Etiquette Hell = Where the ill-mannered deserve to go


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Those little "treasures" we all would love to bury

2002 Archive

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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 drawer.

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 root beer.


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 fiancĂ© 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 without instructions.

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 the party).

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 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 with it.

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 "thank you."

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 way.

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 spanked themselves.

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