DEAR MISS MANNERS: My parents and I hosted a small engagement party for my nephew. We hired a chef and held the event at my home. When it was time for dinner, we encouraged everyone to please sit down so we could enjoy the food while it was hot.
My sister was the last to come to the table. We were about to get started when she decided it was time to make a toast. We asked her not to. My dad, my husband, her husband and I all asked her to wait. She scolded us and proceeded with her toast anyway.
A few days later, I told her I felt she was rude about handling the toast. She was very upset by my statement, proclaiming that there’s no proper time to give a toast, especially at an informal dinner party.
GENTLE READER: Toasts should properly be given during the cocktail hour before dinner, or after the main meal and before dessert — presuming dessert is not a collapsible souffle. But Miss Manners is afraid that this information does not entitle you to scold your sister.
Only to have the satisfaction of being correct.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: After being away from our hometown for five years due to work, my husband and I are back, living just 30 minutes away from our daughter and her three little children. We are happy and excited to be back nearby.
We offered to watch the grandkids on Sunday, taking them on a picnic at a park near our home for the afternoon so that Mom could have a break. She agreed.
It turns out, she had erroneously thought we would be driving over to pick the kids up and bringing them home again after babysitting.
We do not have car seats. We had assumed she would bring the kids to us, go have some time to herself, then come back and pick them up.
She got irritated and angry and basically got off the phone in a huff, saying, “Oh, I have to do all the driving!”
Having been away from them for about five years, we kind of expected she wouldn’t mind the drive over and back to have free babysitting. Again, it is only about 30 minutes away. Our daughter frequently drives to much farther-away spots in our state, which is why we are perplexed about her angry attitude.
Are we wrong? Or is she?
GENTLE READER: There is no general rule when it comes to looking after one’s grandchildren. (Notice that Miss Manners pointedly does not say “babysitting.”)
You can make whatever stipulations you want as long as all parties agree to it in advance. That is where the breakdown here occurred: Each party assumed that it would be at their own convenience.
This does not justify your daughter’s anger, however; it just highlights the need to get ahead of it next time. Or to find out what else is bothering her.
Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com; to her email, email@example.com; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.