Wednesday, June 29, 2011

North vs. South

I don't drink iced tea. I don't even like it. I don't expect someone to hold the door for me everywhere I go, and I never think to ask if anyone else would like anything when I get up to get a drink from the kitchen. In effect, I am not southern. Not even close. I am very much a city girl from the Midwest. As such, my communication style tends to be assertive, even to the point of aggressive at times, and a bad word or two may slip into a heated conversation. (Hopefully when the tot is not within earshot.) On the flip side, my husband is southern. He is Georgia born and raised. His family is always polite and welcoming to guests, whether they feel like it or not. They drink tea with every meal. And it's not gossip, it's "sharing facts" about someone. As for communication - it's always polite, mostly surface level, and rarely if ever straightforward.

Of course, I realize this may have more to do with his family's culture than that of the South, but there is definitely a stark contrast between the way our two families operate. When my parents get on my nerves, I tell them. Usually in an offensive way. We have plenty of conflict in our family, but we tend to have it out and get over it. There is plenty of conflict in the husband's family as well, but it's never addressed and tends to fester. My mother-in-law is still telling me years later about the offensive thing my sister-in-law said to her "that one time". So, it's just a different environment all together. Don't get me wrong, I love my in-laws. They are kind, they are generous, they love me for no other reason except that I am married to their son. But when conflicts occur, I am clueless how to address them.

I bring this up because as you may recall from yesterday's post, they are supposed to be visiting on Saturday. But yesterday, my husband gets an email from his dad that they are coming on Friday. No explanation as to why they are coming a day early or even an acknowledgement of the inconvenience that might cause their hosts. My first response was "Tell them no, they can't come until Saturday" which was (of course) met with incredulity and "I can't do that!". It's not that I don't want them to visit, it's that I want them to realize and acknowledge that changing their plans lackadaisically is inconsiderate and inconvenient. However, my husband is insistent that they will not recognize having changed plans and will insist that they said Friday and he just misunderstood them. Because his listening skills are also suspect, this is a definite possibility.

In either case, it leaves me with one less day to clean and an ridiculous amount of anxiety about their visit this October. You see, they are coming to help with the new baby and, more importantly, to care for the tot while we are recuperating. Because, unlike my family, his family is quick to jump in and help even when it means a 15 hour drive each way and rearranging their own routines and lives to make it happen. (There are a lot of great things about Southern hospitality.) I am a planner and though I am not thrilled about having another c-section, the idea of being able to plan my child's birth and know exactly when I need child care is a dream come true. So, the thought that we might be expecting them to come on a specific day and stay for two weeks and they may come three days early and leave a week before we are expecting them to, keeps me awake at night. My husband has offered to address this with them but (as I stated) he was raised in the South and has the same discomfort with conflict that the rest of his family has. So, in effect, it falls on me to use my Northern communication style and explain in the nicest way possible that I need them to commit to an arrival and a departure date and STICK to it. I am hopeful for a brief, positive discussion about how we just need to have secure plans because of all that is involved with childbirth and toddler care. I plan to even be funny about how I won't be able to take the tot to school that week because driving on painkillers with a gash in your middle is not recommended so I really want to make sure they will be there. I am then going to pull out the calendar and write down the dates they agree to - in front of them- so they can see that this is the plan and they cannot change it without telling us in advance. My hope is that this will all flow nicely, we will have a good laugh and they will, of course, agree to being more consistent in the future. My expectation is that even if this happens - this will be one of those incidents that my mother-in-law will complain to my sister-in-law about for years to come. Such is Southern living.


  1. Ohhhh, 'Southern Nice'! It's crazy business! I'm used to it after years in GA and TX, but sometimes I still am amazed at the lengths that some Southerners will go to avoid actual confrontation, bless their hearts!

  2. Ha! Yes, exactly! Unfortunately I end up looking like a not-so-nice person by contrast. It's a tough balance to strike!

  3. I'm a west coast girl and B's parents are ridiculously, drive me batty nice. I totally get how you need to know what in the world is going on.

    Congrats on your second babe... what day are you having him/her? My husbands bday is the 14th and Peanuts is the 31st :)

    Thanks for stopping by my blog!!

  4. Kam! How I've missed you! I mean, I've BEEN here, but it's been so hard (*sniff,sniff*) not being able to talk back to you!

    Anyway, I live on the Missouri/Arkansas border of North vs. South, so we're a bit of a hodge-podge of hospitality vs. otherwise. I wish I could categorize myself, actually, but I can't, really! I strive for politeness, but end up spewing my passion at inopportune times...I don't know.

    What I do know? That I wish you luck :) Surely a facts-forward, polite conversation will help them understand that you need solidity!

  5. Dandy, we are due the 24th of Oct but will probably have our c-section on the 17th. I love that you have a little one with a birthday on the 31st! What a great day for a birthday!