In public places, one may sometimes encounter a variety of mother who audibly narrates her young child’s activities, in a sing-song, faux-pre-school teacher manner. At the grocery store, “Yes, Aidan, that’s broccoli! You love broccoli.” Waiting at the doctor’s office, “Baby?! You see the baby? Yes, that baby has a pacifier like you, but yours is only for nigh, nigh.” Crossing the street, she may look both ways in an exaggerated manner. In a public restroom, she may burst into a “hand-washing song.” On the playground, she may be seen hovering beside her child, tissue at the ready. Wherever she is, her continuous voluble narration is unstoppable. The outside observer might wonder if this steady stream of commentary allows this mother to make it through a mind-numbingly dull day. Or, perhaps, she believes that this semi-instructive patter will benefit her child more if delivered in loud saccharine tones. Or, she may believe her monologue will demonstrate her skill as a mother. Maybe she has not yet realized that the world is indifferent to what she says to her child in the grocery store and that no one doubts that she is, indeed, the person best qualified to raise her child. Even without the sing-song drivel.
The modern mother can buy any variety of organic packaged food for her children: organic toaster pastries, organic freezer waffles, organic cheese puffs, organic chocolate graham bears. The list goes on. The organic label might make a mother feel better about feeding her children fruit snacks instead of fruit, but of course she is fooling herself. If the first ingredient is “organic cane sugar” or “organic evaporated cane juice,” chances are it is, well, mostly sugar. If it looks like a Rice Crispy treat, and tastes like a Rice Crispy treat, well… you get the point. We’re not saying “don’t buy organic,” since buying organic supports organic agriculture and leads to lower pesticide use, among other things. But let's be honest with ourselves: processed food is still processed food and organic soy lecithin is not any healthier for our children than regular soy lecithin. There are times when the convenience of a packaged snack can't be denied, but the well mannered mother knows that just because her cellophane-wrapped treat is USDA certified organic doesn't mean its superior.
“Please help set the table, darling.”
“Please pass the butter.”
“Please don’t hit Mommy in the face, sweetheart.”
“Please? Honey? Can you stop kicking the back of that very large man’s chair?”
“Please! Stop beating your brother to a bloody pulp.”
Of course there are people who don’t care about that sort of thing…what comes around goes around…lalala… we are all one happy village…and all that. Wonderful for them. But for the well mannered mothers living in the real world where other people’s five and six-year-olds can be something of a burden, it’s nice to share the joy.
Clearly, once children have become good friends and families are acquainted a strict back and forth protocol is not necessary. But for the initial play dates or if the modern mother has called someone because she is in a jam she really must extend an invitation to the other child. If the child is unavailable and a subsequent invitation is also refused, the well mannered modern mother can be comfortable in the knowledge that her social obligation has been dispatched.
Sometimes your child might be invited to a house where you do not know the family or are uncomfortable with the caregiver situation. In that case it is perfectly all right to invite that child to your house. You are then under no obligation to send your child to their house. But be aware that over time most people will figure out you think they are crazy and may stop sending their child to your house. Then again, if they really are as crazy as you think, perhaps that is all for the best.
Things can get tricky for the well mannered working mother especially if she begins to feel that her child is always going over to a friend’s house. In this case, she might want to invite the friend on a weekend outing or have the friend and her parents for an early family dinner as a way of getting to know the other family.
Mostly this well mannered author longs for the days when children could head out the back door, wander around the neighborhood unattended, play kick-the-can in the street until it was too dark to see and not have to worry about having their every movement choreographed by their parents.
It can take a little extra time and determination to find new homes for some items, so we counsel you to stay strong and we offer these suggestions: Offer it to a friend with younger children. Find a local consignment shop or Play it Again Sports. Try ebay, Craig’s List, or freecycle. Donate to Goodwill, Vietnam Veterans of America, Big Brother Big Sister, Sports Gifts, or Cradles to Crayons. If all else fails, leave it on the curb with a sign that says “Free!” and make somebody’s day.