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ETIQUETTE- who pay's?

Traditionally, for a birthday or special occasion my family goes out to dinner to celebrate the guest of honor. This occurs 2 or 3 times a year and we never go out to dinner together as a family except for these few occasions. Usually the guest of honor chooses the restaurant and sets up the plan. Everyone else in my family expects my father to pay on these occasions and does not open their wallet. I always offer at least the cost of my meal and my father accepts the money.

I have started to grow tired of this set up. My brother planned a lavish dinner out in the city after I already purchased him a gift, and I was the only one to throw $40 to my father. Had I known about this dinner out I would have skipped the gift and offered to chip in for his dinner as a gift. Last week there was another dinner that I indicated I couldn’t attend- my family was up in arms and insisted I go. Again, I was the only to resentfully offer the money for my meal.

How can I bring myself some peace and get this situation under control? I don’t mind paying for my meal but it really frosts my cookies that everyone puts their nose in the air while my father fumbles for a credit card. I feel that we should agree ahead of time what kind of dinner it will be- I would like everyone to be on the same page. Any suggestions about how to broach this subject????

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  1. No, but I feel your pain. In our case it is us who always pays for dinner regardless of who the other family members are. My inlaws, my brother (who I admit I don't mind paying for and realize that is not objective, but don't care <g>),daughter and boyfriend or her friends, our former stepchildren and their SO's....if it's family, we pay.

    1. Are you and your siblings all adults, working, on your own, etc.? If so, I'd suggest that your father tell everyone that from now on they are responsible for their share of the check at these events.

      2 Replies
      1. re: MMRuth

        I agree. Address the issue beforehand, not in the restaurant.

        1. re: MMRuth

          Myself and one brother are 25+ and working, he is a teacher and takes classes so claims to have a limited budget but goes out almost every night and picks over the top restaurants. The other two are high school and college but have summer jobs.

        2. As this is your dad's birthday, my view is that you should address this issue with your siblings, etc. before "taking your dad out," provided that they are all adults who are working, etc. I can see the dad paying for the meal if you guys are still children, teenagers, etc. But after a certain age, it really should be the other way around. I wouldn't involve your dad in these conversations.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Miss Needle

            I didn't have the sense that this involved the father's birthday in particular.

            1. re: Miss Needle

              This isn't just my father's birthday it is for all special events and birthdays

            2. Does your father mind?

              You aren't being taken advantage of. you are paying for your meal and nothing more. If you father minds, and feels he is being taken advantage of, then he can speak to the others. If he doesn't, then let it go.

              Some families, the kids are expected to pay their own way. In mine, offering to pay is a slight insult. It implies that I don't think my Father can handle it. My Dad lets me pay about once in 20 or 30 times we eat together as a family. But that is just to shut me up.

              Talk to your Dad first. He worked hard for his money. Let him spend it how he likes.

              18 Replies
              1. re: lgphil

                It is a bit odd though that the father accepts the money from one child though. I inferred from that that the father probably would appreciate the others paying as well.

                1. re: MMRuth

                  Yes, I agree. Because the father accepted money from one child, I don't think it would be an insult to him if the kids paid for his dinner. If the father refused to accept money from everybody, then you have a different story.

                  MMRuth, to answer your original question, it's not necessarily about the father, but about the guest of honor. I feel that these types of conversations shouldn't involve the guest of honor, where the GOH has to take it upon himself to bear the responsibility of discussing how everybody needs to pay his/her own share.

                  1. re: MMRuth

                    I agree that's the odd part. Maybe there is an income disparity between the paying party and the others? Or more kids in one family and the paying party is single and very successfu with no kids to feed or college to pay forl? Maybe there is a big age discrepancy with one party just starting out in life and the other well-established. These types of things may be factoring into Dad's thinking?

                    We eat with my family every Sunday. About every 6 weeks or so we go out...and on family occasions. Often my dad will pick up the bill....but we all always offer to pay. When we do split the bill we all kick in, not just one of us. We're all on equal footing financially though.

                    1. re: ziggylu

                      Yes - I think a lot of it has more to do with family dynamics and financial situations than "etiquette". I tend to pay for meals with my mother when we go out, whereas, with my father and his wife, we split the bill and then, as usually is the case, if our share of the bills during his visits are higher, I send him a check (this avoids dealing with it at the restaurant). When my sister visits, we usually pay, unless it's a cheap place and then we split the bill if her husband is along (sexist, probably, but ...).

                      My FIL usually insists on paying, but every once and awhile we insist on treating, and make sure to arrange it covertly with the maitre d'.

                      1. re: MMRuth

                        Yikes! I just reread the original post and now understand what you were saying about the father. For some reason, I was thinking it was the father's birthday. My bad. This is what I get for reading too quickly -- miss important details.

                        Well, whatever the family dynamics are, it seems that misslorelle takes issue with her brother not contributing. So I feel that she needs to just speak with her brother about this. It seems that it's between the two of them. If the father needs to get involved, I think that should be Step 2. It would be nice if it could just be resolved between the OP and her brother though.

                        1. re: MMRuth

                          So because I am responsible, hard working, and perhaps more financially savy I am the only one who has to pay? Doesn't seem fair to me.... Maybe that is life :(

                          1. re: misslorelle

                            Oh - I didn't mean that at all. I was just describing what we do in our family - mother, not v. much money so I/we pay, father - retired, doing ok, but it's better when we compensate for our wine drinking and eating more food than they do, sister - less money, can't afford some of the nicer places that we enjoy taking her to. FIL - plenty of money, but we don't like to feel as if he always pays, so we do so occasionally.

                            1. re: misslorelle

                              Well....this is also how it works in our family. When I was single and struggling my parents always took care of me where they might not have with my sisters who are quite a bit older and were well-established when I was in my early 20s.

                              Like MMRuth , in our family these days, it depends. When we were are with my husband's family we almost always foot the bill as we are much better off than any of them.

                              1. re: misslorelle

                                you are the one paying because you offer

                          2. re: MMRuth

                            I agree, I would like my siblings to chip in or my father to refuse my money. Being the only one chipping in makes me the "nice guy" I guess but irritates me.

                            1. re: misslorelle

                              I definitely don't think the HS sibling should contribute and not knowing the financial arrangements with the college student it is hard for me to say. In our case we are much older as are the parents and siblings and because we have the highest household income it is always assumed we will pay.

                              1. re: Janet from Richmond

                                Right - I would agree about the HS student and probably the college student, provided that the father can afford it, and it's not his birthday. And, it sounds like brother who goes out all the time, chooses lavish places, but doesn't pay, should stop picking the places.

                                1. re: Janet from Richmond

                                  I would not expect a high school or college student to pay for dinners out either. It's one thing if all parties are well into their professional careers and can easily afford it, but most high school and college job incomes aren't really in the income range to support paying for lavish dinners.

                                  I do agree that everyone should be on the same page about what type of establishment people should be picking out. If the brother goes lavish while everyone else is picking mid-range restaurants, the brother needs to get in line with everyone else. Obviously he shouldn't be expected to pay when he is the guest of honor, but at the same time he shouldn't be picking someplace that is twice as expensive as what everyone else picks.

                                  1. re: Janet from Richmond

                                    When I was a kid, my grandfather *always* paid when we went out to dinner as a family. Then one evening, probably when he was about in his late 70's, my grandfather didn't pull out his wallet at the end of the meal, and my father realized that he was now expected to pick up the check. My dad said later that he felt as though it were the end of an era. I don't think this was something my grandfather did deliberately, btw -- it was just that something about the family power structure had changed, so that now my dad was head of the family.

                                    All of which is to say that with family dinners, who pays has to do with a) habit, and b) politics. When my parents were first married they didn't have much money, and my grandfather, who was a surgeon, was the host. Over time, my parents' income increased and at some point the issue of who could afford to pay was moot; but the habit had been established and continued until my grandfather abdicated that role. Unless the kids start to insist on paying their way, the established habit tends to continue.

                                    As for politics, my mil *has* to pay the check. When we would visit her, she paid because we were her guests; when she visited us, she paid because she was "imposing on us." She moved to our area several years ago, and at this point the issue of who can better afford to pay is again moot. But she still pays unless we can redirect the check before she gets her mitts on it. The question is, if she wants to pay, why shouldn't we let her? Because there's something infantalizing about the way she does it. I can't quite put my finger on why -- she's not ostentatious, and she doesn't expect fulsome gratitude. Somehow, though, it's one of the many ways she tells us that we need to be taken care of -- by her. In an odd way, it's an assertion of privilege.

                                    1. re: jlafler

                                      "it's an assertion of privilege."

                                      Respect your elders. It won't kill you to let her pay, and it will make her feel good. Family politics perhaps, but relatively benign ones.

                                      1. re: jlafler

                                        jlafler, totally off topic but my father used to have the same issue with my grandma (his mil) and always felt insulted by it, until she passed away and he realized it had been something that gave her pleasure and he now says he wishes he had let her do it more often.

                                        1. re: jlafler


                                          My MIL's exactly the same way, and her insistence on paying got to the point where I felt a little uncomfortable. When I talked to her about it (after she got miffed when we had a meal together and I made sure nobody ever saw the check), she made an interesting point.

                                          She said that now her kids are grown there's precious little she can do for them. No more skinned knees to bandage, no more teenage angst to assuage, but she can still pay for dinner at a restaurant. And she claims that as her privilege.

                                          In other words, she doesn't think that we need to be taken care of; rather, she enjoys the now-rare feeling she gets from being able to do something to take care of her children. The older my kids get, the more I understand where she's coming from.

                                          1. re: alanbarnes

                                            You're all right: it won't hurt me to let her pay -- and I do, and try not to let it bother me. It's a trickier question when my own parents are along and she still insists on paying, but that's another issue....

                                            My mil actually does a lot for her kids. Being a nurturer is a big part of her identity -- she raised four kids, she was a special ed teacher, she spent many years caring for her husband as he became increasingly disabled, and now she's actively involved in raising two of her grandchildren. If she couldn't take care of people, she'd wither away. And I do appreciate what she does, but I also sometimes feel that I'm not quite a grownup in her eyes.

                                2. I had this issue when my Sainted Mother(tm) was still alive. I simply blasted those that thought she was a Rockefeller with pockets so deep she should pay for her own parties -- after someone else had made the arrangements. There was some initial sting, and I was persona non grata for a couple events, but it did take those with champagne tastes on other people's money to task. I have little tolerance for opportunistic sponges and conniving charlatans looking to spend their owed inheritance while a parent is still alive. The nice thing about family is you can be blunt thus saying things in such ways that make communication on most subjects quite clear.

                                  At the next 'function' your brother organizes grab the nearest 2"X4" and pop him in the head. Once you have the mule's attention, bluntly tell him his free ride's over. He will be paying for any event he organizes. If that's too much of a financial strain, then he should collect from everyone that attends the event prior. Any overages will be balanced at the end.

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: The Ranger

                                    What an excellent post, Ranger.

                                    >>I have little tolerance for opportunistic sponges and conniving charlatans looking to spend their owed inheritance while a parent is still alive.


                                    >>The nice thing about family is you can be blunt thus saying things in such ways that make communication on most subjects quite clear.

                                    You'd think. Not true, sadly.

                                    >>then he should collect from everyone that attends the event prior. Any overages will be balanced at the end.

                                    Amen, that's all it takes.


                                    1. re: dolores

                                      I, too, am wondering if the father is at all bothered by this, and is accepting the OP's $ to assuage her guilt.

                                      My dad was like lqphil's -- he always picked up the check, and would argue with anyone who took it before he could. Offering him $ for my meal would have really upset him.

                                      It think the OP should probably just relax and enjoy the party. If picking up the whole bill is a problem for her dad (and she knows it) she should take it up with her siblings/mom to see if some discreet division of cost could be devised. The last place this should be done, however, is over the check at the end of the meal......

                                    2. re: The Ranger

                                      Perfect! That is the response I was looking for.

                                    3. You should foward this email from chow hound to your family, change the names to protect the innocent etc, and they will get the idea. Or next b-day party, instead of going out, offer up a home of one of your sibs for the occasion.

                                      1. It sounds like this has been going on for a long time, so it's a hard habit to break. Somehow a precedent was set and, judging from your post, it seems that your father never said anything about it, so maybe it's not really an issue for him. Maybe it's not really something that you should even bring up with your siblings. I mean, if the payer doesn't express unhappiness with the situation...

                                        Some people take a lot of pride and joy in treating others. And we're only talking about 2-3 times a year here. If it really bothers you, talk with your dad and see how he feels about it. If he would like things to change, then I think it's fine to broach the subject with your siblings. Otherwise, quite frankly, if I were your siblings, I'd be thinking who are you to all of the sudden rewrite the rules?

                                        5 Replies
                                        1. re: gloriousfood

                                          "Otherwise, quite frankly, if I were your siblings, I'd be thinking who are you to all of the sudden rewrite the rules?"

                                          Unless the father has some sort of under the table agreement with the other siblings, or at least the one that is out of school, etc., if the rule is that one of four siblings pays for herself, that's kind of a crappy rule.

                                          1. re: MMRuth

                                            Perhaps I'm misreading the OP, but I don't think what you said was the "rule." I'm interpreting that the rule has always been that the father pays, period. The OP has taken it upon herself to put some money in, which is commendable. But has anyone spoken to the father and ask him what he thinks about the whole thing? Because I think the father's view is the most important one in this situation.

                                            Also, there could be some cultural issues involved. In my culture, for example, there is nothing wrong with parents paying for their children when going out for dinner. In fact, some parents insist on it. As the youngest of five, therefore the "baby," I would have to literally knock my parents over sometimes just to grab the check. But this would never happen if we were going out for a parent's bday. Then the children always treated. Of course, if it's a real big bday (50, 60, 70, 80, etc. years old), and the family decides to invite friends and other family members for a banquet-style dinner, then the family covers everything. But even then, I remember our parents paying most of it. That's just how it is. It has nothing to do with ungrateful children taking advantage of parents, etc. That's culture. It's considered an honor to be able to treat your loved ones for a landmark bday that will come around once in a lifetime.

                                            I realize this is a bit of a digression, but keep in mind that sometimes people really do take a lot of pride and happiness in treating others.

                                            1. re: gloriousfood

                                              Sorry - I may have strayed a bit far, and interpreted your characterization as " the rule". The point I was trying to make at the beginning was, if the father wants to treat his children, that's great, but it seems at odds with his accepting money from his daughter at the same time. And I agree with you that it's the father's view in this instance that is the most important one. Perhaps the OP could have a quiet conversation with him, to find out if he pays for everyone because he feels obliged to, or because he wants to. Also agree with you about the pleasure one can get from treating others - we often do that with some family members and friends as well.

                                              1. re: MMRuth

                                                MMRuth, I have always found you to be one of the most rational voices on these boards, so no offense was taken, believe me. And I agree with you 100% that the OP should speak with her father about the situation. Seems like a simple enough solution, if indeed a solution is even needed.

                                            2. re: MMRuth

                                              I don't think that is the rule at all. My impression is that the OP is voluntarily giving Dad the $$$. If Mom and Dad can afford it,I tend to not having an issue with 20-somethings not paying their way unless they are well established for some odd reason and are more solvent. My first responses were based on the OP and the siblings being older.

                                          2. Do your siblings know it bothers you? Have you tried talking to any of them about this? In my family, we're all married with kids and incomes are all over the place but when we go out to dinner there is always one couple that are you ready, I'm sure you've heard this: oh my, we forgot our wallets! I was a not so nice running joke because they always seem to forget cash.

                                            Last year, we decided to come empty handed and asked our sib's to play along...when the bill arrived we all gave the oops signal leaving our notorious couple with the bill. In the parking lot we laughed and handed over our share...but the point was made and dinners are so much nicer now.

                                            My advice, try going without cash and see what happens.

                                            1. I feel your pain.

                                              In my family, there are four of us - mom and dad, brother and I - and I have worked steadily for many years while my brother has moved from job to job, with frequent bouts of unemployment. From the moment I was able to, I have offered to contribute to meals that we as a family have shared at a restaurant; special occasion or otherwise.

                                              I recently went back to school and my brother is employed gainfully full-time.. yet the precedent that was set somehow sticks, and my brother has never once offered to open his wallet for anything, while I continue to contribute. It's so frustrating.. especially since I try to offset any costs my parents incur on our dinners out by cooking lavish dinners for us all, where I purchase the ingredients and accompanying drinks myself.

                                              Dear brother comes out on top of all this.. and it's because we let him, ultimately.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: NovoCuisine

                                                Dear brother comes out on top of all this.. and it's because we let him, ultimately.
                                                Bingo. You continue the enablement.

                                                In your situation, you can quite easily say "Hey Bob, since I'm back at school now, and since you have a full-time job, it's time for you to start ponying up your share. I can't carry you anymore."

                                                As for the OP, I agree with others that a conversation with her employed brother (the college/HS students shouldn't be expected to share equally in the costs fo the dinner) shoudl be had as to why he doesn't contribute anything to the cost of the dinner. If he cries poor, bring up the fact that he goes out almost every night and perhaps ask whether his friends covers his dining out those nights. For family dinners, he should contribute, unless it's a birthday celebration for him.

                                                Otherwise, a conversation with the father would straighten everything out. Perhaps alanbarnes is correct in that he (the dad) is wanting to pay for everything, but also knows that OP wants to contribute - but doesn't expect her to do it. But she does, so he respects her wishes and accepts her money.

                                              2. So your problem isn't that you're paying for your meal, but that your father is paying for your siblings? Sorry to be blunt, but it's not your money and it's not your kids, so it's not your business. There appear to be issues here that go far beyond who's paying for dinner.

                                                Speaking as a father (albeit of younger kids--my eldest is in high school), I expect to pay for dinner, no matter who chooses the place, and anticipate this state of affairs to continue long after the nest has been vacated. If my progeny become 20-something-year-old tech millionaires, all bets are off; I'll retire and they can support me for a while. But it's more likely that my income will far exceed theirs for the foreseeable future, and I enjoy being able to indulge them and their friends occasionally.

                                                If somebody requests something that I think is too extravagant, of if I feel that my largesse is being taken for granted, or if I just don't want to pay for dinner, I don't need my daughter to speak up in my defense; I'm perfectly capable of saying no myself. Until then, if I want to pay, it's my money, so it's my business. Let me.

                                                If I think somebody should contribute to the cost of the meal, I'll tell them so. And if I think it will make somebody feel better if I accept a little money despite my willingness to pay, that's my prerogative. But it's strictly between me and that person; it has nothing to do with the other members of the dining party.

                                                Sounds to me like your dad expects to pay for dinner, that everybody except you shares that expectation, that you expect to contribute something, and that he accommodates everybody's expectations--including yours. What's the problem? If you are resentful about contributing to the cost of the meal, either don't contribute or don't attend. But don't complain about it.

                                                Your post appears to indicate a desire to dictate the terms of the financial relationship between your parent and your siblings. If your father is mentally competent and financially able to pay for the meal, that seems incredibly presumptuous.

                                                13 Replies
                                                1. re: alanbarnes

                                                  Very well said.

                                                  "If somebody requests something that I think is too extravagant, of if I feel that my largesse is being taken for granted, or if I just don't want to pay for dinner, I don't need my daughter to speak up in my defense; I'm perfectly capable of saying no myself. Until then, if I want to pay, it's my money, so it's my business. Let me."

                                                  Respect your father and his wishes. Until he asks for your help, don't impose your ideas of how he should spend his money.

                                                  1. re: lgphil

                                                    agreed agreed agreeed- unless dad is somehow affected by old age and unable to speak for himself or judge the situation, it is his business. I doubt he needs you to intercede on his behalf with your siblings and this will undoubtedly lead to a fight.
                                                    Dad is a grown man, been on this earth a long time, and is not doubt capable of dealing with this.

                                                    1. re: nummanumma

                                                      I've often seen parents (both moms and dads) that weren't able -- or capable -- of dealing with family dynamics, especially when there was even a HINT of confrontation.

                                                      It had nothing to do with age and everything to do with how they handled every day life.

                                                      1. re: nummanumma

                                                        I may be wrong, but I don't see this Dad as a dodering old man <g>....I would guess based on the ages of his kids, he's probably in his 50's and if he's like my Dh (who is 59) is at his income peak while the kids are just starting out and enjoys the treating aspect when it comes to technically adult children who aren't quite on their financial feet yet. I have no issue with that....my only issue is how we're expected to pay for his siblings dinners.

                                                      1. re: alanbarnes

                                                        Well spoken alanbarnes - this does seem to be more of an issue with the OP than the father who is paying for dinner.

                                                        misslorelle, if your father has not indicated that he has an issue with the current situation, why do you have an issue with it? Maybe your father is accepting your money because he does not want a scene made at the end of a nice family dinner. I know that is exactly what my dad would do.

                                                        You might want to think about taking your parents out for dinner instead of contributing to the bill for the family dinner or cooking dinner for them at your home to reciprocate.

                                                        1. re: alanbarnes

                                                          Hear hear!!!!!
                                                          Totally agree with AlanBarnes.

                                                          **Your post appears to indicate a desire to dictate the terms of the financial relationship between your parent and your siblings. If your father is mentally competent and financially able to pay for the meal, that seems incredibly presumptuous**

                                                          I have a sibling with the same attitude, but taken to an extreme. I think she has kept a notebook since she was 15 if anyone got a christmas present that valued more than hers did by over a $1.

                                                          This is definitely a family dynamics issue, not an etiquette issue in my mind.

                                                          1. re: Firegoat

                                                            OMG, seriously? (re: sibling) Does she "retaliate" the next year by buying you a gift that costs less than what she got the previous year?

                                                            1. re: LindaWhit

                                                              Well actually she's more concerned with the value of what the parents gave me vs. the value of what she got. I keep thinking she's gonna outgrow it.... but she's mid 40s now and hasn't yet. And yes, if we went out to dinner with the parents I could only imagine the horror.

                                                              1. re: Firegoat

                                                                Hee- my sister is the exact same way. She adds everything up, starts to complain, and then remembers that my parents paid for her to attend private university for 5 years.

                                                            2. re: Firegoat

                                                              Perfectly understandable. Lucky are those who don't understand.

                                                              So, the solution is: work it out at home, follow through in the restaurant.

                                                              Dad either pays the entire bill, or deadbeat Dan coughs up an equal share.


                                                              1. re: dolores

                                                                So are you Firegoat's sister?

                                                                Absent any indication that dad or the brother are unhappy with the status quo, there's no problem. And no need for a "solution."


                                                            3. re: alanbarnes

                                                              what a great post...it sounds as if my father would have wrote it!

                                                            4. I agree with those who have said that the brother should be spoken to. Maybe he's ignorant of the fact that he is choosing places that are more extravagant than places the rest of the family chooses. 9Or, because he's notfooting the bill, it hasn't occured to him that it could be a problem.)

                                                              However, I believe that the financial structure fo the family is important. I don't believe that siblings in school (high school or college) should be expected to pay, as they likely have little income. Being an older sibling, you get to do things first, like move out, date and pay for meals out. I also think that the financial standing of your father is important. Is he working, or retired?

                                                              In my family, my father (who is not retired, nor is my mother) always pays. We typically only eat at Asian restaurants, or this one spot for breakfast. We go to fine dining places once in a blue moon, but that's probably because we're scattered across the country. If we all lived in the same place, however... And when it comes down to it, my father is old-fashioned. He would never expect one of us (all girls) to pay. My sister once looked at a bill when we were teenagers, and he said that unless she intended to pay, it was none of her business. And none of us has picked one up since.

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: miss_bennet

                                                                Speaking as a mother, I would find it odd if my high school- or college-aged child offered to pay for their meal under any circumstances. Speaking as a daughter, sister, cousin, etc., I would never expect my father to pay for the working adult members of the party unless he had issued an invitation.

                                                              2. Alan Barnes, MMRuth & Miss Needle all make good points.

                                                                This is more about family dynamics than etiquette.

                                                                Your Father should be able to speak up if he is not happy with the situation. The fact that he accepts your financial contribution is interesting, but it could be many things. Perhaps he feels you need to express yourself as a self supporting adult in this way, perhaps he feels to not accept it would create a situation he wishes not to go into, perhaps he welcomes the assistance. You'll never know unless he articulates it. You could ask him, or you could see if he feels the need to broach it.

                                                                Speaking as a person very familiar with crazy family dynamics, the way I am reading it is that you basically have issue with your brothers behavior. Perhaps resent him not behaving responsibly. If this is so, examine it and deal with him at another time. Best to not let it simmer and spill over to the communal table! I have a sister similar to this - she always wants/needs things way over the top from our family norms. It took many years, but I finally realized my parents understand that this is one of the only ways she can really feel that she is of value. Messed up? Sure, but sometimes it is what it is and it is their choice in how they choose to deal with this child's issues. Until she is ready for intense self examination it's not going to change and bringing attention to it at a family event just causes tension and makes my parents unhappy.

                                                                I also would not expect your siblings who are dependent to contribute to this sort of event. Once everyone is on their feet and working it may be time to re-examine.

                                                                One way to assist without putting anyone on the spot could be to give your father a nice gift certificate to the restaurant where a family event will be held. He then can choose whether to apply it to the event or use it in another way.

                                                                2 Replies
                                                                1. re: meatn3

                                                                  this is where you need my sister who tells it like it is. She would quite literally tell your brother his share of the bill is ........ in front of everyone in such a way that he would be unable to slide out of paying.

                                                                  1. re: meatn3

                                                                    Dad should be able to speak up, but I'm sensing there is a lot of pride involved in the situation. Many men in the older generation would never in a million years admit to their kids that they are budget-strapped. It robs them of authority as the family patriarch. He may have been hoping that the subtle action of accepting a contribution would be enough to get an example for the others to follow. That obviously didn't happen.

                                                                    I don't think gift cards are an alternative: that is still going to seem like charity. But I think it's fair to suggest the idea of taking turns hosting the family -- either in a restaurant or at home. Even the younger ones can pitch in, and it will be good training for them in entertaining.

                                                                  2. misslorelle, at this point I'm wondering if all this experience and sage advice helps. You know your family best. We all have stories to tell.
                                                                    Family is what it is. I wish you alot of great family meals and memories.

                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                    1. re: HillJ

                                                                      But why is everyone assuming that misslorelle's father WANTS to pay? misslorelle, is that the case?

                                                                      I'm reading that you are the only one to offer and your father accepts your share, but no one else in the family offers?

                                                                    2. I have a couple of older siblings who do this very thing to my parents/grandparents. It's infuriating to me they still have their hand out as though they're still 11 years old and completely financially dependent. They have their own families for goodness sake.
                                                                      I am guessing misslorelle's dad may be similar to my parents/grandparents. They would never make a fuss about paying for their kids/grandkids BUT they'd certainly appreciate the kids not taking for granted that they'll pay and they'd also appreciate the adult children acting like adults and taking care of their own tab. My personal rule is if you cannot afford to pay for your own meal then you should not be going out.

                                                                      Just recently my new husband and myself went out to dinner with my grandparents and baby cousin. My husband and I had decided beforehand to pay for dinner, and though my Pappaw tried to get the check from us, we insisted. I tell you, you would have thought we'd covered their house payment or something the way they thanked us over and over. I am sure they'll treat us the next time we go out, but it's very comfortable because it is reciprocal.

                                                                      I find it very gratifying to have the opportunity to take my grandparents out. It makes them happy and therefore makes me happy. I think if your siblings would give it a shot they'd find they've been missing out.

                                                                      1. When we go out as a family (my mom and dad, my sister, her husband, baby, my wife and I) my parents always pay. We never offer money as it's always know my parents are taking us out and my parents would refuse the money anyway. I'm guessing that since your dad takes your cash and fumbles for a credit card for the rest that he's stretching himself thin paying for the entire meal. In that case it's not very fair of the rest of your family to mooch off of dad and let him stretch himself thin. Now I know I may be 100% percent wrong in that assumption, but that's what I read from it.

                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                        1. re: Rick

                                                                          "'I'm guessing that since your dad takes your cash and fumbles for a credit card for the rest that he's stretching himself thin paying for the entire meal."

                                                                          That was my interpretation as well.

                                                                        2. The only way for jfood to answer is n bullet points:

                                                                          - why do you think that your father accepts your money. Jfood's MIL would never accept money from one of the kids
                                                                          - why do you find it necessary to pony up any money? Has your father asked for it? Are you sure he can not afford it?
                                                                          - asking a college of HS kid to pay for their meal at a family dinner is ludicrous. no chance either of them ae on the hook
                                                                          - why do you expect your 25 year old to follow your lead while you have no intention of following his?
                                                                          - please take this question in the spirit it is meant as just a question. Does your father and your brothers look to you as the girl trying to prove herself? could it be that dad does not want to start something with his "successful daughter"?

                                                                          if it really bothers you about your 25 brother then give him a call and ask what gives. Wrt your younger brothers, forget about it, they are students and are always the non-paying guests.

                                                                          36 Replies
                                                                          1. re: jfood

                                                                            Agreed, jfood.

                                                                            As so many others have said, it seems a bit excessive to expect the dependents to pay for their dinner. An interesting question for the OP--when did you start paying for your meal? Were you chipping in while in HS?

                                                                            1. re: pollymerase

                                                                              misslorelle said this earlier:

                                                                              >>Myself and one brother are 25+ and working, he is a teacher and takes classes so claims to have a limited budget but goes out almost every night and picks over the top restaurants. The other two are high school and college but have summer jobs.<<

                                                                              No high school kids here, just a brother not pulling his weight.

                                                                              1. re: dolores

                                                                                She stated "The other two are high school and college but have summer jobs." which indicated they are still dependents of their Dad's.

                                                                                1. re: Janet from Richmond

                                                                                  Are they siblings of the OP? Then their parents would split the bill with the OP and her brother.

                                                                                  1. re: dolores

                                                                                    My impression is that there are 4 children....2 who are 25+ (not sure how much older than 25) and one in HS and one in college.

                                                                                    1. re: dolores

                                                                                      But that brings up the issue of how the bill 'should' be apportioned.

                                                                                      Do parents with kids pay for their kids. Do the others pay for the kids if they don't have any.

                                                                                      Et cetera.

                                                                                      1. re: dolores

                                                                                        I don't there is any indication that there are additional children - i.e., grandchildren of the OP's father - involved.

                                                                                        1. re: MMRuth

                                                                                          The only "parents with kids" are the OP's parents. So I think dolores is suggesting that the OP and her brother might need to chip in to cover the cost of their younger siblings' meals. Which strikes me as even sillier than the notion that they have some obligation to pay for their own dinners when there's no indication that dad is perfectly happy to foot the bill.

                                                                                          1. re: alanbarnes

                                                                                            No, I wasn't suggesting that at all. If all the siblings can't afford to chip in, then no sibling should be expected to chip in.

                                                                                            If Dad can't afford to take all the kids out to eat, then stay home.

                                                                                            Since Dad can afford to take all the kids out, the OP should keep her hands in her pocket next time.


                                                                                            1. re: dolores

                                                                                              Even if Dad CAN afford, I still think any adults in attendance who aren't the guest of honor should come prepared to cover their share of the meal. I know parents love doing things for their children, and if they can, more power to them, but it should never be expected or assumed.


                                                                                              1. re: ArikaDawn

                                                                                                I disagree....IMO it is based on the family dynamics. When I was in my early 20's and a newlywed, I expected my Mom to pay for us because that's how it was. In later years when we were more financially solvent and she had more expenses due to ill health, we treated her as the dynamics had changed.

                                                                                                1. re: Janet from Richmond

                                                                                                  I agree with you. Roles are never static. As I was the older sister, I generally purchased my younger sister clothes, took her out to eat, etc. Then when I was in grad school and she was working in the corporate world making the big bucks, she spent money on me. Now that my sister quit her corporate job, lives and works in a Buddhist center making minimum wage, I'll probably be buying things for her when we get together.

                                                                                                  1. re: Janet from Richmond

                                                                                                    I humbly disagree. I am a newlywed in my very early twenties. When I dine with my family, which isn't as often as I'd like as they're 750 miles away, unless I am in no uncertain terms told I am being treated, I always go prepared to pay, and will often pick up the check when dining with my Mom, Mammaw, and/or a couple of siblings.

                                                                                                    Sometimes they insist I not pick up the check, but they enjoy being treated just as I do on occasion and generally do not mind me covering my own. I can't help but feel that since they put in 18 years of uninterrupted support the LEAST I can do is pay for my own food, or at least offer to, and cover theirs when I can. This is how I've insisted it be since I was 18.


                                                                                                    1. re: ArikaDawn

                                                                                                      I can empathize with you about the whole parents supporting you and you'd like to pay them back kind of thing. In fact, I mentioned that in my post below. But every family is different and has different dynamics. You can't necessarily judge other families by what has been done in your household.

                                                                                                      1. re: Miss Needle

                                                                                                        I apologize if I came across as judgemental. I do understand that every family is different, and expectations differ greatly along both financial and cultural lines. I think what gets me is that I have seen on several occasions that the unwavering expectation for a parent to pay often goes along with a certain level of ingratitude. I think I am just having a hard time separating the two even though I know some people really do appreciate their parents taking care of things.

                                                                                                        1. re: ArikaDawn

                                                                                                          Oh, believe me, I know what you're talking about. My 40-something year old cousin still lives at home, is supported by his parents, has no job and was having his parents pay for his tech school until he decided to quit. He then went into a rage and kicked his own parents out of their own house. And I don't think it has anything to do with how the parents raised him as his siblings are independent and wonderful people. It is frustrating when you see things like that.

                                                                                                          I can understand how difficult it could be to separate the two. For example, one of my professors in grad school (old school Chinese guy) was complaining to me about the working laws in NY as he wanted to put his 10-year-old daughter to work so she can contribute to the family money-wise. I was dumbfounded and didn't know what to say. But I then remembered seeing all these small kids working in Mexico. In some parts of the world, kids working is just an everyday part of life.

                                                                                                  2. re: ArikaDawn

                                                                                                    "it should never be expected or assumed"
                                                                                                    So totally agree with this statement. As you said - brother is an adult - a working one. He should at least offer to pay something towards the meal. If the father then turns down both daughter and son, so be it.

                                                                                                    1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                      It just seems to me like this has been a semi-yearly tradition for some time and the father has always paid. The parents also seem fairly insistent that the eldest daughter attend, implying to me that the most important thing is to be with family, not the cost. Perhaps when all the kids are equally able to pay, then it would be appropriate for each person to foot their own bill, but for now it just seems like the family wants to find a way to get everyone together and enjoy a nice meal once in a while.

                                                                                                      1. re: queencru

                                                                                                        Perhaps when all the kids are equally able to pay, then it would be appropriate for each person to foot their own bill
                                                                                                        But then why does the father accept money from the OP/daughter?

                                                                                                        And I look at it as more of the responsibility of being an adult. The OP's brother is an adult. He is working at a full-time job. The least he could do, as a responsible adult, is offer to pay.

                                                                                                        Again, should the father then turn down the daughter (which, it seems, he's not done in the past - he accepts her money) *and* the son, so be it. He pays for family dinners at restaurants until he finally says to all kids - OK, time to pay your fair share.

                                                                                                        1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                          It's hard to say, but I think a lot of families try their best to avoid conflict during family gatherings. I typically see my extended family once every 5-10 years because everyone is always having some sort of stupid conflict. It doesn't seem like it is to the point yet where the children are bringing along spouses/grandkids so I doubt the father feels a need to demand anything just yet.

                                                                                                    2. re: ArikaDawn

                                                                                                      I agree. Be 'prepared'. Then ask the parent if the bill shouldn't be split? Much like asking 'can I get the tip?'.

                                                                                                      But fork over for my meal when deadbeat Dan sits on his wallet?

                                                                                                      I don't think so.

                                                                                        2. re: dolores

                                                                                          MissLorelle also has the brother with after-hours champagne tastes and significant school expenses; these don't combine very well. I know more than a few students that thought the money tree would never run out of leaves.

                                                                                          1. re: The Ranger

                                                                                            And it hasn't from what I have seen. Our daughter in in graduate school and on limited income. All of us have "champagne tastes" when it comes to food. If she goes out with us, we pay. It seems to me the only one with the issue of Dad paying, is this one sibling. If not, then it is up to Dad to speak up.

                                                                                            My former in-laws always made us pay from the time we were in college and honestly I thought it was very inappropriate. We were struggling and they were making a mid-six figure salary in the mid 1980's.

                                                                                            1. re: Janet from Richmond

                                                                                              > All of us have "champagne tastes" when it comes to food.

                                                                                              During those times of limited (or no) income you make due with simpler tastes with more Alaskan IPA and little or no Gloria Ferrer.

                                                                                              You certainly don't go off making arrangements at a high-end restaurant and then expect the head of the household to foot the bill...

                                                                                              1. re: The Ranger

                                                                                                For her birthday, I certainly expect our daughter to choose the place of her liking and us to pick up the tab....and anytime she has dinner out with us, I expect her and want her to choose what she wants to eat and drink and yes, we'll pick up the tab.

                                                                                            2. re: The Ranger

                                                                                              The OP thought $40 covered her share of the brother's birthday dinner in "the city." Unless she just ordered an appetizer, there's no way such a restaurant should be characterized as "lavish" or "over the top" (per the OP) or the brother as having "champagne tastes" (per you).

                                                                                              So dad pays for a moderately-priced dinner a couple of times a year. Big deal. There certainly are kids who think the money tree is inexhaustible, but there isn't nearly enough information here to support a conclusion that the OP's brother is one of them.

                                                                                              1. re: alanbarnes

                                                                                                I agree...the brother in question is college educated, working, continuing his studies. I don't see where Dad paying (unless Dad is on hard times) is a big deal.

                                                                                                1. re: Janet from Richmond

                                                                                                  As a senior citizen recently hit hard by increases in the price of gas, electricity and health care, I sympathize with the unease of the OP. Yes, when the family goes out my husband and I will pay, but, in all honesty, the bill can be somewhat more than we are comfortable with. Up to now we are managing, but I know my husband would never bring up a change unless we had to live on cat food for a week. If the opportunity presents itself I believe the OP should broach the subject with her father and/or the other family members. There may or may not be a problem here. Certainly this is a touchy subject and should be approached delicately.

                                                                                                    1. re: lattelover

                                                                                                      >>Certainly this is a touchy subject and should be approached delicately.

                                                                                                      Big time. Even if approached (as I said initially, it should be discussed at home) it can still be a mine field.

                                                                                                      1. re: lattelover

                                                                                                        That's a very good point you make. Not everybody is comfortable saying that they're having financial problems. In Asian cultures, you "lose face" if you admit things like that. Finances are a really touchy subject.

                                                                                                        I have to say that my viewpoint is probably colored by the way I was raised. In Asian cultures, after the children become adults, we start taking care of the parents. Parents have sacrificed and have done so much for us over the years. I feel the very least we can do is buy them a meal on occasion. To me, it shows my appreciation for them. Of course, there are a lot of things that play into factor here -- eg. parents are totally loaded and children (who are adults) are earning minimum wage. Personally, I'd like to raise my children so that they would start taking me out to dinner from time to time when I get older and not expect them to take care of them forever.

                                                                                                        In regard to the OP's situation, we're really not sure what her and her family's situation is. She's given us some glimpses, but we really don't have all the information. But I still feel that it seems her main issue is with her 25-year-old brother, and that is the person she should be dealing with first. Otherwise, I would hate to see her bottle it up and potentially explode at the most inopportune moment.

                                                                                                    2. re: alanbarnes

                                                                                                      We'll simply have to agree to disagree, both on the characterizations and number of times per year. Our experiences appear to differ significantly in what is significant and moderate. :)

                                                                                                      1. re: The Ranger

                                                                                                        As to the number of times per year, I took that directly from the OP. ("This occurs 2 or 3 times a year and we never go out to dinner together as a family except for these few occasions.") If it were a frequent occurrence, the analysis might be different.

                                                                                                        As to the characterization, everybody is entitled to his/her own opinion about what constitutes an expensive meal. But to get to a total tab of around $40pp (including tax and tip, excluding alcoholic beverages), you're talking about entrees in the $20s. That's not cheap, but IMHO it's not "over the top," either. YMMV.

                                                                                                          1. re: Janet from Richmond

                                                                                                            The only thing is, we really know nothing about the father's financial situation, which information would really influence my thoughts on how to handle this.

                                                                                                            1. re: MMRuth

                                                                                                              I agree Ruth. I am(perhaps incorrectly) picturing a man in his 50's who is comfortable financially. If Mom and Dad are having a tough time financially, that is a different circumstance altogether.

                                                                                            3. Hi, misslorelle. I'm obviously coming in late on this, and not really chomping at the bit to read all 90 previous posts, so if I repeat what has already been said 40 or 50 times, blame it on my laziness.

                                                                                              I have no idea and you give no firm information regarding your parent's financial situation, but... The fact that you're concerned enough about it to foot your share of the bill says to me your real world last name is probably not Rockerfeller or Gates.

                                                                                              Then, based on the fact that you have not had (or at least don't report having had) a heart to heart talk with your dad, I have to assume that you feel he would be uncomfortable talking to you about it. Or even that there is a pretty heavy pride-factor going with your dad, and that he wouldn't welcome such a discussion. If he would, it seems reasonable to conclude he would have initiated it himself by now.

                                                                                              Sooooooo.... All of this said, next time such an occasion comes up, when the wait person comes to take orders, why don't you just pipe up and ask that each "head of household" be given a separate check? Which also means you will have to do some checking before the final restaurant choice is made so you can be sure wherever is chosen will do this. Mayb even volunteer to make the arrangements yourself? And if all of your siblings end up getting really ticked at you and not speaking, from the sounds of things, you'll be the one who comes out ahead of the game! '-)

                                                                                              2 Replies
                                                                                              1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                I guess it routinely happens that the guest of honor chooses the restaurant and someone else pays, but it can be a problem if there is not some tact in the choice of restaurant and amount spent. My parents got into pretty much this situation with my brother-in-law. They would let him pick the place; it would be way above the level that they customarily dined and it was really embarrassing. I used to try paying all or part sometimes, hoping to send the guy a message. One time my parents sent us all (siblings and partners) to dinner on their credit card while they stayed home. I was horrified at the bill we ran up (including expensive wine) and gave my b-i-l a couple or three hundred bucks to defray it, explaining that I was embarrassed to present my parents with a bill like that. Dumb of me because of course he just pocketed the cash. Why my parents kept going along with this is another question. Maybe it just feels too weird to confront someone about that kind of thing. But in the end, I felt it was their choice for whatever reason.

                                                                                                1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                  I think the suggestion to announce at the beginning of dinner that all 'head of households' pay for themselves would be incredibly awkward and escalate the situation even more. I think it would make the younger siblings uncomfortable because they just got exposed to a matter that has nothing to do with them and they will likely feel guilty when they have absolutely no reason to do. You also run into the problems with the parents not wanting to recognize that the OP and her 25 yo brother are completely on their own. I'm 27, in grad school, and live 500 miles from my parents, but I know it would freak them out and probably make them quite sad to think of me as my own household (even though I am completely independent of them). I think it comes back to the sentimentality and desire to treat/take care of your family.

                                                                                                  It sounds like the problem lies with the 25 yo brother--so approach him and ask about his lack of chipping in. It's possible he's never thought about it, or he might know more about the father's desires and wishes to pay for the meal.

                                                                                                2. misslorelle, if you haven't been scared off already, we'd love to hear from you.
                                                                                                  Any advice fit the bill (so to speak).
                                                                                                  You asked for suggestions...and boy did you get them.