Etiquette Hell = Where the ill-mannered deserve to go


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Those little "treasures" we all would love to bury

Love your site! I don't know which category the attached tale would fit into (it's kind of long, too), but I thought maybe some of your readers could relate. My husband and I have some friends who have a 2 ½ year old son, "Little Mikey" (name changed to protect the innocent and his parents). They have, up until lately, been sensible and well-mannered people. However, they seem to think the sun rises and sets because of this kid and they are the most besotted, indulgent parents I've ever seen. Mikey is allowed to throw all kinds of things, including food, grab anything he wants, shriek at the top of his lungs when he wants to be the center of get the picture. They think everything he does is adorable. I've never once heard them firmly tell him no about anything, instead they negotiate with him in a sickening baby voice ("Mikey, sweetie, don't do that, okaaaaay?") and they explain his behavior with "Little Mikey is fiercely independent, aren't you, Mikey?"

They had invited us to visit one morning. We were having coffee in the living room, and my husband sat down on the floor to play with Mikey, without much success because every time my husband picked up a toy, Mikey would snatch it out of his hands and vehemently shout "Mine!" (No response from the parents). At some point, Mikey ran up to my husband and walloped him hard with a fist in the face. My husband, startled, said sharply "Hey.....don't do that!" Granted, he probably spoke a bit more loudly and sharply than he meant to, because he hadn't seen it coming. From Mikey's expression, I'm sure no one had ever so much as raised a voice to him in his life. However, Mikey's parents' reaction made my jaw drop. Not only did they not reprimand Mikey for hitting, they scolded my husband for speaking sharply; Mikey went over to his mother, who said "awww" and picked him up and cuddled him. I thought to myself "Nice going, just demonstrated to your son that not only is it acceptable to hit people, they are wrong if they strongly object to it. You also just demonstrated to your guests that you don't care if your son behaves aggressively toward them."

About two weeks later, at a party given by a mutual friend, Mikey's father approached my husband and asked to speak to him privately. He said he was "disturbed" by my husband's reaction to Mikey hitting him. My husband responded that he was disturbed by the lack of response on their part. Mikey's dad then said, "Well, if you can't assure me it won't happen again, I don't feel comfortable having Mikey around you." (Oh, mean we'd be deprived of Little Mikey's delightful company? How devastating.) Subsequently, we have heard from mutual friends that this couple is offended because one person asked that they call before they drop by her house with Little Mikey in tow to give her a chance to child-proof her house first. They are highly indignant about this and perceive it as "insulting to Mikey"! (In my book, it is rude to just drop by someone's house without calling first anyway, whether your child is with you or not.)

Also, at a garden party where the host politely asked Mikey not to heave rocks over the fence into a neighbor's swimming pool, and to please not pull the family cat's whiskers, he was huffily told by Mikey's father "Oh c'mon...he's only two!" The kicker? This couple is having another child because they have the charming belief that "ALL only children are snotty and spoiled." This was said right in front of me...I have been a longtime friend of theirs and am an only child. I am also pregnant with my first and probably only child (and they know it). Another mutual friend was also present; she is an only child and is the most unselfish, down-to-earth person you'd ever want to meet! I suppose their idea is that a little brother or sister will magically transform "Little Mikey" into a tolerable human being. Obviously, the rest of us are not holding our breath.


Here's the story:

I am on a plane traveling from Atlanta to Boston for a business trip. I am on a flight out first thing in the morning - 6:40am (I explain this to paint the picture of a plane full of business travelers). The plane is packed and my seat assignment is where I absolutely despise to be - IN THE BACK - and in the middle seat! So, I head to my seat, and as I look to see my closest travel mates, I spot a woman in the aisle seat, and on her lap an 18-month old boy! I say this because I guess I felt he was too big to sit on her lap and not have a seat to himself. So, I envision a plane trip (during which I assumed I would sleep!) with a screaming child sitting next to me - not a pleasant thought!

After a while, I get used to the child next to me (I actually love children and have a 4-month-old son, myself) and I look over and notice that the mother has placed a diaper and a container of wipes in the seat pocket in front of her. I think to myself: I KNOW she is going to take him into the bathroom and change him when the time comes... Not fifteen minutes later, she notices that her son has "spilled" out of his diaper. She proceeds to unsnap his pants to check his diaper - I am okay with this, as it is necessary to perform this task to determine the need to take the child into the bathroom. So, after she checks his pants, she proceeds to REMOVE HIS DIAPER!!!! I was absolutely appalled! I would NEVER change my SON (A BOY!!!!) with a stranger sitting next to me! There would have to be a pretty good reason for my doing so, and in the process, I surely would warn the stranger beside me and be extremely apologetic for my breach of common courtesy! I got none of this. In fact, she did it a second time later in the flight and the flight attendant had to come to her and ask her not to change him in her seat. The woman actually tried to "argue" with the attendant about her actions. UNBELIEVABLE!!!!


We personally experienced something similar to this when we went to an upscale restaurant to celebrate our anniversary.  The couple in the booth next to us had what appeared to be a six month or younger infant who was soundly sleeping through most of their dinner.   Our dinner was finally served and just as I was about to lift a forkful of lucious prime rib to my mouth, I hear it.  That unmistakable sound of a disposable diaper tab being ripped off the diaper.  "Oh, no, that can't be what I think it is", I whisper  to my husband.  Peering over his shoulder, my eyes beheld what my ears had suspected.  The mother was changing the baby's diaper right there on the bench seat next to her.   By now my senses were rallying evidence as my nose had caught the unmistakable odor of breastfed baby poops.  Mom looked up in time to catch the look of horror on my face and sheepishly said, "I didn't want to diaper her in the bathroom."  Like I really want my expensive anniversary dinner ruined by the sight and sound of baby   doodies.    I looked away saying nothing but my face must have said a thousand words.  Into Etiquette Hell she goes!  Good grief, at least change the baby somewhere away from others are eating! 

When my son turned six, I had a backyard birthday party for him. My son is high functioning autistic and an organized, well run party was preferable to a big chaotic noisy event overrun with children. My plan was simple. Invite a small number of reasonably well behaved children. Give every child a prize for every game, as to prevent tears and or arguments. I even color coded the peanuts for the peanut hunt, so each child could find their own color and nobody would get trampled. The ideal plan? You would think so. What I hadn't counted on was that a breach of etiquette was about to be perpetrated right in my own back yard.

I had planned on four children, including my son. FOUR...count 'em FOUR. I had four sets of prizes. All carefully purchased throughout the year, with this party in mind. Four prizes for six year olds. Things were going smoothly until Guest Number One shows up. With her father's girlfriend's son in tow. They explained that as long as the little boy brought a present, it was okay. What does one do? Refreshments can easily be stretched, but what to do about prizes? Well, one of the other guests did not show up. (His house had caught fire, poor child). Anyway, the uninvited guest was not invited for a reason. First of all, my son couldn't stand him. The kid's name was Preston and my son always referred to him as "Preston, King of The Whine Babies" Second, I couldn't stand him either. Once he knocked on my door and asked if he could play with my son's toys. I politely pointed out that my son was playing in the yard, but no, he persisted in asking for those toys. But I digress. Another reason he was not invited (the list goes on and on) was that he was four and all the games were on the level of a six year old. He kept going back the games we had previously played and saying "Give me a prize! Give me a prize!" Obviously the blame here is not on Preston, King of The Whine Babies, but on the parents involved. I certainly would not send my son uninvited to any event. I hardly know these people. I realize this was not a wedding that cost tens of thousands of dollars, but it was annoying, at least to me.

My daughter was invited to a birthday party and she wasn't even given an invitation she was given a black and white Xerox copy "flyer". I had the feeling they handed the "flyers" to anyone they've ever met in their entire lives and didn't want to spring to pay for invitations. The flyer said the party would be a swimming pool party at a park. It then explained how much it cost for people to get into the park that were over 6 years of age (which includes all the parents and some of the kids) and then how much ADDITIONAL it would cost to swim for anyone over 3 years of age (which was just about everyone!). The total cost would be $8.50 per person to go to THEIR child's birthday party! Myself and every other parent I spoke with were appalled.


My younger brother and sister-in-law have three children, my two nieces and my nephew. I say "my" because the older of my two brothers was killed and my sister and I have no children. My nieces and nephew were the first to be born in our family in 30 years and naturally my mom and dad dote on them - as do we all. When my younger brother married we asked his wife-to-be if she was up for this --- knowing we all wanted them to have children, how close our family is, etc., etc. She said absolutely yes. From that time on I can tell you many, many horror stories.

With this background I'll proceed to this one: My oldest niece had her 4th piano recital which we all attended and where we all took pictures. I'm pretty good with the computer so for fun, I made a webpage for my niece, with pictures of her recital, a piano recording of her piece and some rollovers for fun. Ever concerned about security on the internet - and I have communications security background - I set the page up so search engines and robots can't find it, in fact no digital transfers. The only way the page could be found is if one is given the exact address. I sent the address to family members for fun. My mom, of course, was thrilled. I heard nothing from my sister in law and brother for more than two weeks. <very hurt> Then my sister-in-law left a message on the telephone about something else and asked me to call her. When I did, she went on for an hour about how they were adamant that nothing about them or the children should be on the internet; I should have talked with her and asked permission before putting anything up. I tried to describe how there are safe ways to do things and that the page didn't reside on any accessible internet address - unless one was given the address to begin with. She went on and on and I figured the best thing was to sit there until the tirade was over. Then I changed the address of the webpage.

Internet security is a never ending subject and there are many approaches to it. I thought about all this and decided to try to find my webpage using any search or harvesting routine I could find or develop. Of course I could not find my webpage. But I did find, in every search, a website that was put up my sister-in-law's family that had pictures of my brother, my nieces and my nephew on the opening page!!! There were links showing where they live, etc. This website came up first on every search . I also found a webpage with my brother's home telephone number, etc. What to do? I decided to do nothing about what I'd found. But I think my mom should have the pleasure of seeing the page she likes so much. So this morning I put together a subroutine that'll allow access by her browser alone.

My father had decided to get the whole family together by springing for a vacation house rental in a vacation spot he knew we'd all like.

My brother and SIL and their kids lived only about an hour and a half away from the rental, unlike the rest of us for whom it was a two-day drive, and they both worked, so they only came down for part of the vacation time. My oldest daughter's birthday happened to fall on one of the days of our group vacation, so we were going to celebrate with the usual cake and such. Since the area we were in was quite touristy with no obvious places to get a cake from and I didn't know the area, and since my SIL was going to be driving in from her home anyway and knew where she could buy a good cake, I asked that she order and bring down a cake, which I would of course pay for. She did, and she also bought some mini-cupcakes. Most of the kids didn't get a cupcake that night, since they were full of cake and then had to go to bed. Many of the mini-cupcakes disappeared that night into various adult mouths as we played games together, and in the morning, sadly, there was only one cupcake left.

Well, my oldest daughter, the birthday girl, was the first one up. She'd really wanted a mini-cupcake since the day before, but I wouldn't let her have one because of the cake. So, after she'd eaten breakfast, just as my SIL's daughter, my niece, sat down for breakfast, she politely asked me if she could please have the cupcake, since she hadn't had one. I said, "Sure, honey, I think that'd be okay. It was your birthday, and you have eaten breakfast." Well, she turned around to get the cupcake, only to see my SIL grab the cupcake! My SIL quickly gave it to her own daughter, who was still quite sleepy and hadn't even asked for it. My daughter turned back to me, a hurt and confused look on her face. Grownups weren't supposed to act this way! "Mom, you said I could have the cupcake!" Noticing our shocked faces, my SIL offered an explanation: "Well, Lisa didn't get one either, and she'll throw a big fit if she doesn't get one! I really bought them for her, anyway."

Imagine the awkwardness! I now get to explain to a 7 year old why an adult grabbed away something that she knew was promised to a child while this same adult is sitting right there!

My story isn't wedding related and I guess it wasn't really the fault of the guests but rather their parents but I thought it might strike a chord with someone else.

When my son had his fifth birthday I invited all his classmates from nursery school to his birthday party. I issued personal invitations to each child and these clearly stated that the party was from 2:30 to 5:30 pm. Although the children were invited by name I was not much bothered if they wanted to bring a younger or older sibling as I had catered for a few extra. So when one little boy brought along his little sister that was quite fine. She didn't speak any English but with little kids that never seems to be a problem. They all just get along fine.

The real problem started when the party ended. Everyone else's parents turned up to collect them but this pair was left on my hands. By about 8:00 pm I was starting to get worried and of course so were they. I imagined a fatal car smash and other disasters. Unfortunately I didn't know the kids' parents and hadn't any phone number for them. The little boy couldn't tell me the phone number or where he lived and I couldn't get through to the nursery school teacher at that time so I decided to just give them supper and put them to bed with my two and try and sort it out in the morning. I reassured them as best I could - the little girl remember didn't speak English and was very tearful - and said Mummy and Daddy were probably having car trouble and I would take them home in the morning. My phone number had been on the invitation but maybe they had lost it.

Anyway at 11:30 pm the parents finally arrived. They made no apology for being late or even acknowledged that they were late. I carried the little girl out to the car and tried not to wake her but her father shook her awake anyway. When I brought out their party bags and balloons from the party the father said "But we have three other children at home. What have you got for them?" I was left speechless. I gave him three of the leftover party balloons and was very glad to see him go.

I learned my lesson and since then I have always made sure I have a contact phone number and address for any of the guests at my children's parties. In this case the guests weren't from hell but their parents surely were.


Page Last Updated May 15, 2007