Archive for December 24th, 2007

Don’t Hold Mom And Dad Hostage At THEIR Party!

Monday, December 24th, 2007

Four times in the past year or so, I have entertained at gatherings (a 50th wedding anniversary, plus at 70th, 80th, and 90th birthdays) where the guests of honor’s best-laid plans were sabotaged – by their own children. To me, this makes two facts obvious: first, I’m now getting a lot of calls from Senior Citizens. But more importantly, I’m seeing a trend toward “not thy will but mine” at such parties that disturbs me.

At all 4 events, the honorees’ offspring presented loving but lengthy tributes which played havoc with the schedules their parents had carefully crafted. This was partially because the kids’ sense of time differed greatly from their parents (and their mostly-Senior guests.) It was also because the younger generation decided that they – not Father – knew best.

Last week’s bride-plus-50-years was also her party’s hostess (and therefore my boss.) She scheduled my band from 6 until 9PM, knowing that the majority of her mature invitees won’t stay much later than that. What she didn’t know was that her children had put together a half-hour video-and-live presentation. Because she wasn’t in the loop, Mom wasn’t able to tell her brood that 30 minutes was far too long to ask this gregarious group to sit quietly. It also cut deeply into their visiting and dancing time.

The kiddos’ DVD began with everyone’s rapt attention. By the 10 minute mark, conversations had broken out at most tables. And long before the video was over, the audience’s attention span had maxed out. Identical results happened at the birthday events. In my lead sentence today, I called it “sabotage.” Perhaps “hostage-taking” is more accurate. Without impugning their intentions, I would simply say that when anybody commandeers a material chunk of time at a party for which they are not the host – they’re wrong.

The solution to this problem is to show the following paragraphs to your grown children.

Kids – this party isn’t about you; it is about Mom and/or Dad. The guests aren’t coming to hear you speak or read poems you wrote for the occasion. They also didn’t plan to sit through a movie. So if you truly want to honor your parents, then don’t do things at their party that they haven’t okayed.

If you want to make a video, feel free to do so. But (1.) don’t bring it to the party without parental permission, and (2.) if said permission is granted, play it in the background during cocktails and dinner, so that the guests can gaze at it whenever they wish – not when you wish. Keep the sound low enough that it doesn’t interfere with conversation.

Designate one offspring to speak (briefly) for all, and one grandkid to be the voice of that generation. Any more speeches than that should be reserved for the video, which your parents can enjoy over and over again in the comfort of their home. (You can even make DVD copies for the guests as party favors, if you like. That way, any who watch are volunteers, not hostages.)

Keep your time in the spotlight to the bare minimum – a toast, for instance. The only persons who should speak longer than 2 minutes (total) are the honorees themselves. To the greatest extent possible, stay in the background. Just keep saying to yourself, “It’s their party. If they’re happy, I’m happy.”

You see, kids, the schedule that Mom and Dad created – like the party itself – is theirs. It isn’t yours to tinker with. So say it again: “If they’re happy, I’m happy.”