If anyone needs a support group now, it is today's grandmothers. The poor souls need to exchange anecdotes and reassure one another that they didn't do anything bad. They need to hear enough similar experiences to convince themselves that they are not really being targeted as individuals even though they come under personal attack.
Miss Manners is not referring to the many grandparents who are heroically starting all over again, rearing young families because their own children are incapacitated, incapable or uncaring. These are more in need of concrete help than mere words of reassurance, although some kind encouragement and a compliment now and then wouldn't hurt.
They know they're doing right. All they need is the time, energy and resources with which to do it.
The grandmothers she means can be proud of the children they reared, who turned out to be successful by all of their and society's standards. These young people excel at their jobs, but they put their own children first, willingly curtailing the former for the latter. The grandmothers may not have had much direct parenting help from the grandfathers, but they drilled their sons in recognizing the importance of fathers' being active participants. They may not have realized their own professional ambitions, but they help their daughters find ways to maintain their intellectual acumen during the periods when parenting is most time-consuming.
As adults, their children are not only devoted to their own young, but vigilant, creative and informed when it comes to their welfare. And the first thing they do along these lines is to point out that their mothers don't know the first thing about child-rearing.
Corroborating evidence is all that baby furniture and equipment the grandmothers so lovingly saved in hopes that it would serve the next generation. Can't they see how dangerous that stuff is? If they were reckless enough to use it, shouldn't they at least have pitched it after their children were lucky enough to escape harm?
But then, what do you expect of people who blithely rode about, holding their babies in their arms instead of swaddling them into restraints? And look at the method they use for holding a baby, as demonstrated when they are permitted to receive a grandchild, along with a litany of frantic instructions. Or rather it is the absence of a method, as if a baby could be held and hugged any old way.
True, the grandparents are affectionate and admiring, which is gratifying, but then why do they jeopardize the child's welfare? How can you trust them if they sabotage the routine with their own ignorant ideas?
Look what they feed the child. It's not all nutritionally sound. Look what they give the child as presents. They find toys that are not the least bit educational or philosophically advanced, making the children overexcited about things that are not good for them.
Their defense is specious: that as grandparents, they should be allowed to spoil their grandchildren. It isn't even consistent, because they get fussy about trivial things like whether the children thank them for presents or learn how to hold a fork.
Miss Manners suspects that this may be because splendid as their own children turned out to be, they now wish they had concentrated a little more on manners.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: It is bad enough to have to put up with someone smacking food when talking on a cordless phone, but it has reached the point where people are relieving their bodily functions while talking to others.
Maybe I am wrong, but I have always been taught that if you must use the restroom, you must excuse yourself, even if you have to make something up, such as that someone is at the door, and offer to call the person back.
I feel so degraded and disrespected hearing what they are doing, then hearing the toilet flush.
GENTLE READER: As these people are not polite enough to excuse themselves, Miss Manners suggests that you excuse yourself -- if possible before the flush.
It is never necessary to invent a reason. "Oh, I'm terribly sorry, I'll have to call you back" is enough, but in this case, you have an excellent one. Say, "I can hear you're busy, so why don't we talk later?" That is, if you are still willing to take a chance.