Dear Miss Manners: My granddaughter has set a goal for herself of selling 300 boxes of cookies. Although it is a noble goal, I doubt if an 8-year-old can achieve this realistically.
She has asked me to purchase these cookies before, but, being a diabetic, I cannot eat them. I have explained that to her, but she thinks I should buy them anyway and give them away. I agreed to do that last year.
She is selling again this year, and I once again reminded her that I cannot eat them. She has now turned to other relatives for their support. I find that they are buying them, and some relatives have given them to me for Christmas or other occasions when they came to see me. I got the impression that they didn’t want them either, so they were “re-gifting.”
I hate to be such a Scrooge, but I am faced with a giant guilt trip if I don’t buy these cookies. I’m beginning to get angry at even the sight of a cookie box.
Gentle Reader: Ah, yes. This is what Miss Manners calls Virtuous Rudeness, as practiced and taught by many otherwise worthy organizations and individuals.
Your granddaughter’s goal hardly seems noble when it requires pressuring and embarrassing her relatives, even to the extent of ignoring her grandmother’s health concerns. But she is 8 years old, and has been led to believe that this is what it means to be concerned about the welfare of others. By having gone along with this, you, too, have reinforced the idea that this technique is legitimate.
Presumably, the activity is intended to teach philanthropy, which is indeed a noble goal, and, incidentally, to teach salesmanship. You would be doing your granddaughter a favor to teach her that the proper way to promote charity is to engage people’s sympathies in the cause that will benefit. It might also be valuable for her to learn that pressuring people to buy things they don’t want is ultimately bad for business.
This will not be easy. The child has been garnering praise for doing the opposite, and may be aware that many adults do so as well. But it would be a noble goal to set.
Deflect daughter’s fans
Dear Miss Manners: One of my children is a very accomplished, high-profile woman. Since she went to high school in our community, her name is well-known here.
Many times, when I am introduced to strangers and they realize that I am her mother, they will say to me, “Please let me know when she is in town. I would really like to meet her.” How do I say politely, “Why do you think she would like to meet you?” Of course, I don’t say that, but I sure would like to. Can you suggest a pleasant way to get this message across?
Gentle Reader: Not that message. You would be doing your daughter no favor to be rude to her fans. Miss Manners suggests that you thank them for their interest and say, with a sort of motherly helplessness, “Really, when she comes here, she wants to hibernate. Sometimes she makes an exception and sees a childhood friend, but that’s about it.”