R.S.V.P. – A Question of Etiquette
When it comes to parenting, there are times we leave certain aspects of our roles to life experience. Yes, we may tell our children “Always say please and thank you” but until they are in the situation where the phrases are needed, the instructions tend to be no more than words to them. This theory is no different when it comes to those lessons we may make the mistake of thinking our teenagers should simply ‘know’ because of their age haven’t exactly gone as planned. I ran into one of these instances recently when my 16 year old son was given an invitation to one of his friend’s Sweet Sixteen Party.
Please Reply. A pretty simple concept right? Reply is simply to respond in words or writing. If someone asks you a question, you give them a reply. So why, when I tried to explain this concept to my 16 year old teenager, did I receive an “Ok Maaaaa” and the feeling that I was speaking to a brick wall?
Maybe I should back track a bit. About a month ago my teenager was ushering during the Youth Service at our church. At some point, he was handed an invitation from one of his friends from school who also happens to attend our church. It was an invitation to her Sweet Sixteen Party. Now it wasn’t a run of the mill handwritten invitation to say a party at the local grab and go restaurant. No. This was a printed and designed fancy spancy Sweet Sixteen Party invitation. That being said, what did my teenager do with it? Did he give it to his Momma after service to make note of the date, time etc. and reply? Of course not. He stuck it in his pant pocket and continued on with his duties. Not only did I not see or hear anything about said invitation that day, I didn’t hear anything about it for weeks. Instead, he took it out of his pocket, and it began the rotation around his room until the day of said Sweet Sixteen Party which was nearly a month later.
So fast forward to the day of the party. This also happened to be the same day as a Youth Meeting that I
forced umm reminded my teenager of his responsibility to attend. When he came home from this meeting (turned out to be a fun day of Bowling planned by the Youth Department), my aunt informed me that the teenager was supposed to be attending a Sweet Sixteen Party later that evening but never bothered to reply to the invitation. This is when he went up to his room and reappeared with the beautiful Pink, Black & White themed invitation which was in an envelope with his name printed in hot pink ink.
I immediately asked him why he never bothered to mention that he was given the invitation or the fact that he needed and neglected to RSVP. What was I met with? A blank stare and the following question: What’s an RSVP?
Had I seriously failed as a mother to ever cover this basic level of etiquette? I guess I simply assumed on some level that he knew if something said RSVP all it meant was you needed to reply and let the person know if you were coming. Whether it was Yes or No. You still needed to reply. He said he figured since he told her when she gave it to him he didn’t think he was going to be able to make it that was good enough to count as a reply.
Of course, then I had to go through and explain how that was not good enough. The fact that the party was going to be at a hotel, it was an *invitation only* party and that her mother listed a RSVP By Date all lead to the indication that she may be paying per person or at least per plate. For that reason alone we owed them the courtesy of calling prior to the date she indicated and giving her a definite reply that he wasn’t attending.
The entire time I was standing there trying to break all of this down to my glazed over teenager I was wondering how I never taught him this stuff before. In reality, he never really had an opportunity to learn it. Prior to this, the only parties he attended were word of mouth invitations or children parties that I was given the invitations for and I never sat down and explained to him why I was calling the parents. So in all honesty, I couldn’t techinicaly hold him responsible.
Yet, somehow, I guess I thought he would have figured it out somehow. Needless to say my teenager now understands the meaning of RSVP and how to reply in a timely manner. Unfortunately I had to do the grown up thing and call the mother and apologize profusely explain that I just saw the invitation and how he couldn’t attend. I actually had to leave a message but hopefully she understood.