Why We Trouble with Thank You

In a culture of indifference and vulgarity, a world where RSVPs are optional and asking a boy to wear a tie is unheard of, the well mannered modern mother can sometimes feel besieged.  Why?  Why should she insist on table manners and thank you notes from her children?  Why should she cajole her children into dressing appropriately for the occasion? Why should she request that her children look the hostess in the eye when thanking her?

With a recent story in the Wall Street Journal, the modern mother can put those questions to rest, or at the very least, feel justified in insisting on traditional manners. According to the story, Thank You, No, Thank You, the act of being thankful can make you happier, healthier, more successful.  For adults, this can mean higher incomes, higher resistance to viral infections, and better sleep. For children, it can mean a higher grades, fewer stomach ache complaints, and more satisfaction with school, friends, family.

Whatever those measures of "success" really mean, teaching children to say thank you, in writing and in person, helps them to acknowledge their own gratitude. It helps them recognize their own blessings, maybe even gives them a bit of humility and respect.

And so, well-mannered mothers and readers, you can all pat yourselves on the back, knowing that for once, social science agrees that you are doing something right. And if you want to put those studies to the test, trying being extra thankful, and see if you sleep better or maybe even get a raise.

Thanksgiving Thoughts for the Modern Mother

Happy Thanksgiving to our well mannered friends and readers!

For those of you who will be cooking tomorrow, we can only assume that you in the process of determining your recipes, unearthing your china or crystal, polishing the silver, amassing various ingredients, and mapping out the cooking sequence. For this, we leave you in the capable hands of epicurious, Cook's Illustrated, Streaming Gourmet, or whatever your go-to source for cooking tips, instructions, inspiration. We would be amazed if you have time to check in on our blog today and so wish you poise and strength in the face of in-laws, longer than expected roast times, and other people's grumbling and sometimes less-than-thankful children.

For those of you attending a Thanksgiving Dinner you might want to arrive with a quirky card as well as some flowers and a bottle of something strong to make up for those cards and your own potentially naughty children.

Whatever your plans, we hope you can take a moment to laugh at some of the decidedly unconventional  Thanksgiving cards available at someecards.com. Enjoy!

* reader discretion advised for some of the user-generated content on someecards.com (not those pictured here), which might not always display the high standards, discretion, and subtlety or our readership.  

The Art and Science of Royal Watching

Declare independence.  Check.  Have revolution.  Check.  Become global superpower.  Check.  And yet few things are nearer and dearer to many Americans than the Royal Family.  Not that we would want one here of course, but having them over there in the land of Shakespeare, Paddington Bear and Christopher Robin is somehow very comforting.  Comforting like one's own delightfully loving if exceptionally kooky family once one has moved away from home.

So the well mannered modern mother can be forgiven for feeling a little giddy last week when hip and handsome Prince William at last announced his engagement to the stylish and confident Miss Kate Middleton.  Like all engagements this one offers the embattled Royal Family hope for happier times ahead.  Let's hope this happy news will quiet all that nasty chatter about abolishing the monarchy and take the world's mind off the train wreck that was the previous generations' nuptial disasters.  Plus, and even the New York Times should love this - Prince William is marrying what the British would call a commoner.  Kate is chic, she is smart, she is poised but noble blood does not run through her veins. William's father was not allowed to marry such a person the first time round (that worked well) and his Great-Uncle had to abdicate the throne because he insisted on marrying such a person.

Maybe the well mannered America mother is excited to read about the ring, the dress and the guest list for the next 8 months as she is waiting to exit the supermarket.  Or maybe there is something deeper going on here.  Maybe the well mannered modern mother is truly excited to see that, just like in America, one's past does not define one's future.  Viva la Revolution!

Pictures from Google Images

The Modern Mother's Little Helper

The sight of the take out coffee cup can produce a little thrill: A treat! What pleasure awaits inside? 
A caramel macchiato? A vanilla latte? Or the ever delicious and simple, cup of hot tea? 

But there can be a little bit of guilt associated with a daily treat of coffee. 

Or, even a lot of guilt. And the well mannered mother does not want to contribute to that!

There are many boring re-useable coffee cups out there, but somehow, they take out the fun, 
make that morning cup of coffee feel like less of a treat, more like the chemical dependency it may actually be.

Thankfully, with this "to go" coffee cup, the thrill is back!  

The fact that it's reusable, dishwasher safe, and not breakable (BPA-free) plastic only adds to the fun. 

There are 7 colors to choose from:

And yes, we actually went to Bed Bath and Beyond, paid full price (all $6 of it) and haven't stopped using them since.  

Been There, Done That

The modern mother of a certain age might find herself feeling a sense of déjà vu when shopping for clothes these days. She may see oversized sweaters with dropped shoulders, cowboy boots, short skirts with tiers of ruffles, puffed sleeves, neon colors, sperry topsiders, stirrup pants? 

She may have ignored all the warning signs of the 80’s resurgence that began a few years ago. She may even be firmly in favor of updating her style, but what if changing with the times means changing back, and changing back to something she might rather forget?  When confronted with clothing so reminiscent of her more awkward though admittedly younger self, she may respond, “been there; done that; not doing it again.”  

Improving with age “like a fine wine,” is a tired cliché, but perhaps, the modern mother can imagine that she has, in fact, improved: more confident, more put together, secure in her own personal style. And so, she can hold her head high, and pick and chose which (if any) 80’s styles to add to her repertoire, imagining that she wears all things better now than she did back then, if only because she is more experienced and does not feel compelled to dress identically to her two best friends. 

* images from current offerings at The Gap, Anthropologie, and The Gap, respectively, but the 80's resurgence abounds elsewhere too. 

Friday Frivolity: The British are Coming!

The most adorable new catalogue called Cath Kidston landed in our post box the other day.  It took a few minutes to decide whether it was retro-kitsch-cute or something best left to the well mannered grannies of the world.   Then all was made clear.  You see, it's British.

We shall let the Tea Towels

Tea Cosies

Pin Cushions

and IPhone Cases

tell the story!

Photos from cathkidstonusa.com

Is it an Invitation or a Negotiation?

Well mannered modern mother dials phone.
Ring, Ring "Hello!"
"Hi Jane, it's Sally"
"Hi Sally!  How are you?"
"Super, thanks.  Would you and Bob would like to come to dinner on Saturday the 17th?"
"Hold on let me get to my calendar..." Brief time laps, children and dog heard scuffling in background.  "Oh rats, we have a thing.  We can do the following Saturday the 24th, Friday the 16th or the 8th of next month."

Now what?  Does the mannerly modern mother acquiese and simply pick one of the dates her friend has offered?  Does she point out that she did not call and say "We would love to get together with you and Bob, shall we pick a date?"  Does she inform her friend that this is a dinner party, she has two other couples lined up and she does not accept reservation?  Most likely it is best to simply say "Oh dear, none of those dates work for us.  Let me noodle this and get back to you by email.  I would love to meet for coffee sometime soon."

Maybe it is because people are so crazy busy these days or maybe it's just that people are used to managing their schedules to suit themselves that they have forgotten what it means to be a guest rather than a patron.  But in general it is probably best for the modern mother to "put on her listening ears" and try and assess the type of invitation being extended before launching into an alternate proposal that will work best for her.

Speaking of working best for her, a friend recently sent over this stunning piece from the WSJ's blog The Juggle.  As you know, dear frequent readers, we have great respect for The Juggle as it does a nice job of addressing many issues facing the modern mother.  But this piece in defense of "Maybe" as the way the author responds to an invitation especially, as she writes, "Now that I have kids, whose schedules and moods are even more variable than my own, I’m even more apt to say maybe to events." seems something of a cop-out.  She does acknowledge that her approach "...can make it hard to plan, say, a seated, plated meal, but I really don’t have the time or energy to throw those types of shindigs anyhow."  But don't despair!  Apparently there is hope for the well mannered human race.  Of the 78 comments that blog piece received every response we read pointed out that such an approach is hardly thoughtful and does not take into account the feelings and plans of one's hostess.  Well they didn't say it quite like that.

Shall We Dance?

One day, a well mannered mother may find, in her mailbox, an invitation. An ecru envelope, addressed in an elegant looping script to her 10 year-old son. From inside, an equally lovely invitation emerges. An invitation to dancing school. 

Some mothers may consider the arrival of this invitation cause for celebration. At last! A place and occasion to learn nearly obsolete social skills like offering an arm, good posture, and escorting a partner. Other mothers may consider it worthwhile to have her children go to dancing school if only to be included in this social ritual, and to enable her children to laugh congenially about the cotillion years later in life. A less well mannered mother may even send her child for perceived improvement of her own social status, as suggested in a recent New York Times article

But this modern mother might feel ambivalent. She glances through the window and sees her son playing soccer in the yard. He lunges for the ball, falls and emerges covered in clinging leaves. He’s shouting, disheveled, and dirty. Send THIS child to cotillion?  He can barely remember to put socks on when he gets dressed in the morning. He doesn't even speak to girls. He still can't get enough bathroom humor. But perhaps that’s exactly the point. 

So, she sighs, imagining how big the bribe will have to be, how much negotiation and cajoling will be required. She supposes it will be worth it, but will not make the mistake of thinking a few classes in fox-trot and "standing as a sign of respect" will instill in him a deep sense of common human courtesy. How to put others as ease, to be gracious, and even truly kind will have to come from her, his mother, but it can’t hurt to have him learn a little bit of protocol, and the rumba to boot.  

*image from the New York Times, "A Dancing School for Little Adults"

Real Food Friday

Had it with those generally well mannered kiddies hopped-up on Hershey's and strung-out on Skittles?  Once the little dears have had their fill of Halloween sweets you might want to check out this delightful blog full of recipes and tips to help you prepare healthy, kid-friendly meals.  We particularly like the weekly menus and < 30 minute meals.  Bon Appetit!

Is it Your Job or Our Job?

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal blog The Juggle came right out and said what many well mannered modern mothers have know all along.  Namely, in order for one spouse to achieve a high level of success the other spouse needs to have a more supportive role.  The article was about uber successful professionl women and in that case the husbands had assumed the support role.   This can mean staying at home full time or a scaled back or reduced work schedule.  Or, as the article said, "In other cases, if both spouses work full-time, very time-intensive jobs, it sure helps if at least one makes enough money to pay for lots of help and child care."  So however you slice it - someone needs to manage life at home.

This leads us to the question: if one well mannered spouse is supporting another well mannered spouses career, is it his job or their job?  Should the at-home spouse have a say in career decisions?  Strategy?  Entertaining?  Does she get to review big presentations or a pitch to the boss for a raise?  In these days when it is just as likely the at-home spouse has an advanced degree as the working spouse - does she owe it to the family to weigh in?  If not, what does it mean to be a corporate wife exactly?

Does it mean that the well mannered modern mother's job is to make the well mannered father's life flawless and make sure that he is always, always, available to focus on his job?  Sick child, demanding client,  they need me in Brussles tomorrow, big deal heating up, strategic partner melting down, school conferences, 'No worries Honey, you do what you need to do, I've got it covered.' seems to be the kind of support most firms are looking for.  This formula appears to work very well for many happy couples - just like it did on the home front during WWII and in the Lower Paleolithic Hunter-Gatherer culture.

Voting for Adulthood

Every two years, and sometimes in between, the well mannered mother puts forth her best effort to vote. Yes, she may feel over-scheduled and “crazy busy.” Yes, her day may be over-stuffed with unfulfilling errands: dog to the vet, fix the treadmill, auction meeting, fill out forms for gymnastics, and more. Even more daunting: when will she ever find the time to decide how to fill out her ballot?  What exactly will be her position on the Comprehensive Permits and Regional Planning Initiative ballot question? Which candidate for “third district councilor” should she select? 

Regardless of these obstacles, the modern mother persists in her plan to make it to the polls.  She persists because she does not want to re-enforce any emerging stereotypes of “weary women non-voters.” She perseveres because she truly does want to set an example for her children and she may even have opinions about the issues, the candidates. Most of all, she soldiers on because voting is the adult, the responsible, the right thing to do. Stepping into the polling booth, she steps into the world of adult concerns and issues, however tedious and banal the lexicon of the ballot. 

Whatever her party affiliation, whichever candidate the well mannered mother selects, her simple act of voting declares her in favor of adulthood, declares her confidence in her powers of intellect, discernment, and ability to cram one more “errand” into her already jam-packed day.  
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