Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Etiquette Questions

Some things I've been wondering about lately.

If a family member gives your child a gift-- say an article of especially ghastly clothing-- are you obligated to have your child wear it? Do you have to take pictures to show to said relative? Is this just pandering, trying to make said relative feel appreciated? Or is it trying to teach your child good manners by showing that you appreciate all gifts, and you can't say "yucky" to an otherwise appropriate gift that just happens to be, um, yucky?

If the answer is yes to the first 2 questions above (wearing and photographing the wearing), do you have to do it more than once, just so you don't show them 5 pics of the darling creature in the ghastly outfit, all obviously taken on the same day? I mean, are you obligated to make said relative feel all that appreciated?

What if the gift is a toy that you child does not appreciate, enjoy, or use? You wouldn't feel obligated to show the relative pictures of the child playing with it, would you? Why is this different from the hideous garment?

What if it was a toy that you did not like? Are you obligated to let the kid even have it? Well, you are the parent, you can choose, right? But it was a gift, given freely and not given to you, dear parent.

Can you go through gifts ahead of time, for example if a big Christmas box arrives in mid-December? Say you are not consulted, as some families are kind enough to do, but instead your family chooses to send gifts that they think your kid will like, without consideration of whether or not you allow certain types of dolls or weapons or glitter or especially noxious arts and crafts in your home? Can you go through and veto, in advance, any toys that do not meet your standards of social acceptability?

If you can and do cull the herd ahead of time, do you have to replace the toy in question before the event? If your mother sends a gruesome item for your child, and you toss it into the Goodwill pile and replace it with something wholesome and good and filled with light, what do you do about the thank-you note? How do you coach little Kumbaya to write a good thank-you note without mentioning the lovely gun that grandma gave her? It's not like you can replace it with a kinder, gentler gun, so either you replace it with another gun and she can write "thank you for the gun" or you replace it with a knit-your-own-peace-sign kit and all the child can say is "thank you for the present" which is sure to get grandma's hackles up. She wasn't born yesterday, you know.

Finally, what do you do with ghastly objects that are given to your child in person? They are always thoughtfully chosen and of the sort that children dearly love, by which I mean they always have lots of lights and sounds and repetition of songs that make you want to rip your ears off your head before the evening is over. Your child adores it, your relatives know that your child adores it, because they saw her play with it nonstop and with such glee for hours on end. After you have removed the batteries, dismantled the speaker, and otherwise rendered it impotent, how do you deal with both the child and the relative? Especially next time they are all in your home, expecting to have a happy reunion, relative, child, and hellacious toy all.

And just for the record: no, these are actually not my personal issues for the most part (though we have gotten a few noisy toys that have subsequently entered the witness protection program, one of which prompted a call to the sending friend to ask what I had done to make her mad at me). These are mostly things I've heard other people gripe about and which are knocking about in my head tonight. Really. I promise.

I imagine this is all eclipsed in the teen years, when it is your child's friends that you can't stand. That seems a mite more complicated.

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7 Comments:

Blogger Ally said...

Well, my policy re Loud Toys (tm), which I have already explained in depth to anyone who'll stay still long enough to listen, is going to be that noisy toys with flashing lights and batteries live at the home of the relative who gave them. Ha!

10:18 AM  
Blogger zilla said...

Ally's policy is good :-) Oh, the stories I could tell on this subject, but I won't. Myrtle did have the foresight to request, politely and respectfully, all wooden toys for GBabyZ before Christmas. Of course he received some non-wooden toys, like a soccer ball, and a little toddler scooter fabricated from metal, which I think fell within her true priority of reducing plastic, battery, and noise pollution.

As far as pictures wearing ugly outfits go -- puh! Completely unnecessary.

1:22 PM  
Blogger Ally said...

I have been thinking about this in the dark reaches of the night. I think that in the case of ugly clothes, a Fatal Washing Machine Accident is the only way forward. Or perhaps they liked the clothes so much that they insisted on climbing trees in them and now they're unwearable?

1:52 PM  
Blogger Mrs. Gamely said...

I've packed my "Miss Manners", but I believe she says re undesirable gifts given in person: A tight smile that raises the corners of the mouth but does not reach the eyes, accompanied by "thank you, but you really shouldn't have" (That last bit would be in italics).

When the kids were little, if they got noisy toys we told them they were tub toys. It's remarkable what submerging will do to a barbie-like doll that giggles & says "hey gurrlfriend, I Luv that pink dress!" (this is a true story, and it still makes me shudder)

I'm with Ally on the ugly clothes solution.

6:57 PM  
Blogger Lizard said...

tub toys! Sheer brilliance! Unadulterated brilliance! Astonishing nobel-prize brilliance! (is there a nobel for deceptive parenting tactics? there should be.)

I usually just let them wither on the vine-- hide them at night, wait until she asks for them again, pull them out briefly, tell her they are driving Mommy crazy and must go away for a while, and then eventually ditch them on my next Goodwill run.

I like the tub thing better, as long as I know she won't get electrocuted. I sort of think batteries in the tub aren't safe. Perhaps I won't mention this tactic to my spouse, Mr. Safety.

7:49 PM  
Blogger Kvatch said...

are you obligated to have your child wear it?

Yup. And you are required to take pictures--First to embarrass the hapless child as he/she grows older, and second as an object lesson in what the kind of gifts the "weird Aunt and Uncle" send. You know those two, every family has a set. They moved away, didn't have kids, and send gifts that are either too expensive, to loud, or hideous.

(I know, I am the weird uncle.)

8:14 PM  
Blogger Mrs. Gamely said...

(PS: being a bit of a "Mrs. Safety", I'd soak 'em in the sink first, late at night, mmmwahaha)

1:00 AM  

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