"treasures" we all would love to bury
- Jun 2003
Dec 2003 Archive
You have mentioned that most etiquette blunders made by
children are actually the responsibility of their parents. I agree, so I
have to contribute one gaffe from my own son.
When my son was about three years old, we were preparing
for his father's birthday, which was a few weeks away. My husband really
enjoys one particular brand of microbrewed root beer, and because it's
rather hard to find, we don't buy it very often. My son and I made the
trek across the state line to the one store I knew of that sold this root
beer, and after we got home, we carefully stashed the purchase in my sock
That night while we were cleaning up after dinner, my
son started reciting a book he loved. Unfortunately, at age three he was
obsessed with reciting it perfectly from memory, and as it was a rather
long book, he kept getting stuck and going back to the beginning. The
repetition was driving me nuts. I said, "Honey, please, if you're
going to say something, don't recite. Say something you thought of
yourself." He immediately turned to his father and shouted,
"Daddy! We bought you root beer and hid it in a drawer!"
I guess I had never told my son that birthday gifts are
supposed to be a surprise! My husband and I couldn't stop laughing for
quite a long time after our son's outburst. And yes, on his birthday, my
husband pretended to be astonished at our thoughtfulness as he enjoyed his
Ok, this is from a whiles back, but I remember it
crystal-clear... One year, back when I was in elementary
(primary) school, I made friends with the new girl in class. My
father, having a decided negative opinion about her after she and her
uninvited sister showed up at my birthday party, and broke a piece of
my bedroom door off during, I didn't want to ask to go out and buy
her something for Christmas (I was already at the age to know when a
lecture would be given and avoid it). I wanted to give my
friend something though, so I found my best, brand-new yo-yo, and some
Polly Pocket=esque dolls that were 'just like new' - and (big at the time)
a Beanie Babie. Putting this all together, I proudly gave this to
*Maddie* just before the class gift exchange. She offered me the
hairtie she was wearing in return, which I turned down (I had very short
hair throughout elementary school, easier to manage...).
It was then my supreme embarrassment to see, at the end
of the class gift exchange (where everyone played 'musical chairs' or some
such till the whole class had something) I was (and still am)
ashamed to see that my less - than - stellar gift (considering this was
third grade, having no money, too afraid to ask to buy something for my
friend..) had been immediately re-gifted and was now being stared at incredulous
by one of the 'little rich girls' in the class. *Maddie* burst out
"Hope you like it!" and continued on being 'friendly' in the way
little kids do like nothing had happened. Thankfully, she had to
move due to her Mom's remarriage around March... A lesson wisely
learned at a young age about the dangers of regifting! And also of
having friends who care much less for you than you do for them...
When I first read your site, I was relieved that I
didn't have a story to submit. Three days later I had a story to
submit. My fiancé and I went to an 8pm movie on New Year's Eve.
In front of us sat a couple and their 2 YEAR OLD SON. Who brings a 2
year old to a movie? A PG-13 rated movie, no less? The
kid was cute, but I didn't make eye contact because I knew he would
be trouble later.
He was good for about 45 minutes, then he wanted to get
up and wander around. His Mom kept trying to hold him and rock him
to sleep, but he'd fuss if she picked him up. She slapped his hand a
few times because he was fussing. That's good parenting!
Finally, he started to really make some noise and 3 people asked them to
take him outside. They didn't. A few minutes later, Mom left
with the kid, but came back 15 minutes later. He continued to fuss
and people continued to ask them to leave until the end of the movie.
A friend suggested that I should have gotten the manager. Why that
didn't occur to me at the time, I don't know. I felt bad for
the kid, its not his fault. And I know its hard to find a babysitter
on New Year's Eve, but STAY HOME!
Here's a few Birthday Party from Hell stories.
At my daughter's most recent party (8th), we rented time
in a gymnastics studio. Cost was not per head but per 10 kids, so 20 kids
cost the same as 11. So we invited 18 kids plus my two.
Party invitations clearly said party was from two to
four. By the time your kid is eight you have taken them to enough of these
parties that you should know the drill; drop off at two, pickup at four,
the whole event is totally scheduled.
Everyone is there by 2:10 except one kid. She shows up
at 2:40. Let's call her Melanie (not her name). By then the kids are doing
a round-the-gym routine that was already demonstrated to everyone and
Melanie is dropped off not knowing what's going on, tries to do her best
At 3 we have cake, at 3:30 we have presents. At 4 all
the parents arrive except one. Guess which. Yes, Melanie's. Not there at
4:15, not there at 4:30. The next party is starting, the next birthday kid
and his family have set up their table, their guests are arriving, we are
sitting in front of the gymnastics place waiting for Melanie's mom.
My daughter had invited one special friend (let's call
this girl Kimmie) to stay after the party for a sleep-over. She and Kimmie
are sitting there waiting for their special time to start but they can't
because we have no idea where Melanie's mom is and I don't have her number
with me. I decide that if her mother doesn't show up in another five
minutes I am taking Melanie to her grandmother's house. Mom shows up 4
minutes later and is TOTALLY BEWILDERED that I am angry with her. She is
45 minutes late. "But I had a class, it got out at 4:30!" she
explains. Not a word about the class when she dropped her daughter off
(late). In fact, not a word when she called up to accept the party
invitation. "Why didn't you just take her to your house?" asks
the Extremely Clueless Mom, not understanding that we had plans that Did
Not Involve Her Kid and By Not Showing Up She Stopped Us From Having Them?
My daughter was annoyed enough with losing 45 minutes of
playtime with Kimmie that she doesn't want to invite Melanie to anything
anymore. It isn't Melanie's fault, it's her mom's, but she gives her
daughter weird ideas. "Why can't I have a playdate with you
now?" Melanie kept asking, trying to make the best out of a bad
situation (but making it worse, because my daughter was under Strict
Orders not to tell any of the other guests about Kimmie's sleepover after
This is not the first time that mom has given us
trouble. The first playdate we had with Melanie, the mom dropped her off
and didn't come back for four and a half hours. On a school night. At my
daughter's sixth birthday, mom showed up with extra sibling. Of course,
extra sibling was rude, cut in line, and took prizes he hadn't won. (Extra
sibling was older, not younger) I have consigned this mom to etiquette
hell, and her poor daughter still knows not why.
My extended family is HUGE and I have grown up with many
many many cousins and many come from different classes, but the behavior
from three of my youngest cousins is completely unacceptable. When I was
14 I had received my first puppy...an amazing cute very very tiny puppy
who I loved with all my heart (we had just moved and I was almost alone in
the new city with my puppy as a new friend).
When my cousins came over with their three children age
8-6-5 ish they quickly were sent outside to play with my sister age 6. My
sister had been learning how to play croquet (our family enjoyed croquet)
so everything was still set up in the back yard. The parents refused to
pay any attention to the children so I normally ended up on babysitting
duty to the little brats. This day I was feeling so ill I was bedridden
and my sister really did not get along with the brats so she spent her
afternoon with the parents. All of the sudden the little brats (who were
not being watched by their neglectful parents) tried their hand at
croquet. The parents realized this as MY PUPPY started to howl. The little
monsters had taken my puppy in the back yard and connected the croquet
mallet with MY LITTLE PUPPIES HEAD!!
Well my puppy almost died, cried in pain for three days
straight. The parents grabbed the youngest boy and spanked him, continued
to ignore the children and wanted to continue to VISIT! They never apologized
to me. NEVER. It is now almost 10 years later and I have not forgiven
those monsters or their parents.
My husband's family is nice enough, and are extremely
close-knit. They want us to come for many celebrations and events, from
Christmas Day (never mind my family, of course), to Arbor Day. If we can't
make it, or if we don't feel like driving two hours one-way to a niece's
or nephew's birthday, we get a big guilt trip, but I'm learning to deal
Unfortunately, my two sisters-in-law have always leaned
toward the "kids will be kids" shrug when the little nieces and
nephew act up. Etiquette, to them, is equated with "snootiness,"
from what I've perceived over the last four years. Only once have I seen
one of the kids get spanked, and that was after the 7-year-old threatened
his mom and ordered her to give him "his" money, now. (Unfortunately,
she later apologized to us for "losing control" of herself. Too
bad she's giving it all to the kids.)
My husband and I might not have kids yet, but I have a
realistic perception of how I behaved as a kid, and what was expected (not
to mention what my mom let slide, but shouldn't have, when it came to some
of my behavior as a teen).
I feel pretty sure about this, though:
1) An 8-year-old boy knows better than to eat Christmas
dinner entirely with his hands, or spitting out food on his plate and
laughing. Yes, this includes mashed potatoes. Yes, it includes throwing
little balls he made out of rolls across the table. No, he was not
segregated at a kids' table.
2) By the time you're 6 and older, "please"
and "thank you" should be ingrained. Instead, kids from 3 to 8
are ordering their mothers around like lackeys, with not a thank you to be
heard when their orders are dutifully (!) carried out. Kids are being
grossly underestimated in their ability to remember "please" and
3) If you get a gift in the mail, a thank-you note is
called for. Or, at least a call. At the very least, the mother could call
to indicate the child's gift was received.
4) When arriving at the gathering place of choice, a
"hello" is a nice thing to hear from a niece or nephew (upon
whom you have heaped many a thankless gift). I should think anyone over
the age of 6 would be able to handle this. Instead, they ignore all adults
who say hello, or ask them questions, or try to interact with them in any
5) Kids will interrupt conversations well into their 40s
if it's not nipped in the bud earlier. I remember at our engagement
dinner, his sisters were asking me a million things, but I couldn't keep
my mind focused on anything they were asking me, for all the side
conversations they were having with their kids. It's not gotten any
better, and it's extremely stressful. Especially at the dinner table, when
I'm also trying to dodge bread-balls.
6) Any other niece or nephew who tells me their
Christmas present is basically "kinda cheap" or
"cheesy" will be relieved of the burden of receiving any more
presents of any kind, including and especially presents of cash. Which
brings us to:
7) Nice children do not extort money from their
grandparents. 8) Commands from 7-year-olds beginning with "You
better--" need to be policed when the parent is within earshot.
9) Any parent who apologizes for spanking a child who is
completely out of control and is old enough to know better, should be
Thanks for letting me get this off my chest. And yes, I
know teaching children manners takes time, but my sisters-in-law aren't
even trying, from what I can see. And if you don't respect your family
enough to practice good manners around them, then what message does that
send about how you value your family?
OK, I'm done.
Page Last Updated May 15, 2007