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Splitting the tab... Or am I attempting to be a show-off?

I am a fifty three year old single guy. Divorced for a couple of decades. I am thankful I have a great relationship with both my kids and their mother.
Often we will dine out as a group along with a few of the kids' friends and their spouses. They are all in their mid twenties and in various degrees of financial struggle. The table numbers in the 12-13 range. The ultimate bill is $300 + when all is said and done.
I, most times, pick up the entire tab. I am happy to do so for a number of reasons. First, I would gladly spend the same amount of money to have them as guests in my home (which for distance reasons is infrequent) and requires no prep or cleanup. Second, they all have their own money issues. Third, I absolutely hate the arithmetic minutia of splitting the bill. What better way to kill a nice evening of good food, conversation, laughs etc.?
I will often quitely (and out of sight) give the wait staff my credit card before the meal begins in order to avoid the end-of-meal financial accounting.
Everyone seems appreciative and thankful, but wonder if I am somehow being a dick by stealing someone else's opportunity to pick up the check. I also wonder if my son and son-in-law somehow feel like they are 'second-class' by my action.
I've often asked my daughter if anyone feels uncomfortable with this and she assures me they do not. But I think she would rather take a bullet than hurt my feelings.
Any thoughts...?

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  1. Very generous of you. By now your son and son-in-law know how you operate and if they had an issue with it they would a) beat you to he punch b) insist on paying at least their part or chipping in in for the tip c) speak up. If they havent done any of these things you are in the clear.

    When and where is the next get together?? =)

    1 Reply
    1. re: joe777cool

      My first time posting. Thanks for a thoughtful reply. I was expecting to get beat up.

    2. You merely give up the right to credibly complain about your guests not reciprocating your hospitality.....

      1. It's a dad thing to do and when they are able to reciprocate then hopefully you have raised them well enough for them to do this. As long as you are not being taken advantage of and you like and can afford to continue this then bring it on!

        4 Replies
        1. re: smartie

          i agree; it is a dad thing to do. when they get to a certain age, they will be proud to reciprocate.

          1. re: alkapal

            Exactly. At a certain point, one of them will try to take over the bill on a certain night, and he should graciously let them. But in the meantime, it seems like an absolutely lovely gesture, and that it's working well for all involved.

          2. re: smartie

            I agree with smartie, if you like and can afford it fine. I do wonder why you don't just ask your son and son-in-law.

            1. re: escondido123

              Hey everybody, thanks so much. What a thoughtful community! Escondido: To ask them outright, I think, would place an expectation on them that they may or may not be prepared to fullful. I don't want them wondering what bill to pay this month because they felt they had to live up to one of my questions. That's why I keep my mouth shut and asked on line. Thanks though.

          3. If you didn't give them your card at the beginning, but waited for the check, and others offered to pay or split it, would you let them? If you do want to split the bill, it doesn't have to 'arithmetic minutia', it's easy enough to give the server a number of cards and say split it equally, or half on this, a quarter on these two, or $50 on this, the rest on the other.

            Hopefully at some point your kids will make a point of saying they want to take you out and treat you. When they do, let them. It is nice to be treated, but it feels good to be the treater as well.

            1 Reply
            1. re: babette feasts

              That's a great idea It would never have occurred to me. Didn't realizer servers had that option. It still feels like a pain in the neck. ...And when the numbers aren't so high, I have no problem with someone else jumping in with their credit card. Thanks for your advice!

            2. You're very generous. As long as you don't pick up any irritation on their parts, I think it's fine. My own dad is not very sensitive (though he means well) or quick to pick up social cues and he has on occasion overstepped boundaries. When my son graduated from high school we took a group out to dinner intending to pay, but my dad had slipped his credit card to the waiter beforehand. My husband felt dissed, treated as less than a adult man. Of course he didn't express it -- except to me afterward!

              1 Reply
              1. re: Glencora

                Yea. See, that has been my concern. Although I haven't picked up on any irritation (and I'm on the look-out for it) you've got me thinking.

              2. I do the same thing. I am positive that my kids (and their friends, etc) appreciate it- and feel "treated". That is the point for me- to treat them. I think it is a nice "parental" thing to do and I don't think there is an age limit on that kind of thing. However, I *did* tell my kids that when I am 98 years old and can only chew mashed potatoes- they better not just take me to Denny's for my free birthday meal ;)

                3 Replies
                1. re: sedimental

                  It will be Ensure, with bourbon and bitters.

                    1. re: alkapal

                      you have to do something to make that stuff taste good...

                2. You sound like a great dad (and FIL). Your kids are blessed. If you continue to be sensitive to any changes in their circumstances or feelings on the matter, you should be just fine.

                  I would have loved for my dad to be so generous. He has many wonderful qualities, but generosity is not one of them. I used to get so embarrassed at the way he would split the bill down to the last penny, and that is of course only if he didn't get his way by having separate checks. He was an immigrant, came her with no money and no English, etc...so has his reasons for being that way but I always hated going out with a group for the awkwardness of the bill. Like I said, your kids are blessed.

                  1. I think it's great that you do it. We too have a big family, but when we all go out they all usually throw in credit cards. If it's just us and one family we usually pick up the check, but they too pick up the check ever so often. They all do quite well, so no problem.

                    1. My husband does the same thing. I think it's appreciated. On occasion my SIL will pick up the pre-dinner cocktail tab at the bar.

                      It's a perk of being a man of a certain age :-)

                      1. As others have said, "treating" seems like a very generous, very "dad" thing to do.

                        Personal anecdote time!

                        I'm twenty, and I know well (from my friends and my own experiences) the "various degrees of financial struggle" you describe your kids and their friends experiencing. In such a situation, there are very likely be members of the group who wouldn't be able to afford to eat out otherwise. My best friend's dad takes a few of us out for lunch on occasion, and it means so, so much more than he seems to realize.

                        1. How refreshing! Indeed, this is a "dad" thing to do (I know my dad was always the first to reach for the check at these occasions -- now my brother does it). And I agree -- the arithmetic exercise around divvying up the tab -- or the squabble over just dividing it X number of ways, with the ensuing "he had a steak, I just had salad" drama -- can really be a buzzkill after a good meal.

                          The test of whether you have imparted this to your kids is to let that check land on the table, and see what happens. Knowing that you have paid for so many of their meals, they will probably be more than happy to deal with the check themselves once in a while.

                          I was witness to the classic check squabble this weekend at our annual dinner out with the in-laws at a fast/casual chain. Their (adult) only son and his fiance were with us. BIL announces when we sit down that their 4 would be on one check, ours must be separate. Adult son orders the most expensive steak on the menu -- his dad tells him no, he's not paying for that. The server is rolling his eyes; Im ready to crawl under the table. It's downhill from there.....

                          1. I'd guess everyone appreciates you picking up the check.

                            Ask yourself - would your kids be comfortable saying to you "Dad, you have been so generous taking us out all these times and we really want to do something nice for you, so this time it's our treat"? If so, then don't worry about being a show off or making your kids feel like second-class citizens. When the time comes, they'll say it and pick up the check.

                            It would probably upset people more if you just all of a sudden stop picking up the check and let everyone know you don't want to steal their opportunity to pay as that does sound like you think they're freeloaders.

                            1. I think you must be a wonderful guy to do this. I think that they probably really appreciate you picking up the tab in such a sensitive and discreet way. I think that they must enjoy spending time with you, and absolutely look forward to dining with you in a stressfree environment at a place they may not normally frequent because at the end of the evening, they don't have to worry about having to share the bill or overextend themselves on their credit cards.
                              The way I see it, if they were having an issue, they'd pull you aside and say "hey Dad, we'll get the next one, its on US", or something to that effect.
                              There are lots of ways to address this but I think the smartest thing is to just roll with what you are dong as long as you are happy and comfortable to do so. I really think its a non-issue, except that they appreciate your generosity. Listen to your daughter! Enjoy yourself! Don't worry about it. I'll bet there'll be a time when you are repaid in kind when finances are better.

                              1 Reply
                              1. I think you're doing exactly the right thing. If they wanted to pay they'd come to you and say they wanted to take YOU out. As it is now, they are enjoying having a nice meal out without worrying about their next household bill.

                                1. I agree with everyone else. You would pick up on irritation or someone would at least say "Oh, why don't you let us get it this time, Dad" if that's what they wanted to do. I do agree that the "test," if you're interested in performing one, is to let the check actually hit the table and then you ask it to be passed to you as you plan to pay, instead of the secret card hand-off when you arrive. If anyone is going to protest or speak up, it will be at that opportunity. In fact, in order to give them a chance to do so (which they likely will eventually do), I think you should just wait for the check from now on. As long as it's financially feasible and is enjoyable for you to pick it up, I'm sure they greatly appreciate it.

                                  And welcome to Chowhound!

                                  1. You're only being a Dick if you're doing it to show off. You seem to have genuine intentions.


                                    2 Replies
                                      1. re: alkapal

                                        I could've capitalized all the letters.


                                    1. I think it's really nice. If no one has protested or slipped their card to the waiter or said, "it's on us next time," I think you're in the clear. They probably really appreciate it.

                                      I once insisted on paying taxi fare for my mom because I worried she might think I was taking advantage of her generosity, and she said, "but I like taking care of you!" I realized it means a lot to her to help her adult kids in these small ways, and I sure appreciate the help, so now I let her do it, and I just say thank you each time.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: MiriamWoodstock

                                        "but I like taking care of you!"

                                        That was my dad.

                                        Through college and into early adulthood, I had friends with parents like toastedcheese. I will always remember their generosity. These were adults that were doing it because they liked being around their kids and their kids' friends, they enjoyed hosting and treating. I hope to be that parent in the future.

                                      2. Bravo toasted cheese!!! I am fortunate to be financially secure. When I go out with my kids, their friends or older relatives (mom, dad, aunts, uncles etc..) I treat. For the older folks it is out of respect and the memory of the generosity we took for granted when we were children. For our kids it's just what we do. They are in their mid 20's and doing ok but I know they have budgets. I wait until the check comes. There is never any drama about the bill. Every once in a while number #1 son or daughter grab the check and say it's their treat. I accept graciously.

                                        1. They're your kids (and they're adults). It's nice of you to pick up the tab when you go out. When I went out with my parents, they paid. If I wanted to do something for them I'd arrange it myself. I'm sure your kids have the same ability!

                                          1. i agree with the others, this is a very nice dad thing for you to be doing.
                                            i am in my mid-20s and do fairly well but i know when i go out with my dad he wants to pay for meals and is almost hurt when i offer to pay, i think he feels it is his dad thing to do. i have treated him before but it is usually discussed beforehand.
                                            it's possible your kids feel a similar way, they appreciate what you are doing for them to the point where they may feel like they are hurting your feelings by trying to pay since you always have done so?
                                            i think it's great what you are doing!

                                            i am sure once they are comfortable with their own finances they will also try and reciprocate.

                                            and as you mentioned, if you just don't want to worry about the math, you can definitely hand the waiter a few different credit cards.

                                            1. Toastedcheese, welcome to the CH community. Your post ticked with me since I am in a similiar boat, albeit without a divorce and the progeny are older than yours. For as long as I can remember, we parents have generally picked up the tab. Special occasions hosted by the kids are different and are more frequent as they get older and more established. When they were in their 20s there was never a question of who would pay -- it was the Bank of Mom and Dad, just as it was for me in my earlier years.

                                              I believe it is a case of "what comes around, goes around" since I have fond and delicious memories of special dinners, hosted by parents and other family members, when I was struggling financially. There was never the perception of 'attempting to show off'. It's just how things were. I figured that it was my turn to return the favor when in a position to do so.

                                              Your last paragraph says so much about your family relationship "....... she would rather take a bullet than hurt my feelings". Enjoy your bond and great, good luck at having a loving family.

                                              PS -- you can never be in charge of what anyone else thinks. If some small-minded fool decides that you are showing off, there is zilch that you can do so take a deep breath and continue to enjoy your great adult family relationship.

                                              1. I highly doubt anyone in your party is anything other than appreciative and thankful that you are willing to pick up the check and host a fun night out amongst family and friends.

                                                My family is similar. I am in my late 20's with a younger brother and sister. My brother and I do very well, and my sister is still in college. Anyway, when we go out with my parents for dinner my dad almost always picks up the check. My brother or I will pick up the check occasionally, but usually we just leave it up to him.

                                                My dad generally gives his card to the server surreptitiously beforehand or when we are ordering drinks, so sometimes it can require a bit of strategery to actually pick up a check. When my family is in from out of town around the holidays we do a lot of dining out, and the little game of who can get their card to the server first can become interesting between my father and uncle.

                                                1. Wow. 36 replies and each one of them generous and kind! What a nice community Chowhound is! As someone that loves to read the reply section of many articles mainly to see what a bunch of mouth-breathing neaderthals most of the public is. I laugh, and am dismayed at the same time. It's like picky at a scab. I know I shouldn't, but can't help myself.
                                                  I thought I might be in for a trashing. What do you figure it is about this website that makes people thoughtful and kind?

                                                  7 Replies
                                                  1. re: toastedcheese

                                                    Haha, I don't think it's always the case, but I think your post somehow has stricken the right nerve witht he community!

                                                    1. re: FattyDumplin

                                                      Ya it can get testy around here, but I can't see why anyone would fault you for your generosity...:)

                                                    2. re: toastedcheese

                                                      Newbies get one chance at the cheese before the trap is set. Enjoy the moment!

                                                      1. re: Veggo

                                                        chortle ;)

                                                        The battle between dad and uncle was epic.

                                                        1. re: gaffk

                                                          Too new to remember that one, is there a link? I need some awesome epicness in my life right about now...

                                                          1. re: Veggo

                                                            LOL! And Veggo is letting out ALL of our secrets! :-)

                                                            toastedcheese, I'll chime in with the same as everyone else - your family is appreciative and will reciprocate when finances are better. I'm in my early 50s, and have been treating my Mom to most meals out for the past 15 years or so (after my stepfather passed away), but there are times when she will say "No, *I* want to get this...you've been helping me with x-y-z and I want to treat you!"

                                                            But there was a time she was concerned that I was spending too much on her, so she and I had the conversation in that I'm making money, and she's on retirement income, so the tables have turned. I've told her "You took care of us kids for so long; it's our turn to give back to you."

                                                            The same will happen with your kids and their families. I sincerely doubt you've raised them to be deadbeats to sponge off of others their entire lives, so they will remember what you've done for them and reciprocate in kind when they can.

                                                        2. My dad was like this. Always picked up every check when we went out for meals / vacations. On occasion, I'd try to pay, but he'd always make a scene and I'd drop it. While I thought my paying would be a nice gesture, I also realized it was somewhat pointless becuase my dad was in a much better financial situation. Then, one day, in my 30s, when I'd finally hit a point where my income was close to or was exceeding my dad's, on one of those occasions when I offered to pay, he didn't say a word. Since then, I've paid for every meal / vacation. I think it's just one of those things that happened and we've never really talked about it, but it's a nice father-son dynamic when the caretaker role suddenly, yet subtly flips. And now, looking back, it makes me appreciate greatly a) that my dad was always so generous when I was younger and b) that I can now reciprocate and that he is able to essentially reap the fruits of his labor.

                                                          Long story short, you are an awesome dad, i think it's greatly appreciated and given there are 12 - 13 people there, i'm sure someone would have said something by now if they cared.

                                                          1. When the offspring are able to pick up the check, they will figure out how to execute their plan. As the eldest of a family of five children, I have had the chance to observe many iterations of the family meal out. When I had a great, steady income, I sometimes would pick up the tab for my entire family (20!), but often it was our parents who looked after the bill.

                                                            On such occasions as a parent's birthday, or their wedding annivesary, my siblings and I will often have some discussion of taking care of the bill. One of us puts the total on a credit card, and we apportion the total according to the number of people in any of our families. i.e., I have a spouse and a child, so pay a higher portion than my brother who comes solo.

                                                            Until I was 40, my father paid for every single family dinner "out".

                                                            1. I'm 20 this year and in no way financially independent, working part time as a waitress. My dad is MORE than financially independent and gracious enough to pay for my uni fees even. As of right now, if I bring my friends along (happens once in a blue moon) for the dinner I have with him, he finds it prefectly fine to pay for everyone. My friends are equally grateful and happy with the situation. Not that I'm saying my friends are along for the free ride, I've known them long enough to know they aren't freeloaders and are genuinely grateful for the occasional dinner treat.

                                                              When I'm older and am more financially secure, I'd love to treat my dad to dinners. (when I got my very first paycheck from an internship, I paid for a dinner. Even though I was still on an allowance hahaha)

                                                              You seem like you'd be fine with them treating if you knew they had the money to, in the future. And if people really minded, I'm guessing they'd be coming up with excuses not to attend dinners with you.

                                                              1. @ Brunch this morning with the family, 5 of us. The check comes and #1 son, 27, grabs it and says "I just got a raise, this one is on me dad!" I loved it.

                                                                2 Replies
                                                                1. re: Motosport

                                                                  That's great! For you and your son. Well done.

                                                                  1. re: Motosport

                                                                    This made me smile. I remember doing the same a very long time ago upon getting a new job. :-)

                                                                  2. Don't try to over analyze this.

                                                                    You're doing a very nice thing for your family and it sounds like they appreciate it.

                                                                    Don't know if you're up on the Yiddish language, but you sound like a real mensch..:) a good thing.

                                                                    5 Replies
                                                                    1. re: 9lives

                                                                      Thanks. I always wanted to be a mensch.

                                                                      1. re: toastedcheese

                                                                        A mensch and possible even a maven!!

                                                                        1. re: Motosport

                                                                          What's a maven? Is that a good thing? I'm picturing an elderly woman in a pillbox hat and white gloves. (Not that I couldn't pull off the look.)

                                                                          1. re: toastedcheese

                                                                            A maven (also mavin) is a trusted expert in a particular field, who seeks to pass
                                                                            knowledge on to others.
                                                                            Mensch (Yiddish: מענטש mentsh, from German: Mensch "human being") means "a
                                                                            person of integrity and honor".
                                                                            It's all good!

                                                                            1. re: Motosport

                                                                              Thank God for small favors. I was just ironing my gloves and dusting off my pillbox hat. (BTW: how cool you can type yiddish characters on your keyboard! I have to think twice about backslash/forwardslash.) You must be a maven. Thanks.

                                                                    2. I thought about this thread today when my daughter (in her late 20's) treated me to lunch. She graduated from dental school this past spring and now makes significantly more than I do and for her it's a way of showing gratitude.

                                                                      I told her next time, I'll treat :-)