DEAR MISS MANNERS: I’m a stay-at-home dad with two little boys, 10 months and 3 years old, and another on the way. At least five times a day, I’m stopped by a seemingly well-meaning person making an obnoxious, sexist comment: “You’ve got your hands full!” or, “Looks like Dad played hooky today to take care of the kids,” or, “Mommy must be taking a much-needed break.”
I struggle with how to respond. I want to model good manners for my kids, but at the same time shut down the conversation and go about my day.
GENTLE READER: Unfortunately, children will eventually need to know how to respond to a public insult, so Miss Manners agrees that now is a good time to begin the lesson.
Answer with a quizzical look, as if you did not understand what was said. After all, it is incomprehensible that a stranger just suggested you would not voluntarily spend time with your own children.
Forcing them to repeat themselves should prompt them to recognize their own inanity, if not their rudeness.
Answer the repetition by saying that there is nothing you would rather do than to be with your children. The stranger may think you are sanctimonious, but might also realize what these jibes implied.