DEAR MISS MANNERS: My older sister has been babysitting the daughter of two good friends of my family for over two and a half years now; the girl is almost 5 years old. When my sister got a job and became busier, she passed along the job to me. The child has a school assignment, and I am to be her assistant in the project, which is rather like a re-enactment. I don't know how to phrase this except that her parents are expecting me to write her assignment for her, since she isn't old enough to understand how to prepare it or what she would be preparing.
Since she is the one who will be graded for its preparation and not me, my conscience would bother me if I were to essentially do the work for her. How can I tell her parents without sounding harsh or unkind?
GENTLE READER: By telling them that you can't do the work because you are interested in childhood development, you have gotten fond of little Madison, and you believe she is bright.
And now bear with Miss Manners while she explains why these are legitimate reasons.
The purpose of schooling, even kindergarten, is not to get the projects done; the purpose is to educate the children. When a child's homework is done for her, she does not learn whatever it is that the project was designed to teach. But she does learn, loud and clear, that she need not exert herself, because she can get other people to do her work for her.
If she cannot understand the assignment, either she is not keeping up with the class or the work is, as you suggest, too hard for her age group. In either case, the matter should be brought to the attention of the teacher.
Turning in someone else's work and expecting to get an education is like expecting to be diagnosed and cured by a doctor to whom you have given someone else's bodily samples.
You will put this more gently when you tell the parents, Miss Manners trusts. But apparently it is a lesson many parents need to learn. Teachers tell her that in the upper grades, they commonly receive homework that was obviously done by an adult. It makes them wonder why parents want to trust their children to educators who think those teachers too dumb to be able to tell the difference.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My husband and I are planning an engagement party for our daughter and her fiance this summer. Is it rude to enclose a registry list with the engagement party invitation?
We were married 25 years ago. We planned our wedding in three months and never registered for our wedding.
Now we have four wonderful daughters and would like to give them a little more than what we could do for ourselves at the time. Can you help us?
GENTLE READER: By chipping in?
If you have the kind wish of giving your daughters more than you had when you were married, there is nothing to prevent you from doing so. Miss Manners would hope that a modicum of sense and taste would prevent you from giving what you can beg from others.