All Manner of Bad Manners

On a warm spring evening in front of a friend's house, I hurried with my 13-year-old into the car and shut the door. "Did something happen at the bar mitzvah?" I asked. He calmly said no and asked why. "B's father just called Daddy over to talk privately and he looked somber," I explained. "If something's up, I'd rather hear it from you."

R was as clueless as I. When my husband returned to the car he asked that he and I speak privately later.


Here's the mystery: R didn't thank our friend for driving him a long way to and from a party.


Here's the twist. The man, M, punctuated the conversation with this: "I will never drive R again."


At first I was furious at R, of course. How could he not blurt out a "Thanks!"? Doesn't that come automatically after 13 years of over-eager parenting? Other adults have long told me how polite he is with them, but then again he has reached a hormone-fueled snarly stage. To find out if his impudence is universal, I did a sneaky mom thing. I e-mailed a mother who'd had him over earlier in the day asking her to tell me, honestly, if he'd thanked her for driving him home from a soccer game and for the spaghetti lunch she'd served the boys. She replied with an enthusiastic yes.


R didn't act appropriately, for sure, so we instituted a punishment that fit the crime: We had him write M a thank you note, which I promptly mailed.


But was the to-do necessary? How would others have handled it?


As a parent of two teenage sons, I've had many years of boy visitors. Most thank me often for everything from a glass of water to a weekend sleepover. But some are rude. I've had the occasional child beg me to buy him a toy, harass me for limiting Wii time or make jokes at my expense. I stood up to each one calmly and kindly and the problem subsided.


How would I have handled a free-rider like R? First of all, I'm not positive I'd notice if one kid didn't say thank you one time. If I did, I might say playfully, "Hey R, say thank you."


In this case, R didn't say it when he arrived at the party and he says now he can't even articulate why. When they got back, my husband and I happened to have been waiting outside. As the car doors opened, we strolled over with enthusiast thank you's and how-was-the-bashes, so R may have just been thrown off -- and M was clearly mad from R's lack of manners four hours earlier.


How would you handle this? Would you ban a child from your Toyota for life? Quietly let the parent know to work on his offspring's manners? Reprimand the boy? Approach him nicely? Or shrug off the entire non-event?


Be honest. Battle it out below. I'm darn curious. And I want comment activity on my blog.