what I can bring. Now, that is a bit of a dance because depending on mood it may offend him that I am acting like he can't provide lunch. So I play it by ear but usually ask to be sure and show respect and that I don't take for granted that he will provide for my family. But he nearly always says he will get it. He might order pizzas delivered, pick up bbq, get sandwich fixings and chips or cook a nice steak dinner. I never know but I do always offer to bring something or even if I can stop at the store on the way to pick up anything he needs.

At those ages I would absolutley be offering to bring something. I have good friends who are older (husband is 80, wife is 75). Her grandkids and kids stop in and she cooks for them and then is absolutely exhausted. She takes care of everything and then is laid up on the couch the rest of the night. She wanted to take a meal to a friend at church who had had surgery and I ended up helping her because she was so overwhelmed by doing the components of a full meal for someone else. She is healthy, and very active, kind of hyper even, but the shopping, unloading groceries, fixing a meal, cleaning up absolutely exhausts her. Then that upsets her husband. If her kids or grandkids called and said they were coming she would offer to cook but if they just called and said they were bringing something she would LOVE it. I know because when that happens she tells me over and over how great it was.

I think the process can just get hard physically for some older people or even mentally planning out what needs to be done. I know I sometimes get overwhelmed by meal planning these days and I'm only 46! LOL. If I was in that position I would just call and say I'm bringing it. However, I am aware that personal dymamics vary. My dad, even at 88, might get offended. 

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6 minutes ago, City Mouse said:

What would you have done about lunch before Covid?  

 It depends. We’ve done both ways. No matter what we do, we always manage to fight with each other whenever we interact with my parents. 😔   

My dh hated it when my parents brought their own food - he found it insulting since making food is something he delights in, and he would say is one of his love languages. 

So I can’t help but think: well, wouldn’t it be insulting to them to do the same? Maybe not. They are different than him. Much more low key. But I’m afraid his thoughts are: they insulted me, I don’t care if I insult these people. 
 

30 years of marriage - you’d think we’d have this figured out. 

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15 minutes ago, Amethyst said:

 My dh hated it when my parents brought their own food - he found it insulting since making food is something he delights in, and he would say is one of his love languages.

I totally get that. If someone did that to me, it would send the message that my cooking sucks and they much rather bring their own food. Super insulting.

Why can't you simply ASK them what they prefer???

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these are your parents, family.   I think you're over thinking the problem.  or are you concerned about a fight over who pays the restaurant check because both sides want to?  or neither side does?

do the parents WANT to provide lunch?  do the children WANT to eat lunch with them?

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32 minutes ago, teachermom2834 said:

My dad is only 73 

I feel old. . . .

dh is the one who loves to cook.  he gets possessive of it.  He's 72.

eta: he has been delegating dessert to 1dd, because she's like him that way.   must try something new, and complicated.  I gave her an Austrian coffee house desserts cookbook for christmas.  it's what she wanted.

Edited by gardenmom5
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9 minutes ago, gardenmom5 said:

these are your parents, family.   I think you're over thinking the problem.  or are you concerned about a fight over who pays the restaurant check because both sides want to?  or neither side does?

do the parents WANT to provide lunch?  do the children WANT to eat lunch with them?

They are my parents. For some reason my husband doesn’t like them. He recognizes they are GOOD people, did a swell job of raising me and my siblings, but they’re just not his style (think outgoing/talkative/effusive vs taciturn/stoic/no fuss).
 

My feelings are: get over it. He wants to show that he is a good husband by visiting, which is fabulous, but then just visit and stop complaining about them. I’ll complain about them enough if he would just shut up and let me complain. Instead, I get all defensive of them, and then he gets mad that I defend them. They don’t deserve the sweeping dislike of their existence that he constantly voices, only some minor annoyances that I admit they have. 

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3 minutes ago, Amethyst said:

They are my parents. For some reason my husband doesn’t like them. He recognizes they are GOOD people, did a swell job of raising me and my siblings, but they’re just not his style (think outgoing/talkative/effusive vs taciturn/stoic/no fuss).
 

My feelings are: get over it. He wants to show that he is a good husband by visiting, which is fabulous, but then just visit and stop complaining about them. I’ll complain about them enough if he would just shut up and let me complain. Instead, I get all defensive of them, and then he gets mad that I defend them. They don’t deserve the sweeping dislike of their existence that he constantly voices, only some minor annoyances that I admit they have. 

This was me and dh with 2sil . . . . I stopped complaining about her (not until we stopped hosting thanksgiving every. single. year.), and put him in the position of having to "see" what I was complaining about.  He'd been in denial about many things - like she's so outgoing socially because she has narcissistic tendencies, ..  . .   (and going to her house for a meal? . . . better eat first so you don't go hungry because she's not a cook.  though she's done better since her kids moved out.)

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I can’t show up empty handed. So I wouldn’t cook and take lunch, but I would probably show up with a couple of bags of groceries as a “gift” packed with things they usually like and eat. That way if they don’t have something ready, it’s easy to make it together (sandwiches for example), and if they do, you just filled up their fridge for later. 

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When we lived two hours from MIL we would ask her preference.  For short notice trips, it was almost always bring something you like or we'll eat out.  When she knew farther in advance we were visiting, she varied between making a meal and going out.  The deciding factor seemed to be how many chores she had for dh to do.  

We never lived closer than 9-10 hours from my parents.  Trying to coordinate a meal for the first night was not practical.  Instead, we'd call when we were an hour out to let them know it was time to order the pizzas.  We would pick the pizzas up on our way into town.   

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This wouldn't be a big deal in my family.  We used to occasionally pop up to see my grandparents, and we've stopped at my in-laws for a visit around mealtimes when road tripping.  Generally it's 'Hey - we'll be there around lunchtime tomorrow - why don't  we pick up BBQ/pizza/Chinese on our way to the house?'.  They may say sure, or say that they'll pick it up before we come, or say that they've got a big ham/pot of soup already planned or cooked so we should just eat that.  Sometimes we show up with baked goods or stop and get milkshakes for everybdoy, sometimes they send us off with snacks for the car.  I guess we're pretty mellow about this sort of thing.  

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There are no set rules about who provides food.  It can go either way.  I visit people I don't live near all the time and conversations go like this:

Me: "We'd like to visit with you at your house on ________________. Are you available?  I can bring _______________________for all of us to eat for lunch."

And then about half the time they respond with, "Sounds good." and the other half of the time with, "No need to bring lunch, I'll have lunch ready when you get here."

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2 hours ago, Amethyst said:

 It depends. We’ve done both ways. No matter what we do, we always manage to fight with each other whenever we interact with my parents. 😔   

My dh hated it when my parents brought their own food - he found it insulting since making food is something he delights in, and he would say is one of his love languages. 

So I can’t help but think: well, wouldn’t it be insulting to them to do the same? Maybe not. They are different than him. Much more low key. But I’m afraid his thoughts are: they insulted me, I don’t care if I insult these people. 
 

30 years of marriage - you’d think we’d have this figured out. 

In that case,I would time arrive to be after lunch. That way you can feed everyone in advance, and then maybe have some brownies or cookies to share with the grandparents.

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26 minutes ago, regentrude said:

Your post boggled my mind. Isn't feeding one's guests the most basic, time honored, element of being a good host?

No.  Food isn't required at every visit. Sometimes people just chat over glasses of water, tea, coffee, sodas, alcohol.  Sometimes it's a small snack. Sometimes it's just dessert.  Sometimes it's a meal. If the visit is at a meal time then it makes sense for a meal to happen, but in normal times that could be meeting for a meal at a restaurant or one party bringing the meal or the host providing a meal, but because people are so different I always ask, "Should I plan to eat a meal/feed the kid before I get there/drop the kid off?"  Sometimes they say yes and sometimes they say no.

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5 minutes ago, City Mouse said:

In that case,I would time arrive to be after lunch. That way you can feed everyone in advance, and then maybe have some brownies or cookies to share with the grandparents.

OP. Timing to arrive after lunch, or leave before lunch, is part of what makes it seem hostile to me. I feel like dh is specifically trying to avoid having a meal with them. For no good reason.  

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2 minutes ago, Clemsondana said:

This wouldn't be a big deal in my family.  We used to occasionally pop up to see my grandparents, and we've stopped at my in-laws for a visit around mealtimes when road tripping.  Generally it's 'Hey - we'll be there around lunchtime tomorrow - why don't  we pick up BBQ/pizza/Chinese on our way to the house?'.  They may say sure, or say that they'll pick it up before we come, or say that they've got a big ham/pot of soup already planned or cooked so we should just eat that.  Sometimes we show up with baked goods or stop and get milkshakes for everybdoy, sometimes they send us off with snacks for the car.  I guess we're pretty mellow about this sort of thing.  

This is us. Neither is offended in family of origin. I will say that I was shocked one time when visiting ILs. We have a large family, and I always took food to help with both work and expenses. It was the way I did at my parents', and there was no big deal about it. We had to travel, so usually stayed several days at a time, which could be a lot to host. Also, my kids tended to snack more while there.  Once, MIL, usually very sweet, made a comment like, "Do you not think we can provide food for you all?" in a kind of sarcastic tone. I was so surprised that that was even a thing she would think. The other dils brought food, so why was it an issue when I did? (We lived much further away, and I married the baby of the family, so it seems she never became accustomed to our being at the family gatherings or bringing food.) But to me, it was weird, and would have been for my family, as well as my sils at their house.

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I do understand how something so very simple becomes complicated. We only see MIL once every few years now but when she would visit for a week at a time every single meal was difficult in some way. Three times a day every day there was some issue/conflict/drama surrounding a meal. We haven't seen her now for maybe three years (she was planning a visit before pandemic and there are other reasons visits are limited that I won't get into here). When she feels safe to travel again and comes here I will be filled with dread about how to handle food. It sounds ridiculous. It IS ridiculous. But, OP, I can see how this stuff develops and causes issues and it seems so dumb to anyone whose family is normal about it. 

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28 minutes ago, Amethyst said:

OP. Timing to arrive after lunch, or leave before lunch, is part of what makes it seem hostile to me. I feel like dh is specifically trying to avoid having a meal with them. For no good reason.  

Does your dh have to go with you?   

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2 hours ago, Amethyst said:

 

My feelings are: get over it. He wants to show that he is a good husband by visiting, which is fabulous, but then just visit and stop complaining about them. I’ll complain about them enough if he would just shut up and let me complain. Instead, I get all defensive of them, and then he gets mad that I defend them. They don’t deserve the sweeping dislike of their existence that he constantly voices, only some minor annoyances that I admit they have. 

I would have a very candid conversation with my husband if that was going on.  Something like:

If you can't be around my parents and be sincerely polite, then you'll need to stay home and think about what's causing that while the kids and I visit them without you. Polite isn't two faced.  You can't have it both ways expecting points for being a good son-in-law by visiting while at the same time complaining about them behind their backs. You seem to blowing minor annoyances out of proportion and talking about them as though they're major issues.  If you need to speak to a family counselor or mental health professional to help you sort all this out, feel free to make an appointment.

If he started complaining about my parents I'd cut him off immediately, hold up my hand between out faces, palm out,  and say in a matter of fact tone, "I'm the wrong person to complain to about my parents." Then walk away and get busy doing something else. Do.not.engage.

All of this assumes your parents haven't behaved badly toward you, him, or the children. If they're behaving badly, you'll have to lend a sympathetic ear because people take personally how you treat their loved ones and you're the link to your family and it's your responsibility to address it with them. 

And, of course, you have to never be the person who complains about his parents as long as his parents are not behaving badly toward you and your husband and/or kids. If they do behave badly, tell him because he's the link to his parents and it's his responsibility to address their bad behavior.
 

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1 hour ago, Amethyst said:

They are my parents. For some reason my husband doesn’t like them. He recognizes they are GOOD people, did a swell job of raising me and my siblings, but they’re just not his style (think outgoing/talkative/effusive vs taciturn/stoic/no fuss).
 

My feelings are: get over it. He wants to show that he is a good husband by visiting, which is fabulous, but then just visit and stop complaining about them. I’ll complain about them enough if he would just shut up and let me complain. Instead, I get all defensive of them, and then he gets mad that I defend them. They don’t deserve the sweeping dislike of their existence that he constantly voices, only some minor annoyances that I admit they have. 

I think it's perfectly fair to tell him, Look, I don't want to hear your complaints about my parents anymore, because they are always the same and they make me feel bad.  If you have something new to add or something different that you want us to do in this relationship, I hope you'll tell me, but I don't want to hear all these repeats of the same old thing all the time.  I love them, and I love you, and this hurts me.  I wish that you liked them, but there is nothing I can do about that.

 

You know, Amethyst, people get into habits of complaint, and sometimes they think they are just making conversation when in fact they are causing pain.  

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1 hour ago, Carol in Cal. said:

I think it's perfectly fair to tell him, Look, I don't want to hear your complaints about my parents anymore, because they are always the same and they make me feel bad.  If you have something new to add or something different that you want us to do in this relationship, I hope you'll tell me, but I don't want to hear all these repeats of the same old thing all the time.  I love them, and I love you, and this hurts me.  I wish that you liked them, but there is nothing I can do about that.

 

You know, Amethyst, people get into habits of complaint, and sometimes they think they are just making conversation when in fact they are causing pain.  

I have said almost these exact same words to him many times. It does hurt me. He’s such a wonderful guy otherwise. Maybe it is just a habit. Because he complains about his family too. Sigh. I think I have to change my response to his complaints. 

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FTR, in my whole entire life, it has always been that whoever we were visiting fed us (if we were there long enough for a meal), just as we fed anyone who visited us. Perhaps it was where I grew up (southeastern Virginia/OBX). My mil always fed us when she was well and living in her own home. (again, if we were there long enough for a meal, although we always knew ahead of time if we were going there for dinner.) There was never any discussion.

Also, I never knew anyone when I was growing up, or as a young adult in California, who brought something if they were invited for a meal. I have really only encountered that here in Central Texas.

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Well it sounds like there are more complicated issues here than the food, but in this situation I would offer to bring lunch. We have been frequently visiting my brother and his family 2+ hours away because we are looking to move out where they live.  There have been days when we decided the night before to go out for a showing the next day.  So I will say, "Hey we're looking at a house tomorrow--are you guys around? I can bring stuff for lunch" and I do this so that there is pressure on them to prepare food for us.  Who knows what groceries they will have in the house or if they will have time to prepare something.  I would absolutely offer when visiting elderly parents who are 88/89.  That said, you know your parents.  Do they LOVE hosting and cooking for you or would it be a burden?  They are your parents, so make the call based on what you think would be best for them and let your DH know what you are doing.  

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I would just ask my parents what they'd like. I do  like the idea of bringing some groceries. With my own parents, this would be a non-issue. They would not be offended if I offered to bring food; I would not be upset if she didn't have anything to offer when we arrived. We might bring food, we might not. We would just work it out ahead of time. 

With my in-laws, though, food is fraught with danger. It would be offensive to offer to bring food/cook for them. It would be a burden to arrive expecting to be fed. It would be horrid/spendthrift to want to go out to eat. Everything food-related is unpleasant with them.

So, you have to work with what you've got. In your case, this isn't about your parents at all, but your husband. Honestly, if my husband was that way about my parents, I would leave him at home. Surely your folks can sense his dislike of them. You can make a plausible excuse for his absence, and enjoy your visit without drama on the way to/from. 

I'm sorry an enjoyable family visit is so difficult.

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1 hour ago, Amethyst said:

I have said almost these exact same words to him many times. 

If I had already talked to my husband about this and he insisted on doing it anyway, I'd be hard nosed about it. As soon as he started up I'd immediately cut him off and use a very displeased/firm tone of voice and say, "I have already told you to stop doing this. Why are you doing it again when I specifically told you not to?" I'd make direct, piercing eye contact, turn my head slightly to an angle and wait for an explanation.  He should give a reason or apologize. He might think he's commiserating, in which case I would explain that that's not his role when I'm venting.  When I'm venting I just want someone to sympathize with how I feel, with something like, "That sucks." or "I don't blame you, I'd feel frustrated by that too." or my husband's famous response to my dysfunctional family, "Do you ever feel like an island of sanity in a sea of crazy?" It usually makes me laugh.

Not all men get venting.  I preface my venting with, "I just have to say this out loud so this vein [points to forehead] in my forehead doesn't explode. My parents are driving me crazy with their _____________________________________________. [Deep breath] OK,  I said it.  Now I feel a little better."

If it really is a habit and he's apologized for doing it in the past, the next time he started I'd cut him off and say matter of factly, "You're not going to complain about my parents again are you?" That's what I said to one of my kids who was a chronic complainer about piddly little stupid crap when she was a preschooler.  As soon as she started up, I cut it off. It worked fairly quickly.

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