DEAR MISS MANNERS: My sister in-law is newly married to a man who doesn't want kids. She seems to be undecided; however, this does not stop her from joining in on the constant comments of how children misbehave and are awful.
I realize that since they are newly married, they are often bombarded with the "So, when are you going to have kids?" question. Perhaps they are annoyed by it and are expressing their frustrations.
However, I find it very rude that at every family gathering, they glare at the children and make sarcastic remarks about how they are are hyper and messy. My son just celebrated his third birthday, and their constant comments offended most of my guests with children. They tried whispering many of their opinions, but it was obvious what is was about.
Their expectations of young children are unrealistic. They even make comments like, "We don't want any, but if we did have children, they would never eat sugar, and we would never bring them to a place with so many bad children to influence them."
I want to tell them that if they have such strong ill feelings toward little ones, then they should know they are not obligated to come to any of my children's celebrations. They can have their opinion, but they make such gatherings so miserable. Is it my place to approach them about this?
GENTLE READER: No, but Miss Manners would consider it a favor to your childless relatives and friends to omit them from the birthday invitation list. Your son will soon be eager to have parties that are designed expressly for his friends -- with adults present only as needed to supervise behavior and remove food from the rug before it is ground in by little feet.
As for family celebrations and other gatherings, you can tell your sister-in-law that you know that her children -- if she has them -- will be under more control, but that meanwhile you hope she will indulge parents who are learning as they go. Your reward for suppressing a sarcastic tone will come if this couple should, indeed, become parents.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: If I am paying for my daughter's wedding, do I have input on the guest list?
GENTLE READER: That privilege is not for sale, as Miss Manners gathers you seem to believe. However, it does come free with the position of being your daughter's parent.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I attended a baby shower a few months ago for a co-worker and spent $50 on a gift. Another colleague and I are planning to meet up with the new mom since she's had the baby. My colleague was in a panic about what to get her and said that it would be rude to show up without a gift when seeing the baby for the first time.
Are we really expected to give two gifts to a new mom?!
GENTLE READER: At least. You got off easy. Nowadays, anyone within a 50-yard radius of a new baby is "expected" to give gifts for four baby showers, three religious ceremonies, two first-time calls, and heaven help you if your partridge in a pear tree isn't on their registry.
However, these expectations are rude, no matter how many baby stores and mothers-to-be think otherwise. Miss Manners suggests calming your colleague by suggesting that as you already gave a present, it would be gracious to bring a small token, such as flowers. By that time, the new mother is likely to be too sleep-deprived and grateful for adult company to remain expectant.
(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.)