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.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: At a gathering four years ago, I politely greeted a young father and mother, although I don’t know them well, and said hello to their 6-year-old daughter, Mia. Mia glowered at me and said nothing. Her mother said, “She’s not talking today.”
This took me by surprise, so I responded, “Well, please tell her that I said hello.” The mother apparently took great offense and said, “She can HEAR you! She’s just not talking!”
I was so embarrassed and caught off-guard that I think I said “Oh, my,” and stepped away. Four years later, the mother and Mia still seem to regard me with contempt. I don’t know what I did wrong in this very awkward situation. Did I handle it badly? What should I have done differently?
GENTLE READER: Silence and glowering seem to run rampant in their family. Barring sickness or a disability (and even those should come with an explanation from the parent), Mia’s reaction was unacceptable. It is wrong to teach a child that ignoring people with mean looks, if and when they feel like it, is acceptable behavior.
Your response was not only justified, it was the only graceful way to have handled it. It certainly did not merit a four-year grudge. Miss Manners recommends that you avoid this family in the future -- as it seems that they have made it impossible to do otherwise.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: When I offer my grandchildren a second helping or a snack, they say, “I’m good,” which they learned from their father.
What would be your response to this?
GENTLE READER: ”Well, that remains to be seen. But would you like some more chicken?”
(Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com; to her email, firstname.lastname@example.org; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)