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How can we learn to be more tolerant with each other’s choices? And why is it that we’re more accepting of non-relatives’ different lifestyle choices, than those of our own family members?
Here’s an example: a woman recently asked my opinion about her decision not to give her child a birthday party. She feels the child doesn’t know any better (he’s only two); the gift-giving and receiving becomes excessive; and the money she would spend on the party could be better spent on more useful things.
I told her that at this age, it’s completely up to her. She’s right — the kid won’t know the difference, and parties can get expensive.
Although I feel the choice is completely hers, I’m doing the exact opposite with my two-year old. All six grandparents are here for a small party planned with cake, balloons and several of his little friends.
However, within my son’s group of pals, not all the parents choose to celebrate with a party — and none of us moms judge those who do, or don’t. We’re not a competitive group and have a “live and let live attitude.”
Most of us have friends who are different than we are, and we (should) accept their differences as part of who they are, and why we’re attracted to them. We don’t have to accept some of the things they may do as our own activities.
For example, I know a woman who spends hours rummaging through vintage clothing stores for her wardrobe. She never buys anything retail, and is constantly on the hunt for the latest sales.
Although she probably saves a great deal of money, I don’t have time for that kind of research. Nor do I want to wear something that once belonged to someone else. That’s my prerogative — and she has hers.
The only problem? She often asks me what I spent on something, then reprimands me for wasting money — even if it’s a $30 belt from Gap!
For some reason, we tend to be more judgmental of our family. For instance, say your sister sends her children to private schools, when you believe the public education system to be better. If she was a friend, you wouldn’t let her choice bother you, but because she’s your sister, you do. Somehow, foolishly, we feel threatened or judged by a close relatives’ different choices. And in return, we judge back.
Or, say your brother and his family live an expensive lifestyle on credit while you’re more practical, and do without extravagances unless you can afford them. It’s harder with close people to simply let them live with their lifestyle choices, and not get caught up in comparison and competition.
It boils down to expectations, tolerance and acceptance. If you keep getting disappointed, perhaps you need to have a light-hearted chat with the person who’s affecting you. By talking it through, you could perhaps come to some middle ground.
If that doesn’t work, perhaps you need to re-adjust your expectations.