DEAR MISS MANNERS: My husband and I told my mother-in-law that we are expecting our first child, her first grandchild. She lives out of state, so we have made an effort to try to make her feel included in the whole process, but lately she has become overbearing. We get two to three e-mails a day of “recommendations for the new baby.”
I have tried to politely inform her that we have done our research and feel like we are prepared, but she doesn’t seem to get the gentle hints. She has even gone so far as telling us to plan for many visits so she can “help” us.
I understand this is her first grandchild and that she is excited, but how can I get her to back off without pushing her away?
GENTLE READER: Backing off does seem like a good idea, but Miss Manners believes that you would be better off doing it yourself, rather than suggesting it to your mother-in-law. The time will come, sooner or later, when you will be grateful for a little help.
You should understand that it is hard on today’s grandparents to discover that the way they cared for their babies — for example, having them sleep on their stomachs in cribs with bumpers and slide-down sides — is now considered not just outdated but lethal. And it’s the miraculously surviving babies who are scorning them for that.
You can, of course, merely thank your mother-in-law for her advice and then not follow it. But it would be kinder to her and ultimately more useful to you (because the lady will be part of her grandchild’s life) to share your research.
Please drop that we-already-know-everything tone when explaining what you learned from your friends, your doctor and the Internet. Not only is it rude, but it will come back to haunt you when you are coping with the real complexities of child-rearing — and when, as has so often happened, the experts reverse themselves.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I understand that one may tip a soup bowl away from one. May one tip a cereal bowl in either direction?
GENTLE READER: No, but if you eat breakfast alone with the shades down, Miss Manners will not tattle on you.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My husband has a good friend whose grandmother just passed away. When I suggested that he go to the services, he acted surprised and didn’t think that it was appropriate because he had never met the grandmother.
I told him that he was there to support this friend and his father (whom he has met several times).
I suggested that he go only to the services, not the burial or wake. He wasn’t sure and asked me to get a second opinion. What is appropriate in this situation?
GENTLE READER: Between you, you have come up with the two chief reasons for attending a funeral: to pay respects to the deceased and to console the bereaved. But either one is a sufficient reason.
Miss Manners can also think of a third reason: to accompany one’s spouse to a funeral that he really should attend.
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