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Miss Manners by Judith Martin, Nicholas Ivor Martin and Jacobina Martin

Responding to Unintentionally Hurtful Remarks on Parenting

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I congratulated a co-worker on the new addition to his family. He responded by saying his son was boring: that all his son does is sleep, eat and dirty his diapers (not the term he used, but I wanted to clean it up for you).

I have worked with disabled children, so my first response was that a lot of people would be thrilled to have a “boring” child.

He probably has no idea that my husband and I are infertile. Other people have complained to me about their children and (hopefully) jokingly offered them to me. My response to them is, “If you give them to me, don’t expect to get them back.” Any suggestions on how to respond to these examples would be greatly appreciated.

GENTLE READER: Such people think that they are being funny -- and that they are sharing what they believe to be a common experience, but clearly is not.

However, being complicit in their humor by offering to steal the child may only be encouraging them. Miss Manners suggests that you ignore the unamusing banter and say wistfully in return, “It all sounds lovely, actually.” This should not necessarily betray your situation, but shame them into admitting that it actually is.