Holiday (Failed) Lessons In Manners

Our boys are eight and four (oops, sorry, ‘almost five’) years old and we are constantly drilling manners into them, only to find their shirts smeared with lunch (because they didn’t use napkins), demanding instead of asking (I don’t hear any request without ‘please’), and interrupting because they have to know right then why the moon only comes out at night (they forget thatwe’ve reminded them 173,289 times not to talk over someone else.)

Christmas and family gatherings present a whole new set of worries for us, as parents of manner-challenged children.  We prep them on proper greetings (hug and kiss, and don’t wipe off grandma’s kiss on their cheeks while she’s looking), food handling (you touch it, you take it), and thank you hugs for gifts—even if the gift wasn’t what they really wanted.

Last year, we started the manners boot camp soon after Thanksgiving.  By the time Christmas came, we were confident that our boys would be the poster children for impeccable manners.  We beamed with pride as our younger son stared at a plate of cookies and then reached his hand out delicately to pick up one cookie without handling any of the others.  My husband and I nodded approval when our older son thanked someone for a gift he already had—without telling them he already had it.  And then, it happened.

My older son opened a gift from my Aunt and Uncle (I can’t remember what it was now) and he gasped in surprise.  He ripped all of the paper off of it and looked at my Aunt and Uncle, wide eyed and blurted out, “this was like fifty dollars, that’s way too much money!”

Oh, boy.  We didn’t anticipate that one.  I gently shook my head ‘no’ at him.   Not one for subtlety, he said, “what?  That’s how much it cost and I can’t believe they spent that much on me.”  I cringed.  Everyone sat in silence for a few seconds and then my Aunt and Uncle laughed, and others followed.

You can bet that this year, we covered the money aspect of gifts (at his birthday, our older son had asked how much a gift cost…another cringe moment for me.)   We went through a refresher course on gift-thanking etiquette and the ever-important food behavior.  I think they’re ready for another shot at being GMAs (Good Manner Ambassadors.)  What we’re going for is a display of their natural exuberance tempered by graciousness.  We’ll see what happens…

I hope you enjoy the holidays and time spent with friends and family.  I want everyone to feel the warmth of love.  May the memories made (no matter how embarrassing) bring a year full of stories (or a blog post or two) and a lifetime of smiles.

And, in case you’re wondering, my well-wishes didn’t cost a dime 🙂

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17 thoughts on “Holiday (Failed) Lessons In Manners

  1. nrhatch December 24, 2010 / 2:12 PM

    Awesome post, Janna!

    They sound like little charmers ~ and it’s kind of sweet that he exhuberantly felt they spend too MUCH on him. 🙂

    • jannatwrites December 24, 2010 / 3:12 PM

      Thanks, Nancy! I didn’t even think of that – it would have been much more horrifying if he said something like, “fifty dollars…is that all?” With thought thought, I thank heaven that it happened how it did 🙂

  2. suzicate December 24, 2010 / 2:40 PM

    As the mother of two now grown boys, I laughed with these episodes. Trust me, they EVENTUALLY grow out of those things! But they sure are wonderful memories to look back on now! Merry Christmas to your family.

    • jannatwrites December 24, 2010 / 3:14 PM

      Thanks for stopping by, Suzicate! The boys can come up with some embarrassing moments that I can laugh at later (like when my younger son was 3 and patted this man’s beer belly and sweetly asked, “Is there a baby in your belly?”) Thankfully, the man had a sense of humor and said, “No, but there’s a twelve pack of beer!”

      I hope you have a merry Christmas also 🙂

  3. Aligaeta December 24, 2010 / 4:49 PM

    Janna, what’s a mother to do when he twenty year old says, “Please don’t buy me any gifts this year, I only want money toward tuition.” Your post makes me hope her request didn’t go any farther then to me and her father.

    She will be getting a box of cash and some small thoughtful gifts from me. Her nosy brother asked
    “How much money I’ll you give Sarah” and I told him how much plus $100 more than I can afford, hoping it will shame my ex, that he’ll once again match or better my gift.

    I use their absence of manners to their advantage. We’ll keep this our secret : )

    • jannatwrites December 24, 2010 / 10:36 PM

      You know, I’ve never liked giving cash as gifts, but tuition does seem to be a good cause-if that’s what it is used for. (I’ve had the request come with wedding invitations – cash gift only. I don’t know why, but that irritated me, so they got a gift card from me instead.) I hope your plan works and your daughter gets the tuition money.

      Even if she made the request to other family members, I wouldn’t worry about it too much. For me, what she wanted to use the money for makes it less offensive than if she would’ve said the money was for plastic surgery or a vacation to Hawaii. It shouldn’t make a difference, but for some reason it does for me 🙂

  4. duke1959 December 24, 2010 / 5:52 PM

    What a great post!

    • jannatwrites December 24, 2010 / 10:36 PM

      Thanks, Duke! I’m glad you enjoyed it 🙂

  5. Maimoona Rahman December 25, 2010 / 1:55 AM

    WOW! I mean you make parenting sound fun, though I suppose its quite the contrary.

    It’s nice to know that your son appreciates gifts worth $ 50. I was thunderstruck when a few ladies at uni were discussing lingerie worth $ 300. And they called the less-than-$ 300 ones Walmart quality.

    I felt poor!

    Merry Christmas.

    • jannatwrites December 25, 2010 / 3:49 PM

      Parenting is frustrating/fun. I mean, sometimes I wonder if they’re going to be messed up for life, and then they do something that shows me they’re “getting it” and I have a feeling they’ll be okay.

      I couldn’t even imagine $300 lingerie. I wouldn’t buy it, and if my husband did, I’d make him take it back! I buy my sleep clothes on clearance racks (and it looks like it). But I don’t really care 🙂 There isn’t a stitch of clothing that’s worh $300, so please don’t feel poor because you don’t have it (or never wanted it until others mentioned it.)

      • Cynthia Elomaa December 27, 2010 / 4:52 PM

        I know exactly how you feel. My boys are around the same age and some times my husband and I feel like broken records. Haha. Manners? Yeah, we are working on that too. Everyday we have a refresher course for them. One day it will just click.

        Thanks for the smile and making feel like it’s not just my house.

        • jannatwrites December 27, 2010 / 8:49 PM

          Thanks for stopping by, Cynthia. I’m so glad it’s not just me (and that my experience made you smile). I’m waiting for the day when I won’t have to whisper in their ear for them to say “thank you” when someone gives them a gift. Or nudge them to answer when they are spoken to (they just look at me like I can speak what’s in their brains.) The day will come…

          Have a wonderful new year 🙂

  6. Barb December 27, 2010 / 12:46 AM

    I had a video camera for my 40th birthday, the year my nephew was born. I’ve been recording HIS Christmasses since (although I think this is the last year… but we’ll see!) – lots of laughter if only I dared to watch those tapes again (mini DV). This year he started school, so he started reading… It was fun to watch him decifer the names on the presents and pointing at the right person! 😀
    Anyway, hope you had a great Christmas and have a Wonderful 2011! 😉

    • jannatwrites December 27, 2010 / 8:43 PM

      That is such a cute idea, Barb. He will love to watch them when he gets older (or they could be excellent blackmail material?) I wish we were better about getting video…

      I hope you have a happy new year!

  7. Ollin December 27, 2010 / 6:37 PM

    You guys sound like excellent parents! Many blessings to you and your family!

    • jannatwrites December 27, 2010 / 8:52 PM

      Thanks, Ollin. We make mistakes (plenty of them), but still hope the things we do right will balance out what we have messed up. I swear, if they came with a manual, I’d read it.

      Have a happy new year!

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