Where are my manners?

Tue, May 16, 2006


I don’t like them, but I’ve gotten used to our era of E-mail party invitations and even some E-mail birthday cards. But today, my daughter and I got our first ever E-mail thank you note following a recent birthday party for one of her six-year-old friends. The note, sent to a group list, said that the birthday girl loved all her presents and wanted to thank us by E-mail.

Where is Miss Manners when you need her?

Granted, the mom who sent this electronic message has six children, so I know she’s a busy woman and I can’t even to begin to imagine what short-cuts I would take if I had that many kids. But there are ways around the E-mail route to be efficient and that would send the right social message, both to the gift-giver and the recipient. For example, we got another note today that was pre-printed that said ‘thank you’ for another birthday gift. Was that any better? I think so, because it actually required some effort by the birthday girl in acknowledging her birthday loot, by writing each person’s name and signing her own. She had to go through the act of recognizing in a tangible way the person and the gift. I’ve seen others that said a generic thank you, but they were hand-drawn by the receiver of the gifts and then color-copied by one of the parents at Kinko’s.

We spend so much time drilling our kids in face-to-face manners, why miss the opportunity to have them at least minimially personalize a thank you to their friends? The message this mom sent today to her daughter was, if you’re too busy, it’s OK to have someone else send an impersonal ‘thank you’ on your behalf.

I can appreciate the desire to take care of the thank you’s that way, but it’s a slippery slope when we start deciding we can spare our children lessons in the most fundamental of social graces. All we’re doing is sending a big signal that it’s acceptable to let social constructs slide if you’re under the gun. And that’s a bad idea to plant in the heads of kindergartners who are just starting to understand the importance of manners, because if we don’t, they’ll only turn into inconsiderate adults.

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2 Responses to “Where are my manners?”

  1. Coolshoes Says:

    Boy do I hear you. I’ve also gotten the e-mail thank yous. What’s worse, around here, the new norm is to attach a pre-printed (often unsigned) thank you note to the goody bag guests take home from the party. They usually say something quite nonspecific like, “Thanks for sharing my birthday.” My guess is the birthday child was never even involved in the process.

    What’s next, sending thank-yous along with invitations, just to cover the bases?

    The New York Times recently noted that today’s kids will grow up with virtually no letter-writing skills (or thrills). What a shame. Parents, make your kids pick up a pen once in a while!

    check my post “I’m in the Times” for more on this

  2. Holly Says:

    My grandmother, who was also a journalist, and I wrote letters to each other for over thirty years. her last letter came to me on December 11, 2005. She died exactly one month later. She taught me the importance of the written word in every single aspect.

    And when my father died three years ago, my email inbox was flooded with brief condolence emails. EMAILS. It was nice to be thought of, but COME ON people.

    If people like us are passionate and vocal, maybe we can keep the postal service in business. Plus, the NSA and W’s government can’t read our snail mail. YET.

    Holly Aguirre
    journalist, and conent editor for ThisNext.com

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