Family ties

I have been laughing at my in-laws for the past couple of days. Not in a mean way, you understand. It’s just that they were in Curicó with family since my mother-in-law is off from work. They came home this week to take care of Lola. The friend who’s been taking her out every day is leaving the country, and my in-laws decided that instead of me having to find someone else to take her out they would just come and pick her up from my apartment, play with her all day, and then bring her back. Every day.

Now, I am supremely grateful. With our usual dog walkers currently all out of Santiago, I was struggling to think of who might have the flexible schedule and a thing for dogs. My in-laws are making my life much easier. But who does that? Who drives 2.5 hours back from hanging out with family to drive an hour round-trip twice a day to take care of someone else’s dog?

Happy dog

The answer, of course, is my in-laws. Not only because they are fabulous but because they are Chilean. I am on record as saying that I don’t think Chilean families are by and large tighter-knit than American families. I stand by that. However I do think that the way families interact is at least partially cultural.

My dad would do just about anything for me. If he had been in my in-laws’ position, and I’d asked him for help with Lola, I’m sure he would have come through. However I also know that he is aware that I’m not a little girl any longer, and as such he respects my space. If I said to him “oh don’t worry about it, I don’t have someone lined up for Lola yet, but I’m sure I will soon,” he would have felt like he was intruding if he called me back later that day to say he was on his way to rescue me.

Rodolfo’s parents, on the other hand, always do things like this. I used to be offended that my mother-in-law would walk into my apartment and immediately start washing my dishes or cleaning my kitchen, but now I know that she’s not judging my housekeeping skills, she’s just trying to help. When I’m alone for a weekend while Rodolfo is off playing handball, my father-in-law calls asking if I would like him to come pick me up and take me to their house for lunch – nevermind the fact that I have a car and a scooter to drive myself there.

I think similar behaviors can be seen in many more gringo and Chilean families. In the US and UK, children get to an age at which they demand more independence, and parents are expected to respect that. In Chile, I don’t see that happen as much. Rather, I see parents continuing to drop everything for their kids even as those kids grow up. And, by extension, they race to the rescue of their children’s partners, especially when those partners are all alone in a foreign country.

Swimming dogs

And especially when there are little drowned-rat-looking dogs who would like their grandparents to take them for a swim.

Like I said, I don’t think that the Chilean approach means Chilean families love each other more. I think plenty of people from other cultures would feel stifled and meddled with if their parents suddenly starting forcing help on them. I did at first because it was so different from what I was used to. Now, however, I’ve realized that my in-laws aren’t trying to take over my life, they’re just trying to help. And if help comes in the form of taking Lola on a picnic so that I don’t have to worry about her being alone all day, then I am extremely happy to accept that offer.

12 Responses to “Family ties”

  1. That's so incredibly nice! Funny, when I took Ella back to TN for the holidays, I left her with my dad (and my parents' five Malteses) while Mom, sis and I went to Orlando for Harry Potter. Later, I came to find that my dad–who my entire life has logged 15- to 18-hour work days, seven days a week, ESPECIALLY right before and during tax season–stayed home for work FOR THREE DAYS because he didn't want to leave her alone. (Scott and I leave her all the time.) Too funny!

  2. Vince says:

    You are of course very wrong. She thinks you are trying to poison her little Prince with raw bacteria that flourish on the dirty dishes in your sink. However you should calm yourself with the knowledge that you will be worse and are quite likely to go the road of where no woman would be good enough for the male fruit of your loins. ;)
    I do wish I could find the evil grin emoticon

  3. KM says:

    as a pet owner and lover i am SO thankful for anyone who will watch my kitty…my suegra had baby for the 1st 3 months i was here and my parents babysit her whenever i go out of town for the weekend…i can't imagine what i'd do if i didn't live in NYC or Santiago! ps lola is adorable in that drowned rat picture.

  4. This is so sweet! I'm glad Lola is taken care of. It might be harder to get help if you had a grouchy dog!

  5. This post totally fills my heart with joy! Such sweethearts!!!

  6. Emily says:

    Kristin, that is hysterical. What are our parents going to do when we have actual human grandchildren instead of just canine ones?!

    Vince, hey, even if that were true, the result is still that my dishes get washed. I'll take it. I will also take an evil grin emoticon, please.

    KM, tell me about it! My in-laws are going to be gone again next week, and finding someone to just walk Lola in the middle of the day is proving tough whereas they plan entire days out around her.

    Kim, I may be a little biased, but I think that you're right about Lola being particularly lovable :)

    Andi, they really are just awesome. I'm sure Lucas will feel the same about your parents if he doesn't already.

  7. Anonymous says:

    AHHH
    los papas chilenos! gotta love them!
    Son la razon de que mi hermana de 26 haya estudiado-y-dejado.. ingenieria, arquitectura, diseño y todavía no encuentre lo que le gusta.. o la razon por la que hago mi practica con mi papa y puedo no trabajar los viernes xD y si le pido retirarme al medio dia me dice "vayase no mas reina, yo termino"
    Es el problema de TODOS los papas chilenos que en los 80/90 pasaron de ser pobres a clase media… Quieren darle LO MEJOR a sus hijos, si eso significa tenerlos hasta los 30 en la casa hasta que tengan la experiencia laboral que les permita tener un sueldo con el que puedan vivir igual o mejor que en su casa, lo harán.
    Mi cuñado practicamente vive en esta casa, y mi mama no hace nada con palta por que a el no le gusta, AUN CUANDO todos la amamos…
    pfff.. no se
    la verdad es que aunque pueda resultar de ayuda que cuiden a tus perros o te laven los platos, el "darle lo mejor" a los hijos terminará dañando un poco la sociedad chilena (flojera, me declaro culpable… mi mama aun me hace la cama si salgo de la casa temprano)

  8. Kyle says:

    My dad would respond in the same way as your dad but my mom is a lot more Chilean in that way. Though at the same time she makes it more than clear that she is offering not imposing herself.

    My suegra is the same in that she would absolutely drop everything to help with whatever we might have even somehow insinuated that we needed but my suegro is not like that.

    Anonymous' comment is interesting. I think there must be some kind of happy medium somewhere!

  9. Emily says:

    Anonymous, definitivamente algunas veces se pasan a ese extremo de mantener los hijos muy dependientes. Creo que como dice la Kyle, hay que encontrar un punto medio.

    Kyle, you can't say that – you were the one who made an off-hand comment about how my suegros were so over the top helpful because they're Chilean!

  10. Kyle says:

    That's what I said! That my mom is very Chilean in that way that she would drop everything for her kids.

  11. Deidre says:

    I popped over from a link on Kyle's blog.

    I found this really fascinating.

    The child growing up independence thing is very interesting in Australia. Most kids live at home through university. But they are much more independent in someways because they are allowed to drink at 18. So there parents expect them to be adult enough to handle their liquer, but most don't do their own laundry.

  12. Emily says:

    K, alright, you are forgiven :) I thought you were saying that in each family you have Chilean-style parent, thus busting my hypothesis that it's cultural.

    Deidre, that sounds like Chile. People here tend to live at home until their late 20s, and it's surprising to me how they are given so much freedom and so little responsibility. Borrow the car to go out partying? Sure! Help out with household chores or expenses? Don't worry about it, little angel, mommy (or the live-in maid) will do that for you.

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