Within my more somewhat liberal, Catholic, northern family, all gatherings include beer and wine for the adults (even children’s birthday parties, which are more family affairs than bunches of little kids). My husband’s family are Southern, conservative, and more generically Christian, some baptist, and anti-alcohol of any type.
We live 5+ hours from both of our immediate families, in opposite directions. My husband feels more at ease with my immediate family than his own, and our local group of friends, who have become our family, are much like my family. We gather for their kids’ birthdays, and the adults have a few beers while the kids eat cake and shoot nerf or water guns.
Our son is nearing his first birthday, and my husband wants his party to be like those of our friends and my family. He doesn’t even want his parents there, because he doesn’t want them to judge our friends (no one ever gets out of hand). We never drink around his parents out of courtesy, and it took many years of us being married before DH didn’t hide any beer we had in the house when his parents came to visit. He’s honestly too hard on his parents, as annoying as they can be at times, and really tries to cut them out. Not that I particularly enjoy hanging out with them, but I smile and exchange niceties, they are our son’s grandparents. Thoughts on handling this situation?
I actually come from a family just like this; my mom was raised strict Roman Catholic, even attended a Catholic school with nuns who hit the kids with rulers, while my dad was raised Southern Baptist and was forbidden to dance (including prom!), drink, or even have playing cards in the house (they lead to gambling you know). Thankfully they both rebelled, first by marrying each other (via secret elopement), and then by distancing themselves from both doctrines. They still read the Bible to us as kids, but allowed a dialogue about what the teachings meant to us, and encouraged us to seek out our own interests in spirituality.
Their gatherings always included some drinking and lots of card playing & dancing. To this day I’m surprised when I find that I know parts of the Bible more than most of my Christian friends, and I make it a point to connect with my Source (or God) every single day. I’ve never had a drinking problem, or a gambling problem for that matter, and I can’t say that dancing has ever lead to sex for me (I’m not that great of a dancer haha)!
I remember a happy, healthy childhood while my parents have struggled most of their lives to forgive their parents for the expectations that were placed on them at such an early age. So, I guess the bottom line is figuring out what’s more important to you- trying to live a life based on what your church has interpreted as being upright while judging those closest to you, or connecting with your friends and family in a real way that lasts generations and affects everyone they in turn meet. Its important to be honest as adults and to lead by example for your children; the family members can choose whether or not to attend! It’ll ultimately be their loss if they distance themselves, but they might surprise you and come around – rawr!
As it’s your party, (since you planned and are hosting it!), if you want to cry, you can. But I doubt you will because you seem like a realistic gal with her head squarely on her shoulders. It’s obvious to me you want everyone to feel welcome, drinkers and abstainers alike. Keep that feeling in your heart and all the guests will feel it.
Coming from a family with a history of alcoholism and where many members of my family have bad memories associated with alcohol, I can understand the need for a ‘dry’ event, religious beliefs aside. Alcohol can bring out the bad side and more voracious comments at the wrong time. And after attending many dry family events, I can also attest to the great social lubricant that it is. Sitting awkwardly on the couch for a few hours is hardly fun for anyone.
So looking for a happy medium, let’s separate alcohol from the obvious. Set up two beverage centers, one with non-alcoholic punches, juices and spritzers (oh my!) by the food and festivities. Set up a “grown ups only” bar somewhere off to the side (maybe in the garage or laundry or back bedroom). Get a bunch of blue Solo cups and a couple packs of fun colored Sharpies or maybe something extra fun like differing Mustache stickers and have everyone personalize their cup to drink from. (I’m sure your cool friends will “get it” and cooperate.) Then it’s a little less obvious who’s drinking and who’s not.
Lastly, designate a “quiet room” for anyone (of ANY age) who’s having a fit. Fill it with some calming music, soft blankets and pillows and keep it pretty dark. Then, if someone does get unruly, grown up or grumpy munchkin, there is somewhere for them to retreat to without causing a scene and ruining the party. (Unless it’s you crying, and then, since it’s your party, you can cry if you want to.)