April 28, 2010

What Happened to Manners?

When the girls had their birthday and only two people RSVP'd I had a small blog rant about etiquette... namely, why don't people RSVP anymore? I was surprised by the number of comments from people who had similar experiences. Now there's a new lapse in etiquette which baffles me: the thank you note.
I am one of those people who tries very diligently to write thank you letters. After birthdays or Christmas, I try to have notes written and mailed within a week. It doesn't always happen in that time frame, but it gets done. The last few birthday parties the girls have gone to have resulted in zero thank yous. The parents had the children acknowledge the gifts as they opened them, but no thank yous were sent.
I realize that until the age of 8 (give or take a year) the burden of thank you notes falls to the parents. In our busy lives, it can be hard to set aside time to do this... but shouldn't it still be done?
These days I ask the girls to tell me something they like about their gift. Their responses can be quite comical, but I make sure to include them in the letter. At the end, they each write the first letter of their name. Previously, they would make a scribble... something to show they took part in the process. They've asked me several times why we're writing the letters. I explain to them that it's important to let people know how much their gifts meant to us.
I've actually read blogs from twin moms who said they shouldn't be expected to write thank yous after the birth of their babies. (If you're one of those moms, please know, I'm not calling you out or trying to start an argument). I get it. Having one newborn makes life crazy. Having two or more? Chaos. I kept a running list of all the gifts we received. The list had a spot where I then checked off whether I sent a note and when I sent it. It was extremely important to me to acknowledge each and every item we received. I didn't want anyone to think their gift was overlooked, lost in the shuffle or unappreciated. To this day, I still feel guilty about a gift we received. One day Hubby came home from work with a bag full of diapers in various sizes. There was no card, nothing. We both happened to work at the same TV station at the time and the bag was waiting for him at the receptionist's desk when he arrived. I have no idea who gave us those much appreciated diapers and I still wish that I could have thanked him/her. My guess is it was a viewer of the newscast I anchored who generously thought of my family. I just wish I could have said "thank you for thinking of us."
I've given wedding gifts that have gone unacknowledged. I once emailed a bride months after the wedding to make sure she received our gift. Her response? "Yes, thanks" (via email). Short, void of emotion... but at least she said thank you! (eventually)


Brooke said...

I couldn't agree more. I'm constantly baffled at the lack of thank-you notes from weddings, showers, birthdays, Christmas - it makes me want to stop giving gifts to certain people, though I keep doing it.

Sometimes insead of the traditional thank-you, I'll take a picture of the boys with their gift holding up a piece of paper that say's "thank you" and send it to the person. I've also used snapfish to make a postcard with a thank-you border (of a pic of my kid with the gift) and they'll mail it right to the person - costs like a buck. We did that for the aunts and uncles who bought Mo a big wheel last year.

Sadia said...

I was never taught to send thank you cards as a child, and I must admit that I'm spotty. I have to admit that if I've said thank you in person (or by e-mail), I usually don't send a card. Three-quarters of the time, I don't know the person's mailing address, although I could, of course, ask. The only relatives of ours who regularly send thank you cards are Lucas' aunt and her kids.

However, the fact that I say thank you at all is an improvement over my own family. I still don't know whether my sister received any of the gifts we sent for my nephew!

On the other side of things, though, I'm always surprised when I receive a thank you card, particularly from a toddler.

So, etiquette question: Should I be sending thank you cards to people who attend our daughters' birthday parties? We specifically ask that no gifts be brought, but we are thankful for our guests' presence.

reanbean said...

I hear you on this one. I can't say that I enjoy writing thank you notes, but it's something I was taught to do and I do think it's important. At this point, I write all the thank yous for gifts sent to our children, but soon I hope the kids will become more involved. And when I was teaching, I would always have my students write thank yous to guest speakers and parents who volunteered on field trips or special projects in the classroom.

But I'm not clear on what the proper etiquette is for when to send a thank you and when it's not necessary. Do you still send a thank you if you received the gift in person and expressed your thanks at that time or only if the gift was sent to you to express acknowledgement and thanks?

Writer Lady said...

You have guilted me into writing a thank-you note. I do believe in them. I think I'm just lazy - or maybe I don't sit down at my desk long enough to get these things done.


Stephanie Barr said...

I am a transgressor and I can't blame my upbringing. My mother was assiduous in making us writing thank you notes.

I hate writing anything by mail. You'd think I'd be a good correspondent in general, but I suck as a pen pal. Perhaps it's because I'm absent-minded. Undoubtedly, it's because I'm lazy. I try to call and let people know I'm grateful, but I'm just not good at the thank you thing.

Fortunately, I'm not on the receiving end of much. And that's OK. If I can't make an effort to be grateful, I deserve to fend for myself.

Quadmama said...

My personal feeling is that if someone gives you a gift you should send a thank you note... even if you've thanked them in person. As for your question Sadia: I wouldn't send a thank you for someone attending the party... I think people can tell from the vibe of the festivities that you truly enjoy/appreciate having them there.

Quadmama said...

OH, and I like the idea of taking pictures with the gift over a traditional note... it makes it more personal and might even be easier (especially at Christmas when we take a zillion pictures!) I'll have to try that one.

Quadmama said...

As for phone calls or thanking the person verbally, it's a step in the right direction. At least you're telling the person you appreciate the gesture.

MandyE (Twin Trials and Triumphs) said...

I'm so with you on this one! I have to add that I dislike the generic "Thanks for the gift" thank-you's almost as much as not getting an acknowledgement! :)

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