Miss Manners: Are we really supposed to bring a gift for the mother of a child celebrating a birthday?

DEAR MISS MANNERS: Would you be so kind to explain to me why it’s the new protocol, when invited to a child’s birthday party, that your child is expected to give the honoree’s mother a wrapped gift for giving birth 16 years ago? Now it’s two gifts that must be purchased for a birthday party -- one for the mom, one for the child.

I thought the husband was expected to give the mom a piece of jewelry, privately. It’s their moment, not to be shared with 30 kids from the birthday child’s class.

Entitlement is rapidly spreading, even in this time of financial issues for many. I might just go to a thrift store, purchase a participation trophy, wrap it up for the mom and congratulate her on a job well done in giving birth to her daughter.

I find this new custom rude. If a hostess gift is expected, I’ll bring chocolates, flowers or a trinket -- certainly not a $75 purse!

GENTLE READER: This “new protocol,” if it is one, is ridiculous. Miss Manners had heard of the unfortunately titled “push present” for new mothers, but 16 years after the fact is absurd. Receiving it from anyone not directly involved in the birth, even more so.

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DEAR MISS MANNERS: I have a young daughter who constantly gets compliments about how beautiful she is, which she is. I always tell her to say “thank you,” and she does.

However, I have noticed that people in the older generation tend to touch my daughter’s hair or want a hug from her.


I was taught as a child that when someone was overly friendly and wanted to touch my hair or hug me, I should just deal with it out of respect, despite my discomfort. I don’t want to let my child feel that way, but I have a hard time standing up for her because of how I was raised.

An example: Today at the store, my daughter was approached by an older woman who touched her hair and then grabbed her into a hug. I was stunned and didn’t know what to say to the woman without being disrespectful.

How do I stand up for my daughter? Please ask your readers to talk to the parents before touching a child, even their hair, or hugging them. I’m trying to teach my child about consent, but I can’t help her practice it if I can’t defend her, either.

GENTLE READER: If you are teaching your daughter to say “thank you,” you may also tell her to say “No thank you” when a stranger is approaching her. Or, in cases less benign than that old lady, a firm “NO!”

With regard to your own upbringing and the notion of showing respect for others, Miss Manners will add that respect goes both ways: No one should be touching anyone without consent. If you see that happening to your daughter, you may rush to her defense saying, “I didn’t know what was happening. You’ll forgive me if I’m on high alert. We have taught our daughter to be cautious when it comes to strangers, even with well-intentioned ones like you.”

Miss Manners | Judith Martin, Nicholas Ivor Martin and Jacobina Martin

Miss Manners, written by Judith Martin and her two perfect children, Nicholas Ivor Martin and Jacobina Marin, has chronicled the continuous rise and fall of American manners since 1978. Send your questions to