DEAR MISS MANNERS: I have hosted Christmas dinner for my family for many years. This year, my nephew’s children, while unsupervised, destroyed a decoration.
My nephew’s stance was that my home is not “child-proofed.” I informed him that children need to learn not to touch everything that they see. His response, in essence, was that I am too particular.
I no longer desire to invite this nephew to my home. How do I leave him out without offending his mother (my sister) and his cousins, who are very close to him? Shall I inform him now that he and his family are no longer welcome, or just leave him out next year?
GENTLE READER: Ah, the holiday spirit lingers on.
Are you seriously telling Miss Manners that you are cutting off members of the family because children broke a decoration?
Mind you, she does not care for your nephew’s response. Not only should he have apologized and offered to replace it, but he should have instructed the children to apologize.
Still, you have a whole year to work this out. And if you don’t, you will not hold another family Christmas dinner, because those relatives who are close to him will join him in banishment.
That is one of your choices. The graceful way to arrange that would be simply to say that you have given the dinner for many years, but now feel that it is someone else’s turn.
The alternative is to have a quiet talk with your nephew and the children’s mother, if she is in the picture. In a charmingly self-deprecating way, you should admit to being particular, and having a household that is not geared to the infrequent visits of children.
But, you should add, you enjoy those visits, and ask their help in making them pleasant for all. Could there be some organized play, with adult supervision? Or would that not be necessary by next year, when the children will be older and more responsible? Or would the parents rather take over being the hosts so that their children will be at home?
If kindly said, this will serve as a warning. But as a precaution, Miss Manners suggests enlisting another family member to watch the children.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: At the last minute our friends backed out of a New Year’s plan that they initially suggested. We were planning on spending time together, but they decided to attend a party of people we didn’t know.
This left my husband and me in limbo on New Year’s Eve. We eventually salvaged our night by finding an alternative, but the situation left me with a very unpleasant feeling toward the friendship. We’ve known the couple for a few years and spend a lot of time together. Recently they’ve been going through a difficult time in the relationship, and I’m feeling that the husband is initiating more distance, while the wife and I are becoming closer.
I don’t know if I should voice my disappointment, let the situation slide, or even distance myself from the couple (mostly due to the husband’s increasing coldness, but also this New Year’s event itself). Please suggest a tactful course of action.
GENTLE READER: Too late. It’s not only the husband who has distanced himself from you, but also the wife, in acquiescing to the rudeness of standing you up. Miss Manners would advise you to avoid making other plans with them. Should they notice, she hopes that any overtures they make will begin with a big apology.