DEAR MISS MANNERS: I have received many thank-you notes for baby gifts from the baby itself, even before the baby has been born, and certainly before the baby is able to comprehend a gift or properly thank people for their generosity.
As I am about to give birth to our first child, I was curious about etiquette when receiving gifts “for” the child, but, if we are all honest, are really for the parents. Should the thank-you note come from the baby or the parents?
GENTLE READER: Strict as she is about handwritten letters of thanks, Miss Manners is willing to excuse newborns who delegate this task. However, they should be careful to choose scriveners who have a sense of what is appropriate to whom.
Family members and other new parents are the most likely to be enchanted by — or at least not disdainful of — letters that purport to be written by infants. People who are not closely related to babies at the moment tend to be less charmed, sometimes to the point of claiming nausea. But you know the individuals and should gauge your letters accordingly.
That the baby has not registered — or at least not voiced — appreciation should not stop you from citing him or her in your letter: “Tabitha adores the little lamb you gave her” or, “Everett looks incredibly cute in his sailor suit.”
Hang on just a few more years, and you will only have to nag your child to write his or her own letters.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I dislike my in-laws for many reasons, but I struggle with one issue because I think my bias clouds my judgment.
They live two hours away from my husband and our two children, and like to visit frequently (every four to six weeks), often staying for two nights or so. They are very much set in their ways. They drink a particular kind of soda and must bring it with them. They also bring their own cereal and sometimes other snacks and food.
My pantry is not barren. We have other drinks in the refrigerator. We have a wide variety of food.
As a hostess, do I have the duty to stock our refrigerator and pantry with the foods they like? My instinct is to be upset because what we have isn’t good enough, but I do not know if that is because of my bias.
GENTLE READER: It is because of your bias.
Actually, Miss Manners understands what a strain it must be to have frequent houseguests whom you dislike for whatever reasons. As you suspect, that makes their every little move irritating in a way that might not affect you from people you like.
But that does not excuse you from being gracious to your guests. Knowing their modest preferences and yet refusing to stock them is just mean. These visits will be more bearable for you if you do not hunt for more ways to justify your dislike.