Traditions—that don’t physically or emotionally harm—are important to pass on to maintain a distinct cultural identity within families. Across the Earth, different ethnic groups have ways to celebrate a birth or milestone for a child.
The mundan head-shaving ceremony is performed in parts of India. In Japan, a baby’s birth may be recognized by eating a red rice and red bean dish.
In Tibet, on the third day after birth, friends and family visit the new mother with gifts of clothing, yak-buttered tea, barley wine, meat and cheese. In Turkey, new mothers drink a traditional beverage called lohusa serbeti, which is made with water, sugar, cloves, cinnamon, and red food coloring.
In Brazil when guests come to greet the mother and the baby, they receive gifts that usually include a basket with candy and souvenirs and a thank you note.
In several cultures across the globe, a gift of gold jewelry is presented to the child.
But what happens when the parents come from two different cultures? What is acceptable to one set of grandparents may not be acceptable to the other.
A mother encountered this issue with her father-in-law after her parents gifted her daughter with a culturally appropriate item. The woman decided to turn to the “Am I The A**hole” (AITA) subReddit for anonymous crowd-sourced feedback.
“AITA for standing my ground on a family tradition that my father-in-law (FIL) says is ‘disgraceful’?”
The original poster (OP) explained:
“My mom is Indonesian-Chinese. It is traditional to give children gold jewelry. My grandparents gave me a pair of gold bracelets (gelang) when I was born. I wore them my entire childhood.”
“As a child, I never knew their monetary value, and I don’t recall being overly complimented on them. As with anything worn every day, I was mostly unaware of them. However, they always made me feel special, reminded me that my grandparents love me, and reminded me of my heritage.”
“My parents gave my daughter (3-years-old) gelang when she became a big sister a few months ago, and she has been wearing them ever since. I never explicitly explained what the gelang meant to my husband, but he had some idea.”
“Neither of us talked about the gelang to my in-laws. My FIL is Taiwanese.”
“During this time, I heard from both my MIL and my husband that my FIL had misgivings about the galang in terms of safety and showing off. He called me after seeing pictures of my daughter at school orientation and very rationally told me his concerns. I was busy, so I thanked him for thinking about it and I would do the same.”
“Yesterday, he told my husband to tell me to call him.”
“The first thing he said ‘ok, so I told you to not let her wear the gold bracelets and you didn’t do it’. I explained to him that I didn’t know he was telling me to take action and I had thought he was asking me to consider his opinion.”
“He then heatedly began his argument for why I should not let my daughter wear gelang: 1) he worked in Indonesia in the 1990s and saw the extreme violence against the Chinese partly due to their wealth 2) safety 3) it is ‘disgraceful’ to let her go to school wearing jewelry and ‘showing off.”
“I apologized, explained what the gelang mean to me, discussed the safety aspect, and talked about her school (private preschool-6th grade, we are relatively middle class there, drive over 10-year-old cars, don’t wear designer clothing, etc…).”
“After 20 min, he told me he was tired of this long conversation and asked if I was going to do what he said or not. I asked if we could please talk more.”
“He refused, so I asked my husband to come in and hear his dad’s response. My husband has been really supportive and tried to reason with his dad.”
“FIL began saying things like ‘you are a disappointment and all my efforts to raise you are a waste’. My FIL made the ultimatum that if we don’t take the gelang off during school, that he nor my MIL would see us anymore.”
“My MIL and husband have voiced that they think he is being insane and support my decision, but they both hate confrontation and I know they wish I could just obey to keep the peace.”
“I feel that he has blown this out of proportion but won’t back down because at this point, it’s about control and having his children do what he says.”
“Am I wrong to consider calling his bluff?”
The OP added:
“We live in the US.”
“I may be the a**hole because I am not doing the simple thing, which would be to take the bracelets off my daughter.”
“This results in my husband’s family being upended and my daughters not seeing their grandparents for an undetermined amount of time. My younger daughter is three months old, so time moves quickly at this age.”
Redditors weighed in by declaring:
- NTA – Not the A**hole
- YTA – You’re the A**hole
- NAH – No A**holes Here
- ESH – Everybody Sucks Here
Redditors were almost unanimous in declaring OP was not the a**hole (NTA)…
“NTA. Call his bluff. The thing is your husband is on your side. Your FIL is being insecure.” ~ FuzzyMom2005
“Grandad is totally unhinged if he thinks he gets a vote in this. Hill to die on etc..”
“But honestly I’d go further than passively calling his bluff: go on the offensive. Go no contact with him until he apologizes for overstepping your marriage and disrespecting your culture.”
“He gets zero grandchild access until he learns to behave like a grown a** man instead of the deluded toddler demanding the world conform to his whims he currently is.”
“Tell him in those terms, offense intended. He deserves a large dose of reality.” ~ admweirdbeard
“Danger! If his strategy works, it will become the new normal for him getting his way every time he interferes in your lives.”
“NTA. Have hubby communicate how ashamed he is of his father.” ~ Traveling-Techie
“NTA at this point? Backing down would be a huge mistake. He’ll feel emboldened over everything and you’ll find yourself being encouraged to give in over and over again.”
“He isn’t worried about safety. He’s just pissed off that you didn’t obey and that your husband, in turn, didn’t obey. These are the pathetic tantrums of an old man trying to pretend he is in charge.” ~ SnooPets8873
“NTA. I’ve worked in many multicultural schools on three continents and seen [gelang] worn pretty often. If they ever are noticed, the kids like to share something about their culture, and it’s a positive for everyone. No biggie.”
“But this isn’t about the jewelry; it’s FIL’s racism and need for control. Good for you for protecting your children’s heritage. Hang in there!” ~ Bluejay_Hungry
…but one Redditor felt there were no a**holes here (NAH).
“I’m tempted to say NAH because it is NOT a smart decision to send a child out wearing gold. BUT FIL seems to be using the only rational argument as an excuse for his other ones.” ~ Gullible-Zone-209
After reading comments from the first 24 hours, the OP decided to provide some clarification.
“This is the first time I have posted on Reddit and explicitly downloaded the app just to be able to post this situation to the internet. I have read all the comments now over 24 hours after posting.”
“I don’t know if commenters ever return back to a post, but I just wanted to add a few clarifications in addition to my thanks for everyone’s input. I have learned a lot about Reddit and thanks to the mods for making these communities possible!”
“1. Many comments have been about racism. My mother is Chinese, born in Indonesia, so apologies for my terminology. She and her family fled Indonesia in the 1970s due to the anti-Chinese environment.”
“They landed in the US and have stayed. My FIL has never given me any indication that he is racist (see comments below if you are confused about Chinese vs Chinese racism) and his wife is Chinese Malaysian. It’s possible he has something buried deeply, but he has never behaved on it towards me.”
“2. FIL’s trauma/ptsd: my FIL did not witness firsthand any of the violence in Indonesia. He described it as being so bad he couldn’t get into the country.”
“Not going to expand on how weird it is for your own history to be explained to you by a third party since there are several people [in the comments] who hit the nail on the head with that.”
“3. safety: I really appreciate everyone who has directly messaged me or commented about the safety of my daughter. I just want to address one small aspect that came up a few times.”
“Anti-Asian hate in the US is definitely a valid concern, and I can see how wearing what might be considered ostentatious jewelry could trigger someone who already has hatred in their heart into violence. However, I think there is a reason that so much of the anti-Asian crimes have occurred in larger cities where there are more Asians.”
“I live in a large southeast US city where there are not many Asians. I grew up in Southern California where I experienced malicious racism, whereas I have only experienced ignorance here (which is extremely different, and I really don’t take much offense to things said or done out of ignorance).”
“I would say that in the area I am, 99% of people do not recognize what she is wearing as gold. I am careful when traveling and take off my own and my child’s jewelry.”
After her updates, Redditors were still supportive of the OP’s decision.
“NTA! Mexicans do this as well with earrings y una esclava de oro for babies! It’s to show the love you have to that new family member.” ~ Psycho-Pass96
“NTA, my daughter is half Indian. You should see how much gold she’s wearing on a daily basis.” ~ Mantishard
“NTA—If you give in to his ridiculous demands, it will never stop!” ~ Old_Cheek1076
“NTA! This is quite literally none of your FIL’s business.”
“It’s your tradition. Honor it as you choose. As long as you and your husband agree, you’re good, otherwise, you need a talk.”
“But your FIL still has no say.” ~ uTop-Artichoke5020
“NTA—call his bluff, this is insane. This tradition is so sweet, and lots of cultures do similar things.”
“I’m half Italian and half Irish and still have my baby jewelry from my baptism.”
“I didn’t wear it every day but when I look at it it makes me feel special even as an adult. I would love to get it resized to wear.” ~ patronofthewicked
The OP returned to provide a final update.
“After considering everything and talking to those involved, I have decided to die on this hill. There are a few additional reasons I won’t expand on, but the main thing is that I am going to stick to my guns while loving him as my child’s grandfather (being kind, polite, and allowing him to save face).”
“If he does actually go NC, I can very gladly pursue him (call him, send him pics and videos of children, etc…) as long as I am able to hold true to my own principles with my children.”
“I do believe it is a bluff and will last on the order of months.”
“I cannot express enough thanks for the emotional support and laughs you all gave me while I felt like my brain was on fire. The encouragement of complete strangers has meant the world to me, not to mention the thought and time others took to write extremely considerate and long replies.”
“The internet is not half bad.”
How refreshing to see the internet use its powers for good instead of evil.
Hopefully things work out well for this mother and her family.