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Just a Guy Wondering Who Comes First?

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Am I being selfish?

man wondering

Bruce Sallan: My family continues to be the best petri dish for ideas for my blog. My wife, Loren, often comments to "correct" me and straighten the record. On a recent family trip to visit her parents, a couple of incidents occurred that raised the question of "who comes first" -- friends, the kids, her parents, or me?

At dinner with one of her friends, she seemed to cater to the dietary desires of their kid, who is a vegetarian. Every dish, it seemed, had to be cleared with him. Now, there were 5 others of us partaking in this Chinese meal, but it felt like the only one that mattered was that boy.

Second example happened at the gym. We brought my son, Loren's stepson, whom she adores and who adores her in return, thank G*d. As it turned out, he wasn't allowed into this gym due to an age limit. I wanted to work out a certain length of time, which she made me feel wasn't okay, since our son would have to wait (he had a book to read, as he always brings one and loves to read).

Am I being selfish? Sure, sometimes I know I am. But, who should come first? With her parents, I think it's clear it should be them. With our own family, I think it should be us, the adults, with the kids' interests and desires taken into consideration but not catered to, while, with friends, I think it should be a compromise of everyone's desires. Again, I wonder what is right, what is fair? I expect we'll hear from Loren, who'll give "her side of the story," only reinforcing that what do I know; I'm just a guy.

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18 comments so far | Post a comment now
steve August 29, 2009, 12:17 PM

Sorry bruce. For me it’s simple. I come first! Lol. Maybe that’s why I’m single ya think?

steve August 29, 2009, 12:19 PM

Sorry bruce. For me it’s simple. I come first! Lol. Maybe that’s why I’m single ya think?

amy b August 29, 2009, 12:33 PM

oo steve i bet that is y ur single lol it just depends i think i try 2 make it seem like everyone one in my family comes first..its tricky but i havnt heard any complaints lol i dont think im first on anyones list…..well thats depressing but i kno they love me :]

Frank in Seattle August 29, 2009, 2:05 PM

Spouses should always be the prioty. That provides a secure and stable foundation for children, family and friends.

Prior to the 50s and 60s, children were always second to the spouse. But after 50 years of social and legal upheaval and reengineering, husbands/fathers are at the bottom of the list.

It’s hard to voluntarily be a wage slave for 50 years to others when you get the least consideration and care from others.

ame i. August 29, 2009, 3:23 PM

It’s all about compromise.
If the house is on fire, damn-straight the kids come first. My husband is faster than me, so it is agreed that he will go after the kids first so he doesn’t have to trample over me to get to them.
Movies, we & the kids take turns. If it has been awhile since we went to a restaurant, Hubs and I get to chose. There’s usually something the kids will eat& if not they happily wait for drive-thru fare on the way home.
Both sets of grandparents live in our town so that’s never been a priority problem. Everyone comes to our home for holidays because ours is the only one large enough to hold everyone.
We rarely spend time with our friends but we work through that, too.
After 2 months of no sex, we put my parents first by sending my girls to them for a night or two :)

Kate August 29, 2009, 8:24 PM

I’m about as liberal as they come, and I think that the spouse should generally come first. A wife nor a husband will get very far if they put their parents first. With the kids, you have to present a unified front, and with friends, it’s always nice to make special efforts to ensure their comfort (ie making sure a vegetarian can eat something), but when it comes to bigger things, it should always be the spouse.

michelle August 29, 2009, 10:08 PM

This question is always a minefield. Not only is the answer totally subjective, but it changes from minute to minute. For example, maybe your wife thought your son would have walked off from the gym without telling you or something. Or maybe the parents of that kid at the Chinese restaurant couldn’t get a sitter for the evening and were worried he would behave badly at the restaurant. I’m making these up, but you get the idea. I suppose what I am saying is that sometimes these things get so complicated that it may seem you are catering excessively to the kid when you are actually being sensitive to, or in a sense give consideration to, the grownups (spouse/parent).

Kara August 30, 2009, 1:52 AM

my husband comes first, then it would be our children.. i used to put the kids first but then i came to understand that one day our kids will move out and live there own lives, then it will just be my husband and i, he will always be there for me and i want to do the same for him.

Dawn August 30, 2009, 11:26 PM

Hands down, the Spouse comes first. If you want your marriage to survive, each spouse has to both agree and practice the philosphy of the spouse comes first. United parents are better than divided! And although this certainly covers divorce, living in a household of divided parents isn’t good for anyone.
The spouse come before work, children, friends and parents. The whole point of your parents raising you was to teach you (for one thing) to grow up and be a responsible adult, and live your own life! Gotta stop, I feel myself stepping onto a soapbox!

Shani August 31, 2009, 4:27 PM

I was a vegetarian for 9 years growing up and my parents’ attitude, although very caring, loving and supportive people, was that it was my choice and the world did not neccessarily bend to my whims. I guess the point is that there has to be a balance of “who comes first” and as someone earlier said compromise. They may not have known it but my parents taught me frustration tolerance by not catering to my every desire.

Loren September 2, 2009, 2:19 PM

Oh, come on Bruce, get real! We were only going to have the one dinner with my friends and their vegetarian son and there was plenty of meat in the other dishes. My thinking was that there would be plenty of other Chinese meals during the vacation so one that wasn’t exactly the way you wanted it wasn’t going to kill you and certainly our son could do with a few more vegetables anyway. In this case, I was trying to be considerate and compromise. You should also tell your readers that as far as Chinese food goes you tend to like to eat the same things all the time. If anyone gets too much consideration it’s you and the boys from me, because I never get to eat Chinese food the way I want to or am used to because eveidently I’m too busy catering to ALL of you! As for the gym, if you knew you wanted to spend a couple of hours there then you should have gone by yourself because everyone else works out for an hour then waits for you for an hour. Plus you aren’t the one sitting there listening to your son complain about having to wait for you all the time. I’m sorry honey, but cry me a river!

Eric September 2, 2009, 5:31 PM

I agree with Shani in that there has to be a balance of “who comes first”. There are times when I enjoy letting somebody in my family have things exactly the way they want them - even if I have to give up a lot - because it lets them know I care about them and am thinking about them. At other times, it’s nice to have things my way because it gives them a chance to let me know they care about me. And I get it my way.

But there are all kinds of “in between” situations where everybody wants it mostly “their way”. These are the times when I’ve found that I have to think more clearly about the bare-bones minimum of what exactly it is I really want or need, and I have to communicate it. I’ve found I end up being way more flexible and open to other things when I do that…

Then I trust that the rest of my family is going to do the same thing, and we all eventually get to some kind of compromise.

Of course this has been way more difficult when teenagers (who simply didn’t want to do anything with the adults) were part of the equation…

Dino September 3, 2009, 8:16 AM

Loren must come first and she does
she in taking care of who she thinks neads taking care of

Yehoshua from Israel September 3, 2009, 2:47 PM

Interesting issues you raise, Bruce… it really gets back to basics - is there a moral hierarchy? who determines it? and if so - what is it? Our ancient sources teach us that the Commandment to Honor one’s parents is the building block of a healthy society… obviously this “honoring” has to come through inspiration, education, example, and love - and not by simply enforcing or “yelling”… it’s interesting to note that in the Jewish Code of Law, classic examples of honoring parents include feeding them (not necessarily paying for it, just serving them), helping them on with their coat, etc. - not sitting in their place, and more… even if one’s parents are ornery, the mere fact that they gave one the opportunity to live, to unite soul with body for a limited time to discover and attempt to accomplish the purpose for your celestial soul being “married” to an earthbound body is so GREAT, that alone is reason enough for children to honor and appreciate the old fogies… the ancient sources go into great detail concerning all the issues you raise… for example that the wife’s allegiance to her husband takes precedence over the former allegiance to her parents - she and her husband must of course honor her parents… but ultimately he comes first and vice-versa… sorry to ramble on so much - a professional hazard! love you…

Linda Sherman September 3, 2009, 3:15 PM

I would agree with your Bruce that generally the parents should come first unless as someone pointed out - the house is on fire.

I am a very healthy eater wanting seafood and vegetables at almost every meal so I know I am annoying for many hostesses. I would never expect EVERY dish at the table to be acceptable to me and neither should a vegetarian.

David September 4, 2009, 8:32 AM

Maybe I’m missing something here, but as I read about the vegetarian youngster’s position at the center of the universe for that meal, I started thinking, “Who’s pulling the friggin’ train here?” All dishes have to be cleared with this young man? What are his parents thinking … shouldn’t they be teaching him such things as principled compromise, negotiation in good faith, dialogue, and the like? Again, maybe I’m missing something, but if Little Bono there doesn’t want to slam down any moo shu pork, he need not … eat your meatless spring roll, little buddy, and let me enjoy my kung pao chicken. As far as the gym scenario: it is conceivable that Bruce MIGHT have chosen to shave off perhaps 10 min. of his routine … but much of that DOES deserve to be a case-by-case assessment. That is, a youngster (like the stepson) who can entertain himself or herself need not be catered to … Bruce’s son, for example, is a reader (very cool!) and if Bruce completes a full workout or instead shortens it to take his son home, the son is going to be happily devouring a book wherever he is. On the other hand, if a parent is working with a child to tame or manage a behavioral disorder, it may be appropriate to call a halt to the workout in order to take the child home before he or she starts eating the plants at the gym, or bothering other patrons. Bruce, you “did the right thing” — or am I missing something here?

tED G September 23, 2009, 9:25 PM

U r right with the gym. This is important to you and, even if your wife doesn’t realize - the gym makes you a better, happier person to be around…as it does with all guys who like going to the gym. Maybe you couldve told your son you’ll make it up to him later with something else. But outside of that, unless there was some weird deadline w/book…i give it to u.

On the vegetarian thing..we should all be eating more vegetarian, less meat (read omnivores dilemma and in defense of food). So that is a blessing in disguise. I think the adults shouldve been taken in concern - by perhaps including a meat dish - but their house their rules. And not so selfish. That’s just how they roll with dinner.

IRENE October 22, 2009, 10:42 AM


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