Ellen Nordberg, Author

Five Rules of Holiday Etiquette Not to Bother Teaching Your Children

Boulder Lifestyle

From Boulder Lifestyle December 2014

Over the course of twelve Decembers trying to instill Emily Post-worthy behavior in my identical twin boys, I’ve seen many of my holiday manners tutorials come back to bite me.

Here are my top five lessons to avoid:

5. Answer the Door to Grown Ups Like a Big Boy. You will tell your child to first identify the person at the door. You will instruct him to shake hands and look the visitor in the eye, greeting them appropriately, like: “Hello, Mr. Claus,” or “Nice to see you, Mrs. Kravits.” This may result in you exiting the shower one afternoon to hear the doorbell, and then the sound of your least social neighbors inviting your family to their Super Bowl party. Trapped in a tiny towel, you will overhear your son’s response: “Thank you so much Mr. and Mrs. Sherman, but we have so many other friends and party invitations, I don’t think we’ll make it!”

4. Always Write Thank You Notes. With your grandmother’s long ago expectations in mind, you will encourage your children to create pieces of art, adorned with elf hat wearing alligators, and charmingly misspelled words. They will be so enthusiastic about expressing gratitude, they will hand deliver notes as fast as they can write them. This will backfire when they make a delivery to the neighborhood Debbie Fields holiday baker, expressing appreciation for her cheesecake, and informing her that they did not sample it because you told them “it was gross.”

3. Tidy Up Before Hosting Guests. Your boys will be taught to pick up their Legos, tuck away their trains, and place balls in their baskets. But even on a day with flying pigs, this will not happen. Ten minutes before your party you will scream at them in a Wizard of Oz witch voice, chuck every toy they own into your husband’s office, then lock the door and wrap it with festive yellow caution tape.

2. Sit Quietly with Hands Folded in Lap During Church. Your children will learn to sit on opposite sides of their father, silently coloring the Poinsettias on the program, or counting the stained glass windows. They will be still briefly. This this will explode one Christmas Eve, partway through the Nativity Pageant.  One of your boys will shout, “You know what this show needs?” to the horror of the priest and your mother-in-law, and the delight of all parents within ear shot. “It needs some sheep!”

1. Behave Appropriately While Holiday Shopping. Your own mother didn’t include little ones in tree trimming, so you will enthusiastically escort your boys into a crowded Sur La Table store in December, instructing them to calmly select an ornament of their choice. While you smugly examine table runners, congratulating yourself on superior holiday parenting, one boy will call loudly across the crowd from the rear of the store. “Mom! Hey Mom!” he will say. “This one looks like a margarita glass. We should get it for you. You love margaritas!”

Despite these failures, I refuse to stop teaching manners to my children. But we may need to email our thank you messages, keep the door locked, and start shoveling neighbors’ driveways for free.


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