DEAR MISS MANNERS: My husband and I will be starting a family soon, and many conversations with my in-laws lead me to believe that we will experience "difficulties" with them during the hospital delivery of our child.
I come from a family where having a child is not a huge spectacle, and it is not a tradition for the entire family to haul off immediately to the hospital when a new baby arrives. This is very common in my husband's family -- we've witnessed it with my brother and sister-in-law.
While I certainly will not deny any of our family the opportunity to see the new bundle of joy after birth, I do prefer that I not be expected to be "on" for visitors shortly after labor and delivery. We would prefer family be invited to the hospital to see us and the new baby after an appropriate period of rest for the new mom (and dad!) after the birth -- say, five or six hours or so, enough to recover a bit.
I do not feel this is too much to ask. But my mother-in-law and additional in-laws will be very upset if we make these wishes known. Is it inappropriate for us to want this? If not, how can we delicately put it so family is not offended?
GENTLE READER: This problem could have been so much worse. Miss Manners has heard complaints of grandparents who want to be present at the actual birth, and of parents who want five or six days or weeks to themselves before presenting the new baby.
So no, Miss Manners does not consider your request too much to ask -- but then, neither is theirs. Here is how you manage:
When the baby is born, your husband first calls his parents, telling them the gender and name, if not already known; the weight, how things went, and that he can't quite tell, but maybe the baby looks like their side of the family. When they say they'll be right there, he can honestly say that the baby has to be taken off for the routine examination, and he'll call back with the results, but first he has to call the other relatives.
Notice that all this takes time, especially as the other relatives' lines will be busy because his parents are also calling them.
When those calls are completed, he calls his parents back, saying that the baby is fine. (If there are any problems, he need only tell them, at this point, that the baby is still with the doctor.)
They say they'll be right there. He asks them first to please call the other relatives to report that the baby is fine, because he is exhausted and wants to catch a short nap while the new mother gets some sleep.
Then he asks them to round everyone up, bring champagne (or a particular snack that he thinks you would enjoy and that takes time to go buy) and to come celebrate at -- well, by now, he should be able to suggest a time that is only three or four hours later.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: What should you do with the seeds of the watermelon while you're eating it? Spit them on your plate?
GENTLE READER: Watermelon spitting contests are properly held outdoors, not at a dining table. There the seed should be quietly slipped into the cupped hand and then unobtrusively transferred to the plate.
(Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com; to her email, email@example.com; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)