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Jun 13, 2011 01:58 PM

Can you hounds help me out with some dinner party advice?

Hi everyone. I agreed to have mr. gator extend an invitation to a coworker to bring his family (wife, wife's mom and five kids aged 2-8) for an early dinner and evening at our place. We have fun things like a pool and a dog that I thought the kids might enjoy.

I asked about any food allergies and dislikes, and the response was that they "prefer to have a family-friendly environment". What the heck does that mean? They're a family and we're being friendly...

The best we could deduce is that they don't want alcohol around. My husband did stop at their place for an afterwork dinner once and noted that no beer or wine was served.

Do you think this is the case? And is it polite to suggest that a host not serve or drink alcohol? I know an adult beverage would certainly help an evening with small children go by more easily for me.

Thanks for any help.

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  1. I would go ahead and have wine and beer to offer if it were at my home. The most a person can do, is to say "no thank you". You certainly aren't going to offer it to the children, so I don't know what "family-friendly atmosphere", means to them.

    Whatever you have planned, they should appreciate, since it's a very nice invitation extended by you and Mr. Gator.

    Good luck ~

    10 Replies
    1. re: mcel215

      I sure hope it goes well for you -- that sounds suspiciously like a bad omen.

      (like you're going to invite a family with 5 kids over and then do beer bongs and have pole dancing contests?)

      1. re: sunshine842

        Thank you both. And if it does go poorly, I am leaving for a trip the next day. So I actually get to flee the country and leave the experience far, far behind me.

        1. re: sunshine842

          I wouldn't necessarily take it as a bad omen. I only have 2 kids, and they are now 8 and up. I am sure they are extremely grateful that anyone would want to entertain their entire brood. At the same time, they are likely feeling some anxiety. Will the kids behave themselves? Will they eat the food you serve? This age range can be particularly difficult, even under the best circumstances and even if they are very good kids. And all but the oldest are too young to be anywhere near or in the pool without a parent very close by.

          I would have some drinks on hand, make the offer when they arrive. But, if they clearly show no interest in alcoholic beverages, I think it would be nice if you abstained as well. As host, your job is to make your guest feel comfortable. Sometimes that means at the expense of your own comfort.

          It could also just mean that they expect a very casual environment in both food and atmosphere.

          1. re: centralpadiner

            Why would it be "nice" if the op "abstained as well"? Misery loves company? This attitude has me flummoxed. You invite people to your home and they should take "you" as they find you not the other way around. When people are kind enough to offer me food and solace I adapt myself and do not expect them to adapt anything. It doesn't sound like the Gator's are planning a Bacchanalia but a pool party with a dog. When I am invited to someone's house I don't question either their motives or their ability to keep it clean and wholesome. Please do not alter what you would ordinarily do because they want "family friendly" and ask them what they mean by that. It may mean please don't have naked dancers near the kids but whatever that's a serious brood to entertain. My parents had 8 kids and being invited anywhere meant the hosts quite simply "had" to like us as they knew what they were getting in to. We were always scrupulously well behaved. My father might have killed us if we weren't (no not really) but the point is that the guest is the one who adapts not the host. Did this rule change? I think not. Have a nice party and do it your way. Don't sweat the small stuff. If these people don't appreciate the generosity of whatever you have to offer than you really don't want to know them.

            1. re: KateBChi

              "the guest is the one who adapts not the host"

              I truly disagree with this. While I was raised to not behave like another persons home is the equivalent of a restaurant where my every little whim will be met, that doesn't mean a good host can't go out of their way when there are certain things that make the guest uncomfortable. It's the host's job to make their guest feel welcome and comfortable. If abstaining from alcohol is needed in order to make teetotalers feel welcome, then so be it. When you invite someone to your home, you automatically take on the reality that you may be a bit uncomfortable or thrown from your normal routine.

              No one is questioning Gator's generosity in hosting this group. She asked for suggestions and got some great advice. We all await an update to see how it goes.

              1. re: centralpadiner

                Guests should be made to "feel at home". Where I live in central PA MANY people do not drink for religious reasons. We can't even have my SO's parents over because we keep alcohol in the house and they refuse to go to restaurants that serve it (still can't figure that one out). I agree that you should abstain if they do in this case especially since that comment was made. When they come in I would quickly offer your beer or wine along with all your other beverages and if they go with iced tea and soda, follow suit.

                Along with the comment about family friendly, perhaps this also speaks to the type of food they would hope you serve as well as topics of conversation deemed appropriate in front of children (avoiding innuendo and the like).

                1. re: centralpadiner

                  I see your point and agree in some cases, but I don't think it's a blanket issue. If a friend was struggling with addiction then no, I'm not going to crack a beer in front of her. If someone works for a rabbit rescue, then rabbit isn't going on the menu for a dinner party that person is invited to.

                  But where does it end? If I invite someone over whose religious beliefs tell her it's wrong to live with someone before marriage, do I make my boyfriend sleep on the couch lest she be offended?

                  I don't think that just because someone doesn't engage in certain things (be it drinking alcohol or eating meat or whatever) it doesn't mean that they are uncomfortable around those that do.

                2. re: KateBChi

                  strongly agree. -- if they don't approve of your lifestyle it's best to find out sooner rather than later -- I would certainly want a drink with the five kids there + pool + dog + grandma!

                  1. re: bayoucook

                    "...I would certainly want a drink with the five kids there + pool + dog + grandma!"
                    But that's what Valium's for...

          2. They may not realize they will be the only guests and concerned that a party might get too rowdy for their comfort.

            2 Replies
            1. re: HDinCentralME

              I actually thought it meant you should put away those "honeymoon" videos!

              1. re: Sarah

                I was thinking along the same lines - maybe a way of saying they're not into the swingers scene...{:-0

            2. maybe they meant they prefer a sit down family style dinner not one where the adults are on one table and the kids on another or in the kitchen. Or maybe they mean the kind of food kids will eat and nothing too fancy.

              1. You are a sweetheart to do this for their family. Maybe Mr. Gator can do more sleuthing to find out what "family friendly" means? Like, "We're looking forward to seeing you all on Friday. And we want to make sure you're comfortable with what we have planned. It'll just be your family, me and Mrs. Gator. And Buster: the kids will love him. We're thinking of burgers on the grill, by the pool. Should we pick up some soda for the kids, or juice? And Mrs. Gator and I sometimes have a glass of wine with dinner, are you comfortable with that?" Then if he objects to the alcohol he has his chance to state his position on it. Like, "we don't drink alcohol, but we'll be happy to bring seltzer." Or, "we prefer not to be around alcohol." Which would be a bummer, but at least you'd eliminate the stress of uncertainty.

                3 Replies
                1. re: Niblet

                  Niblet, I like your direct approach.

                  1. re: Isolda

                    I think this a good idea as well.
                    I also think you are going out of your way to make sure the evening is a success, which to me, shows a lot of sincerity.
                    If you want to hide the booze is up to you. Me? I'd do as I'd always do when inviting guests over; have plenty of drinks, both alcoholic and non-. If they get offended, well, too bad, they can decline the offer next time.

                    Perhaps the parents are worried that their 5 kids are too much to handle for most folks and are simply putting that out as a warning of sorts. In other words, "prefer to have a family-friendly environment" might be their way of saying "We really appreciate your offer, but realize we have 5 kids. They're great and all, but they ARE children and we hope you can understand. Some people in the past just didn't realize this and were somewhat frazzled."

                  2. Thank you all so much, some really good points have been raised! As a non-parent, I have to admit I that I never really thought about how anxiety inducing it must be to take 5 kids into someone else's home.

                    We gave the invitation because the mister and his friend were discussing food, and it came up that I really enjoy cooking Thai food and the friend said he and his family had never tried any and would love to someday. We were also aware that the family has no access to a swimming pool and it's been brutally hot lately.

                    I planned a menu with a variety of mild Thai foods that I can make "plain" and "finger" versions of for the kids, dug out some cheapo small toys that I have from Thailand, and plan to lock my breakables in the bedroom. And I picked up some pool inflateables.

                    That's about all I've thought up.

                    I really appreciate the input on what family friendly means to you, it's very helpful.

                    6 Replies
                    1. re: alliegator

                      As a parent, we look for food the young'ins can eat and an activity schedule appropriate for their attention spans and our enjoyment.

                      You seem to have planned for these quite well.

                      Like someone else mentioned, at these ages, pool play needs to be heavily supervised with adults in-the-water with the children. (and as a PSA announcement, please remember that children sitting in an inflatable can tip over and go under in a heartbeat.... I know a few parents who had big scares when they relaxed their watch ...)

                      Relax, enjoy. Serve the Thai food. Have fun watching and playing with the kids and then enjoy your moment of silence when they head home!

                      1. re: _jj_

                        I'm late to this party, but I'll chime in as a non-parent pool owner. Once at a pool party, I was standing next to a parent poolside, when I happened to glance down at the pool and saw what led me to deliver the line "Hey, your kid's drowning." That child was 3 feet away from her parent, desperately struggling to keep her face above water, and never once called out.

                        On the drinking thing, while I find it hard to imagine there are people who care if OTHER PEOPLE drink, my Mother assures me this is true. We're Southern Baptist, and although my Dad has the occasional beer, my Mom refused to let me serve anything stronger than bellinis at their 50th anniversary party because she thought some of her church friends would be horrified. I ranted about hypocracy, but she says it's not about that, but about respect.

                        So...if it were me, i'd offer them the beers when they arrive, and if they refused, I'd abstain during the kid-watching portion of the evening (well, i'd do that anyway), and if there were a quieter time later on, I'd privately pour myself a beer in a glass. Surely, they aren't going to sniff your glass and inquire.

                        1. re: danna

                          Instinctive Drowning Response

                          a bit off topic, but important, hope the moderators will give it a break. the child danna mentioned was exhibiting classic drowning symptoms. wild splashing and yelling can be a sign of a aquatic distress, but someone actualy drowning will be focused on trying to keep their mouth above the water, won't be yelling or calling out, and won't be wildly thrashing.


                          we all know it, but its good to be reminded that children should never be left alone in or near a pool, even for a minute.

                      2. re: alliegator

                        I think you've gotten great advice (if divided on the alcohol issue) and you get that bringing 5 little kids to someone's home is stressful. With 5 kids in that age range my primary concern as a parent would be lifeguarding. I would probably abstain and ask my husband to drink very minimally for that reason alone, which may feel awkward if the host is a pressuring type - which you obviously are not. Especially if one or both of the parents can't swim that well, they might need you to be an extra pair of eyes in the pool. Sorry, as a pool-owner you are probably all over the safetey stuff already...
                        Oh, and hot dogs. Good advice. It's just not worth even one of the kids getting upset because there's no familiar food. Or, if they offer, you could ask them to bring a dish their kids enjoy.

                        1. re: alliegator

                          That sounds fun! I would agree with the other posters who have said to be up front. I have a glass of wine or beer with dinner probably 99% of the time but wouldn't want to make anyone uncomfortable. I have some friends who would be uncomfortable with that for religious reasons, and others who bring bring their kids to beer pong type events(usually super bowl parties or stuff like that where the adults are drinking). I think it's best to be up front and find out what's up for these particular folks.

                          1. re: alliegator

                            It sounds like it's going to be a lot of fun! As a former homeowner with an in-ground pool I understand completely about having people with kids over. Pool toys are great (and squirt guns) but don't rely on any inflatables to keep kids safe. I was always in the pool, treading water near the deep end, when there were kids swimming. If I had to go to the bathroom, everyone had to get out of the pool until I came back. A neighbor's 4 year old son drowned in the time it took for his grandmother to take his plate into the kitchen. Tell the kids not to yell "help" if their sibling is splashing them - "help" is for drowning or almost ready to sink situations ONLY.

                            As for alcohol - I'd have it on hand and drink some of it myself, but also have juice and soda for the kids and any other non-drinkers. I have a few friends who are recovering alcoholics and they don't want anyone to change their style of entertaining just for them. If I had a party and didn't serve booze it would make them uncomfortable. I do get some of that carbonated grape juice (Martelli's?) and/or good bottled carbonated water for the non-drinkers.

                            Have fun! I have 5 nephews from one brother and herding that many kids around can be a job! I'm sure the parents are thrilled to be asked out somewhere with their kids. Eating Thai food and expanding their food universe will be a special treat!