DEAR MISS MANNERS: At our local farmers market, I took my young children to the playground structure to burn off some energy after being in the stroller for some time. There was a small line of toddlers and preschoolers waiting in line to go down the slide.
When my child was second in line, an older girl (maybe in first or second grade) started climbing up the slide and actually stepped over the small toddler who was first in line. I looked around and didn't see her parents (at least anyone correcting her), and as she started stepping over my son, I said, "Honey, it is not kind to step over the other kids."
I normally don't get involved with playground issues unless there is actual danger, but felt that something had to be said; however, the mother of the toddler in line gave me a strange look. I have spent the time since second-guessing myself on whether I should have let this older girl continue to climb over the small kids and hold up the line to go down the slide. Did I do the correct thing?
GENTLE READER: You did. Miss Manners hopes that this is reassurance enough, as you are unlikely to find support anywhere else on the playground, unless perhaps from the squashed toddler.
There is a general ban against parenting other people's children, with the exception being, as you correctly cite, imminent danger. But "imminent danger" can be expanded to include stepping over (or on) your child — so long as you confine yourself to a polite, verbal correction, as you did. At the very least, you will have avoided accusations by your own toddlers in later years that you never stuck up for them.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: Is there something wrong with a married woman taking a vacation from everything, including her husband?
I have a very stressful work and graduate-school schedule, and am about ready to burst if I don't have a little two- or three-day retreat, just for myself, away from my household responsibilities. If this is OK, how do I go about telling my husband my plans without hurting his feelings?
GENTLE READER: Even if etiquette allowed us to admit having had enough of our nearest and dearest, human feelings would not. It inevitably leads the dearest to wonder whether two or three days are sufficient to dispel any negative emotions.
This is no time, in other words, for candor. It would be tactful to find someone you can stomach spending time with — a sister, a parent, a best friend — and present the trip as mother-daughter bonding, or whatever. Miss Manners hopes she does not need to explain that the list of acceptable companions is only very slightly larger than that given above.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: When a person buys and moves into a new home, is it up to the new homeowners to invite family to see their home (which sounds like you are looking for a gift), or should the family call and ask to see the house?
GENTLE READER: Even firefighters and paramedics wait for invitations from the homeowner before entering. Miss Manners expects the same to apply to family members, no matter how curious they may be.
Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com; to her email, firstname.lastname@example.org; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.