These seminal milestones to be cherished by parents and endured by all others should be kept as short and sweet as possible. A well mannered mother should know that the number of adults who want to spend time celebrating birthdays 1-4 with anyone who is not related by blood is statistically zero. That is, unless, it involves an open bar. However these things happen. The well mannered mother does try to keep the attendees to a minimum and if for some reason she feels the undeniable need to invite the whole nursery school she does it off-site (i.e. not in her home). This will save her domicile and sanity. Once the participants reach five and children may be dropped off at a party, adults applaud long drawn out parties. These too should be held off site if one can possibly manage it. Once children become socially conscious a child should invite her whole class or a very small set of close friends. Invitations should arrive through the mail and not be handed out at school. If an RSVP is required the guests should do so as soon as possible. Upon arriving at the party the guest should go up to the birthday child, thank her for inviting him and give her a gift. He should also be sure to thank the birthday girl and her parents when leaving a party. With regard to gifts, the well-mannered mother knows that it is the quality of the gift not the price that matters. Something thoughtful and relevant to the birthday childs’ interests will always be welcome no matter the price. When in doubt give a good book.
Initially, when just starting out in the fascinating world of unpaid work, it is quite flattering to be asked to be on a committee or take a leadership role on volunteer projects. It is essential that the well mannered mother stop and reflect before saying yes to these requests. Our favorite well mannered response when asked to do anything is “Thank you. I am so flattered that you thought of me. Please let me consider this tonight and I will get back to you tomorrow morning.” This gives the well mannered mother time to consider how and if this commitment fits into her already busy life. Of course she must then respond to the requestor as early as possible the following morning. The well mannered mother never leaves someone hanging - it is tacky.
Yet if the well mannered mother discovers she has, despite her best due diligence, accepted a place on a half-baked committee she must immediately call the chair person and say something like “Now that I have a better sense of the scope of this project I am afraid I have over committed myself and think it best that I withdraw at this point.” The last thing any mother needs in these hectic times are a bunch of disorganized people wasting her time. Working on a well run committee is an excellent way for a modern mother to keep her mind and resume sharp while giving back to the community. And last but not least, for the fashion conscious well mannered modern mother, committee work is an excellent excuse to dress up a bit and look slightly corporate. Think Mad Men.
When required to console a friend suffering from gender disappointment, the well-mannered mother resists any urge to say “You have got to be kidding me! Don’t you realize how entitled and narcissistic you sound?” Instead, she listens, smiles, nods. The helpful sort of well mannered mother might make a suggestion such as “You should really talk to Jen, she is suffering from Apartment Disappointment and has recently come to terms with her Husband Disappointment. Now she is worried her son might not get into Brown and he will have to be treated for College Disappointment. You two should really have lunch.”
After your child performs, you may be tempted to get up, grab your child and run away as fast as you can before another 6 year old gets up to play “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” on flute. However, the well-mannered mother remembers that high-tailing it out of there would be rude to the other children still waiting to perform and their patiently waiting families. If you absolutely must leave before the recital is over, wait until a pause between performances so as not to distract young performers trying their hardest to concentrate.
What better topic to begin with than the topic of Advice?
Generally unsolicited and mostly well meaning, strangers give advice to mothers from the time she is visibly pregnant. From “You are having a natural birth, aren’t you” to “you really should enroll your 18 month old in Chinese/Russian/Arabic classes now” these tidbits are usually unwelcome and irritating. The well-mannered mother knows to smile politely and change the subject or leave the room as soon as possible.
Certain ill-mannered mothers will react to such advice with loud complaints to their friends and family: “How annoying! That lady just told me to put a hat on my baby! As if I don’t know the temperature outside! She should try keeping a hat on an 11 month-old!” Maybe she has. The well-mannered mother remembers that such outrage is an inappropriate response to well-meaning, though misguided behavior.
Needless to say, the well-mannered mother should never give advice unless expressly asked and then only on the subject at hand.