Monday, October 17, 2005

Memories of Bad Manners

I've just started another big crochet project. I'm making a baby blanket for some good friends who are expecting their first child at the end of February or beginning of March. I'm getting started on it now in anticipation of a baby shower (date TBD), and because it's never too early to start a big undertaking. And for me, blankets are a bigger challenge than other types of things to make, like baby clothing, because of their sheer size and repetitiveness. There is little variation to keep you, umm, challenged and focused for the majority of the project. So anyway, I was working on this project and I started thinking about how much I enjoy making special, handmade baby gifts for people and all of the various gifts I've given over the past year or so. Which then brought to mind how appalling the state of common courtesy is. At least where thank you notes are concerned.

I feel I have some really terrific friends in my life. I enjoy doing nice things for them. Making these gifts brings me a lot of personal satisfaction, but I don't do it solely for my own entertainment. I spend the time (and oh - so much time - !) and money on these treasures because I want to give my friends something special. And from and of me, personally. So when I go to all this effort and then not receive what I consider to be a proper thank you, it really begins to make me question whether to do it again.

So what's a proper thank you? Is a phone call sufficient? An email? Is it ever too late to send a thank you card in the mail? Just what are the acceptable standards in today's busy society? I have vivid memories of my mother making my sisters and I sit at the kitchen table the day or two after Christmas and write out all of our thank you cards for the various presents we'd received. It was mandatory. It was what was expected and there were no two ways about it. Period. Grandma gave you something hideous you wouldn't be caught dead in? Write her a thank you note thanking her for thinking of you and for giving you a gift. We had to find something nice to say in each of our thank you's. I remember my mom bitching each year because my cousins NEVER sent thank you notes, and she felt insulted and found them ungrateful. She still harbors some negative feelings to this day because of that social gaffe. So when it came time for me to get married, it was very important that I get all my thank you cards mailed out within a month of the wedding. Mr. Chick wrote out the one's that went to his friends or family, and I did the ones that went to my side of things. It's just the polite thing to do. He and I still haven't forgotten that his cousin and his wife never thanked us for the wedding gift we gave them. We had to travel for the wedding, so it was sort of a big deal. We wonder if perhaps they never received our gift? These are the doubts that creep in when you aren't acknowledged for a gift.

To me, a proper thank you means a written note sent in the mail. There's just something about receiving a handwritten expression of gratitude that makes you feel good about giving. Knowing that your efforts were acknowledged and appreciated. Of course that's not the motivation behind the giving of the gift, but it sort of completes the circle in a way that's gratifying. Recently, I boxed up all of the clothes that Lauren has outgrown in the past year. We're talking about a HUGE box of clothes that would outfit a child for all 4 seasons from 12 mos - 24 mos. Shoes, coats, dresses, tights, pj's, tops, bottoms, snow gear - the works. And it was not inexpensive to ship across the country, either. But we never heard from our friends after we knew they had received the box. Perhaps it got delayed in getting there, we thought. So one evening I was emailing this friend about something else entirely when I happened to include a PS at the bottom of my message saying to watch her mail because she should be receiving a big box from us. She emailed me back that night saying that she'd received the box and how great it was, blah blah blah, but that's been the extent of any thank you. I'm left feeling disappointed somehow. It feels like I had to prompt her to say anything at all, and what I got was an off-hand couple of sentances in an email that was about a different topic altogether. Like it was an after-thought. My feelings are a little hurt, I admit. I specifically saved all these clothes for her, carefully washing, folding, and packing them away in this ginormous box, only to get a "oh! the box came and the clothes are great. Thanks!" in an email. Now I ask you, what would Miss Manners say about this? Am I being too sensitive or rigid in my expectations about what is considered good manners? I'd even feel better if she'd picked up the phone specifically to thank me for the clothes. She needs never buy another item of clothing for her daughter for the next year. Is it too much to think she could even just call me to thank me? Or drop a note in the mail expressing appreciation? I don't think so, but maybe I'm wrong.

Or today, when I was out with a friend of mine for whose daughter I'd made a darling sun dress for her first birthday last year. I never received a thank you note, yet she thanked me verbally when she opened the gift. Is that enough? To my way of thinking (and upbringing), it's not. Of course you say thank you when you open a gift in the presence of the person who gave it, but that doesn't necessarily excuse you from the polite obligation of formally sending a thank you note. Or does it? Do you only need to send a thank you card if you open or receive something when not in the company of the giver? I was once part of a group thank you email, I kid you not, from a friend on behalf of her daughter, a few days after the party. She claimed she didn't know who gave what to her daughter so she sent out this blanket email thanking everyone for their gifts. It was so impersonal and left a bad taste in everyone's mouth. She came across as too lazy to have paid attention to the gifts her daughter received.

And as bad as that was, it's still better than those people who just never send or say anything. It's like your gifts go out into this big, black void and you have no idea if they liked what you gave them, if they even got it, or what. I think never acknowledging or thanking someone for a gift is rude. Plain and simple. Call me old fashioned. I put a lot of thought and energy into the gifts I give. I'm not able to spend a lot of money on gifts, so I give of myself. I make a lot of stuff. I get creative. To not have someone say thanks belittles the gift and makes me feel bad. Like what I'd done didn't matter. We all appreciate receiving a thank you card for something we did or gave, so why is it so hard to write one? I know my friends are good people, so I'm willing to overlook the occasional lapse in good manners and continue to celebrate the big events in their lives with special gifts, but I must confess to feeling a little less enthusiastic about investing so much of myself if I've been stung in the past. Once bitten, twice shy, as the saying goes. It's the little things that mean so much, so remember what your mother taught you and don't forget to say thanks!

Comments:
I'm definitely with you on this. Friends of ours got married last Labor Day and DH was even in the wedding. I bought them this $100 bar set that they registered for then searched a bunch of places online to find labrador wine charms to go with them. I really thought they would love it but of course, no thank you was ever sent. And I know they got it since I see it in their gameroom at their house!!
 
I had a neighbor friend suprise me by bringing over a huge box of clothes and the clothes were awful.
I was so hurt and offended that she would expect my child to wear her childs used underwear.

She also was a big "bargain" shopper so the clothes were from cheap stores, and completely not my style.
I take great pride in how I dress my child and enjoy finding cute new clothes for him/her.

All I could muster to say was a quick "thank you and they were great" for fear of showing my true emotions.
I guess my point is that we all don't think alike. What you may find as wonderful may not be how other people see it.
I do agree with the birthday/occasion gift thank you thoughs. They are a MUST.
 
Oh yes...I'm with you on this one. My mom was the same way with us as we were growing up. I am having my daughter (just turned 5) do the same thing. She can't write out the notes completely, so I write them and she signs her name and draws a picture to include. No one else in my husband's family EVER writes thank-yous for anything. Truthfully, they barely say thank you when they open gifts and they have big birthday parties for their kids EVERY YEAR...it's like asking for presents, I think. I think it's so incredibly rude. But, I could go on and on about my husband's family! ha ha! :)

Heather
mom to Becca, age 5
#2, edd 5/2/06
 
Totally agree with you! I always make my kids write thank yous and I am in the minority it seems. I rarely receive thank yous for anything I give. and I make a lot of personal gifts as well. I also put a lot of time into finding the perfect gifts and nothing ever as far as a thank you. It is so discouraging. I hope my kids grow up knowing it is the right thing to do. And I disagree with anonymous who said they were discouraged by the type of clothes thatwere given to her. This is a case of "it's the thought that counts" because I doubt the neighbor was bringing them over to offend you. Not everyone has thesame style in clothes but it sounds like the motivation was heartfelt and that deserves a written thank you even if the clothes are never used. I think people are just too lazy these days and too self absorbed to think of thank yous. it it very sad.
 
I couldnt agree more that a lot of people are lazy and self absorbed these days. Although I think the whole gift idea should be addressed as well.
Maybe its hard for her friends to be thankful when they get a gift that is home-made, becasue "I'm not able to spend a lot of money on gifts" yet she shows them the brand new diamond ring, or invites them over to use the expensive brand new tub.
If I had a friend like this I would have to question her priorities and be a little less enthusiastic with my thank you's as well.
I wrote the above post about the used clothes and I am from Germany and that is just not done there. My personal opinion is that home-made gifts should be extra's. Like crafts. Fun things on the side. Not the main present and you should ASK first if you want to give something old to someone.
 
I'm with you 100%. I think it is lazy, unexcusable, and just plain bad manners to not send a written thank you note. That's how I grew up- my mom made us write thank you notes for every gift we received. I had all 350+ thank you notes from our wedding done within a month. As I got presents for Brody, I wrote a thank you within a week.

Brent says if I'm giving a gift expecting a thank you note, I'm giving it for the wrong reason. Whatever!

I have several friends and family members who have gotten married and/or had babies in the last 3 years. Even though money was tight, I always sent a present. I only got thank you's from about half. I've decided that if I don't get a thank you, they won't get another present for me, regardless of the celebration. Period.
 
And anonymous- regardless of MP's new diamond ring or hot tub, it's just fucking RUDE to not thank someone.

I think it's horrible that you believe homemade gifts should be "extra." WTF? It's a lot more personal than running in to Target and buying something off a registry. Whatever happened to "it's the thought that counts"??

I guess Germans just raise their children to be rude and materialistic.
 
You insult an entire country? I only said in Germany we do not to that becasue it was an American friend who gave me the clothes.

You should spend more time on your manners and your children than reading and writing on blogs.
 
It wasn't my intention to insult an entire country. I apologize. (Although you had no problems insulting Americans because your neighbor dared to offer you her child's outgrown clothes.)

You want to talk about manners? This coming from someone who makes passive-agressive comments about MP's ring and hot tub. Oh, and then hides behind "Anonymous."

And FYI, my baby is napping. (Not that it's any of your damn business.)

Sorry for hijacking your comments, MP. I'm done.
 
"and then hides behind "Anonymous."

I am not hiding, my name is Helena. My name does not make difference becasue I do not have a Blog. I find only self absorbed people haves Blog and I like to read them becasue it makes me laugh...like your blog. Who cares that your child likes Vacuums, who????
 
I am SO with you on this!!! My mother was like your mom, and while it bugged me then, I understand now and to this day send thank you notes within two weeks of the gathering. And the group e-mail thing, yah, one of my friends did this a few months ago. Pissed me off! If someone thinks of you,a nd gives you a gift, regardless of what it is or whether you like it, you need to thank them. They thought of you,take the time to think of them. Too many people in this world have no one who cares two wits about them, thus no need to write thank you notes. Consider yourslef lucky if you do.
Bev
 
Wow - lots of action here today - I'm not used to that! Seems I struck a chord. I normally don't feel the need to defend myself, so all I'll say about my new diamond and hottub in context with my comment about "not spending a lot of money on gifts" is this: the diamond was a gift to me from my husband, purchased over 4 years ago. In other words, pre-law school and our tighter budget constraints. He simply waited for the right opportunity to give it to me. So yeah, I was excited about it and wanted to share it. And the hottub? A gift to ourselves, bought with tax refund money, after 3 years of student life. We felt like splurging on ourselves for once in a long, long time. We've had to be really frugal with our spending - shopping for clothes at resale places or discount stores. Or gratefully wearing hand-me-downs. So the fact that we could finally do something nice for our family was a good thing. I don't feel bad about that purchase at all. We go in it nearly everyday and it's become a fun way for our family to spend time together. To suggest that we shouldn't spend that money on ourselves and instead should use it in some other way, when no one is truly familiar with our family finances, is ignorant.

I think the phrase "spending a lot of money" is relative. What's a lot? What's too little? Is $20 a cheap or expensive gift? It depends. And I also think there is a huge difference between homemade and handmade. Homemade gifts are the kinds of crafts my kids create. Handmade is in an entirely different league. I hope everyone can appreciate the difference. To take the time and energy to create a special, unique gift for someone usually means a lot more than simply buying something. Anyone can buy something. I think most people appreciate a handmade card their child or spouse created much, much more than one they bought. It has more value because it was made with love.

but the bottom line is that ANY gift, whether you like it or not, deserves acknowledgement. Someone took the time to think of you, whether they opened their pocketbook, made something with their own two hands, or made a nice gesture (like giving hand-me-down clothes). It's thanking them for their thoughtfulness, not their taste.
 
I totally agree with you MP! Gifts should always be followed by a thank you note. To me its bad manners when one can not even sit down and write' Thanks for the cute dress you made Sarah, and the thought and love you put into making it for her' Less than five minutes of time it would take. My youngest sister is due to have a baby in May. I have been buying her stuff almost everytime I go out, I tell her I bought her stuff(not telling her what though) and all she says is'what did you get me?' not thanks kris, i appreciate you buying stuff for the baby' I find it rude and bad manners on her part. Because I called her and thanked her personally when she mailed me my baby stuff years ago. I am sure she has loads of excuses like I am tired or working, blah blah. Whatever I say! Makes me wonder if she wants to keep people in her life, the right thing to do is say thanks. Because the whole bad manners leaves a bad taste in my mouth, period.
You brought up a good point and I was just thinking of this myself the other day.
 
Hi,
its funny how I stumbled across this blog.I would like to say that not that store boughten gifts aren't nice or appreciated, personally to me,I would much rather receive a hand made gift that was from the heart & made with love, I agree with MP anyone can buy a gift or get a gift from the gift registry list(personally I find the gift registry thing rude , you pick out huge expensive gifts expecting people to buy them for you ,most people feel stuck or obligated not wanting to be feel like a heel if they don't get it.Most of the time the least expensive gifts have been purchased by others and you feel stuck and your purchase is more than you would have spent.)Isn't that a bit much to expect not knowing if someone could afford it? Back to the hand made gifts,and cards (I love them and cherish them, they mean so much to me.)I have a friend who has been sick for years with chronic pain who hand embroidered a set of pillow cases for me.I was so touched they were beautiful,and today she has no use of her hands.I cannot begin to tell you how much this Christmas gift means!Priceless
I agree that some people can be tacky and cheap,but for the person who is creative and pours their love and time into making me a gift and words that are written from their heart and not a card mass produced with words that aren't their own(again priceless ,that speaks for a thousand words!)Money can't buy love.Whether a gift be purchased or handmade it should receive a thank you note.Its plain rude not to say thank you even if you didn't like it,they took the time to come to your party and remember you. Eve from NY
 
Dear Friend, I too am struggling with the whole concept of manners. Especially within my husband's family where no one - without exception including spouses! - answers emails, responds with Thank Yous or RSVP, or even acknowledges presents being given. The few times I have addressed this issue - in a polite & sort-of joking way - I've been totally rebuffed & made to feel that they are the victim. I suppose if they don't know enough to have manners in the first place they certainly are not going to begin to identify with my position. I am caught now by having invited a slew of these inlaws to my home for Thanksgiving only to have the lot of them change all the plans, rearrange their 'agendas' to suit them & all without ringing or informing me of this. I had to ring them - which I find even more galling then their rudeness. Thanks for letting me share Ms. Chick!
 
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