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Missed Manners

Both of my Girl Scout troops celebrated the holidays with a gift exchange, so I picked up two packs of Squinkies for Mallory and Phoebe's contributions. "What if the person who gets this already has Squinkies?" Mallory asked.

"Well, that's what gift receipts are for," I said; but then I saw the opportunity for a Teachable Moment. "Actually, though, what DO you do when someone gives you a gift you already have?"

"You say, 'I have this at home!'" Phoebe said.

"Well, no. You should just smile and say 'Thank you!' The person doesn't need to know that you already have it; that might make them feel bad."

"Oh, and then you can take it back to the store and get something else?" Mallory said.

"Yes, you could do that," I said. "But you shouldn't tell the person you're going to do that."

"Yeah, but remember last year? When I got that High School Musical doll from Sarah at my party?" Mallory said. "And I don't like High School Musical so you let me take it back to Target?"


"That wasn't because I already had it, that was because I just didn't LIKE it. So that's okay too, right?"

"Yes, but the important thing is that you're not rude about it. As long as you said thank you to Sarah for the doll, and she didn't KNOW you didn't like it--"

"So as long as you don't tell the truth, right?" Phoebe said.

"Well." I had the distinct feeling that my Teachable Moment was getting away from me. "You should always tell the truth, of course. It's just that sometimes it's more important to be polite."

"Being polite is more important than not lying? Is that what you're saying?" Mallory demanded.

"There's a kind of lie called a little white lie," I said. "And yes, it's something you say when you don't want someone's feelings to be hurt. Like if someone gives you a present you don't like, you should go ahead and say thank you and that you like it very much. That's not a bad lie."

"But what if you go to a priest, and you have to confess your sins, do you have to confess that lie?" Mallory said. "Or do you say that you did tell a lie, but it was a good kind of lie, will the priest understand that?"

"God will understand, and that's all that matters," I said, a bit desperately.

"But what if the person comes to your house after you take the gift back," Phoebe said, "and they want to know where it is? And you don't have it anymore?"

"Yeah," Mallory said, "then you'll have to tell another lie to cover up for the fact that you took it back."

"The point is," I said, "that it's very important to say thank you when you receive a gift. Because when someone gives you a gift, it's because they like you and want you to be happy, and that matters much more than what the gift actually is."

"Okay, Mom, we get it," Mallory said. "You don't have to have that face on."

"What face?"

"Your leader face. Right now you're just our mom."


You would've thought, after the disastrous turn this conversation took, that I would've learned my lesson. But no -- when my Daisy troop met for our Christmas party, and I could legitimately wear my leader face, which I did not even know I had, by the way, I tried again. "What do we say when someone gives us a present?" I asked the girls before we passed out the gifts.

"Thank you!" the girls chorused.

"Right! But what if someone gives you a gift you don't really like? What do you say then?"

"No thank you!" they said.

"Well, that's not quite --" I began. And then I stopped. And let it go.


aimee said…
No thank you. Priceless. Actually that whole conversation is. That is a hard thing to teach. I think you should get an A+ for effort!
Karen said…
That is hard to teach. It is even harder when one has children who are so literal!

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