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Miss Manners: Parents should learn to say 'sorry'

When should a parent apologize to a child? When the parent is in the wrong.

Dear Miss Manners:

My brother served in Iraq a couple of years ago. He suffers from PTSD and was wounded. The physical wound is not one you can see, but people (family especially) will still ask him what it was like to fight in the war and even go so far as to ask if he killed anyone.

We have a family reunion coming up, which he is considering not attending because of the possibility of having to field questions of that nature. I haven't seen him since he graduated from boot camp and would be heartbroken if I couldn't see him because of this matter. I understand where he's coming from, but I would like to know what the appropriate response is to questions of that nature. Would it be okay to just give family a heads-up not to ask him about his war experience?

Can you do this without creating consternation and even more curiosity about his condition?

It would be kind to save your brother the trouble of saying, "I really don't feel like talking about the war these days," which is all he needs to say, although he will unfortunately probably find that he has to keep repeating it to the same people. But Miss Manners begs you to do this in a nonalarmist way. Something such as, "Alex will probably tell us about the war eventually, but right now it's his least favorite topic, and I know he'd appreciate our staying off the subject." You don't want the family to start looking at him nervously or backing away as he approaches.

Dear Miss Manners:

I would like to send someone a thank-you card, but I miscalculated the ratio of text to space and have no room left on which to write. Is it appropriate to slip another sheet in the card and continue there? If so, what sort of paper should be used for the job?

How the card industry managed to convince people that canned messages are more important than personal ones, Miss Manners will never understand.

Obviously you understand the importance of using your own words. So why cheapen them by enclosing them within a preprinted form?

All you have to do here is to take out a plain piece of paper and write a letter of thanks. It is simpler, cheaper and, Miss Manners assures you, more dignified and proper.

Feeling incorrect? E-mail questions to Miss Manners at MissManners@unitedmedia.com; enter them at http://www.missmanners.comor mail to United Media, 200 Madison Ave., New York, N.Y. 10016.

2010 Judith Martin


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