"Someday, when you're a mother yourself, you'll understand."
Or, as the traditional, benign, maternal curse was phrased when delivered to Miss Manners' own dear mamma by that lady's own dear mamma, "I don't wish you any ill. I only hope that someday you have a daughter like yourself."
As a believer in the softening effect of the life cycle, Miss Manners is dismayed when she sees this natural course spinning in a contrary direction. Not long ago, she delivered herself of the opinion that young mothers who chastise their own mothers for recklessly endangering the next generation with their ignorance of child-rearing are themselves neglecting an essential element of child-rearing. Surely it is in their interest to set their children an example of how to treat aging parents.
Some of those mothers disagreed. The peril to their own children from these ignorant grandmothers is simply too imminent to be ignored, they shot back.
Miss Manners capitulated immediately. Yes, yes, the grandmothers have to use the car seat, no matter how foolish they think it to be, and no, they can't smoke in the nursery, no matter how many babies seemed to thrived on this. Some rules change, and everyone is expected to learn and obey them. Miss Manners is afraid that there is no grandmother clause that exempts those who brought up children successfully before the rules were promulgated.
And, some rules will never change. Parents who fail to teach their children such basic rules of society as saying hello, eating properly and thanking their grandparents for presents cannot justify themselves by declaring that they consider such matters unimportant.
Yet there are dicier issues between the generations. A Gentle Reader who promises "not to overreact to the holding of the baby, the white bread, and the cookie, and to teach the children about forks and thank you letters" asks, "What is a mother to do when the issues over which the generations differ are graver ones?
"I refer to prejudices about people of other races or sexual leanings, and the willingness to express these prejudices in a coarse and tasteless fashion. I do not want my children to learn these beliefs, and I do not want them to think that even if they do learn some of them, that it is acceptable to express them by epithets or with vulgar so-called humor.
"There is also the corresponding issue, a belief that certain children, that is to say, boys, need to be 'toughened up' so that they become 'men' and not persons harboring any of those objectionable sexual leanings. I don't think it's realistic to expect to mold children in this way (in whichever direction). I just don't want my sons badgered and possibly taught a lot of obnoxious behaviors for the sake of becoming 'real men.'
"What do they think they're going to grow up to be, anyway -- giraffes?"
No, but not ostriches, either.
As unfortunate as it is to have such influences within the family, Miss Manners considers it an effective opportunity for parents to teach their own morals and behavioral rules. Their explanations will be more deeply impressive than if the children are protected from opposition or hear it only from outsiders who can be easily dismissed. At the same time, the situation requires teaching and setting the difficult example of showing love and respect for people with whom one has such profound disagreements.
And at the risk of seeming to use the disallowed grandmother argument, Miss Manners notices that this Gentle Reader grew up to disdain prejudice herself, in spite of having been exposed to it as a child.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My son is going to graduate from high school soon, so I'm in the process of sending out announcements. My dilemma -- do I send one to my boss? I don't want to make him think he should buy a gift or send money, but he does know that my son is graduating, and I certainly don't want to insult him.
GENTLE READER: An announcement is not is an insult. It is not even, as greedy and greed-conscious people seem to believe, a bill in disguise, requiring that the recipient pay the sender for getting on with his life.
Miss Manners assures you that whatever others may think, an announcement is -- surprise, surprise -- an announcement. Its purpose is to inform recipients of something they presumably would be interested to know (and should indicate being pleased to hear, regardless of whether they are, by offering congratulations).
If your boss already knows that your son is graduating from high school, what do you imagine is the purpose of announcing it to him?