Dear Miss Manners, I think my baby’s Southern.

I’ve been in bed since 4pm. Forward my calls to Phillip. I don’t get any calls. Forward my texts to Phillip. I don’t get those, either. I bet when people are faced with a crisis of some sort, and their phone is in their hand, and they need to text someone, they don’t think, “You know whose number I wish I had?” and then think my name. And that’s a good thing. Because I feel like I would try, but it would probably go poorly. I think it would probably go something like every time I try to have an interaction with Miriel on Twitter. Like, halfway through, I’m desperately looking for an exit and can only see one on the other side, and she’s on the ground clutching her head going, “I don’t know what it… I don’t know, but I think… I think a moose?”

Now I’m wondering what situation a person might find herself in in which she would look down at her phone and be like, oh damn, I need to text her immediately. If you know that kind of situation and are frequently in them, tell me. I will give you my number.

Sometimes Penelope sneezes – that’s not news – and she says, “Bless you, Penny,” – you should know that while I’ve taken to calling her Penelope a lot of the time, she just won’t accept it and I’m past the point of enforcing it, so you can feel free to call her whichever. I mean, when you have a kid, and you give your kid a long name with several shortened choices – like say Elizabeth, or Christopher, or William, or James, or Penelope – it IS, I think, up to you, as the parent, to dictate what choice you’re going with. If you’ve chosen William and you like Liam and your mother-in-law insists that she’ll be calling him Billy, you are well within your rights to insist that until she sees a doctor to sort out her apparent memory issues and can recall your son’s name – Liam – she doesn’t need to see him. But then, it IS your child’s name, and a name is a personal thing, and once said child expresses a preference, you need to back off. We named Penelope Penelope, and we chose the nickname Penny (there are lots of other things I could imagine us having gone with, or even going with in the future, maybe), and I never insisted that anyone use the full, formal Penelope when referring to her nor did I ban it. It’s always been an option. But if you ask HER to say it, she just responds, “Penny.”

“Can you say mama?”
“Can you say daddy?”
“Can you say elephant?”
“Efawent.” (Ha! No, she can’t!)
“Can you say Penelope?”
“No, I Penny.”


So, sometimes Penelope, who isn’t the boss of me and can’t read yet so whatever, I’ll say what I want on my own blog, sneezes, and she says “Bless you, Penny,” and if I hear her sneeze, I also say, “Bless you, Penny.” Or sometimes she is doing something dangerous – actually, lots of times she is doing something dangerous – and she’ll wobble a little, or just move very carefully, and she’ll say, “Be careful, Penny,” and if I catch her wobbling out of the corner of my eye, or I see her scaling some furniture, or reaching to get something I’m pretty certain she couldn’t reach just a couple of days ago, I’ll also say, “Be careful, Penny.”

It’s cute, right, this little mimicking things kids do. She obviously learned how to say “bless you” after someone sneezes because that’s just what happens, she hears a sneeze – or sneezes herself – and it’s immediately followed with, “Bless you, whoever.” And she joined in once she got it. It’s cute. It’s how kids learn. We’re one one millionth of a percent of the way toward raising a human being who can function appropriately in society. THE SYSTEM IS WORKING. Additionally, the whole be careful thing. Of course that’s something she hears. Over and over and over, day in and day out. I’m surprised she says it to herself so gently, since she mostly hears it at a high frequency screech coupled with the whistling sound of me launching myself toward her across the house like HOLY CRAP, DID I TELL YOU? RIGHT after Phil left for six weeks, she and I were hanging out in the house, because that’s basically what we did for SIX WEEKS, and she said something about going off to find a screwdriver and headed toward her room. All the other doors in the hall were closed, so I was sure she wasn’t up to much, but I followed just a moment later only to turn the corner and find her just starting to INSERT A SCREW INTO AN ELECTRICAL OUTLET. Tackled her to the ground, everyone cried, I took to my bed like Colin Craven ever since.

Anyway, she sneezes, she says, “Bless you, Penny,” or she does something kind of dangerous, and she says, “Be careful, Penny,” and it’s cute. Appreciated, too, in the case of the “Be careful, Penny,” because I know that I should look up or at least stop my moaning and carrying on from behind the drape that hides the door that leads to my secret attic room where I lay just waiting for my certain death so I can hear what’s going on because it’s almost definitely not good.

But guess what. No. Not actually that cute. Because you know what I’ve noticed lately? If Penny sneezes, and says, “Bless you, Penny,” and I don’t follow it up with a “Bless you, Penny” of my own, assuming that her own blessing is suitable? MISTAKE. She continues. “Bless you, Penny. Bless you, Penny. Bless you, Penny. Bless you, Penny.”

This happened the other day, and after two or three, I said, “… Bless you, Penny?” And she goes, “Thank you, Mama.”

Holy shit.

And then today, she’s climbing behind her anywhere chair. It’s a padded chair, it’s two feet off the ground, I’ve seen her fall a bunch of times and she’s a fairly bouncy kid. I’m not super concerned. But she starts. “Be careful, Penny. Be careful, Penny. Beeee careful, Penny.” So I tried it. I called over, “Penelope, be caaaaaarefuuuul!” And she looked up and said, “I will, Mama!,” and the chorus stopped.


Penelope’s been a challenge lately. I feel like she’s a particularly challenging two year old, but that could be like Kirstie Alley in Look Who’s Talking telling the doctors she needed more epidural than other women because she’s certain she’s in significantly more pain. Maybe she’s more challenging, maybe I’m just more challenged. All I know is, I was in bed at 4pm and you could hear me bitching all the way across the moors.

But she’s also charming. She’s super charming. She’s really funny, and crazily affectionate, and makes the weirdest connections as she’s learning stuff. You know, like kids do. She remembers everything so you’d think she’d understand more stuff, but she doesn’t, and it’s hilarious. One day, I was holding a bowl way above my head and I told her it was because I liked my fruit up high. It was a bowl of cake. I just didn’t want her to know it was cake, because it was my cake and I’m a dick. That was weeks ago. Today she went walking by holding a bowl of popcorn over her head, because in this house, we like our snacks up high.

And seriously, bless her when she sneezes, Rude-y.

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16 thoughts on “Dear Miss Manners, I think my baby’s Southern.

  1. Elsha

    Will went through those same phases! He’d sneeze then say, “you say ‘Bless you’ mommy” and then thank me when I did. Also, he now very much prefers William to Will. He’ll still answer to Will, but he calls himself William.

  2. Dr. Maureen

    HAAAAA! Oh, Penny. Ann Marie also says “Bless you,” when she sneezes, but she does not say her name – which I think she cannot say – and she does not insist I say it afterwards. So it’s way cuter.

  3. Megan

    Ok, so, nicknames. My middle sons name is Alexander, and we call him Lex. He’s six now, he’s always been Lex, it’s a fact. Except for my mother who INSISTS on calling him Alex!! WTF? Because, seriously, of Lex Luthor. As if calling him Lex is gonna to encourage his life of inevitable crime and wearing a kryptonite ring.

    Whatever, MOM!

    But manners are nice, good job on teaching those.

  4. april

    When Henry sneezes and we don’t say Bless You right away, like because we’re in the middle of a conversation, he yells “I sneezed! Say Bless You!”

    I named my children by their names and I will not mind if they decide on nicknames (well, I say I will not mind) but I really dislike when other people give them nicknames. The daycare lady has always called Spencer “BooBoo”, and it has spilled into his elementary school so sometimes I’m walking with him and a random child says “Hi Booboo!” No. Just. No.

  5. Sister

    You had me at Colin Craven.

    TJ Reply:


    TJ Reply:


  6. Danielle

    This is only marginally related, but I feel compelled to share, so, my five year old calls sneezes “Bless Yous” and she uses it as a verb, as well. “I bless you’ed.”

  7. Kara

    The whole naming your kid what you want and calling your kid what you want- I have a friend with the last name Murray. She had a child named William. She wants the child to be called Wil. Of course, everyone except her and her family call the child “Bill Murray.” Because HOW COULD YOU NOT DO SO? It’s golden!

    Diana Reply:

    Well, I mean, as much as I fully support the ‘I will decide what nicknames you can call my child’ argument, she named her son Bill Murray. She had to know that is a fight she was never going to win.

  8. Lawyerish

    I think Felicity is also a particularly challenging child, while also being exceedingly conscious of manners. They are full of contradictions, our children. I think most 2 year olds are highly challenging, just in different ways — they seem to intuit their parents’ weaknesses and find precisely the way to exhaust us to the maximum degree. Yay?

  9. Jenny Grace

    Gabriel has reinvented himself as Gabe, and it turns out I don’t even LIKE the name Gabe. But there he goes, being in charge of his own identity or WHATEVER.

  10. Erica

    I HAVE COME INTO A GREAT DEAL OF MONEY AND NEED SCHEMATICS FOR A CANDY-SAFE, QUICKLY. Oh wait, you said “and are frequently in them,” n/m, I’m good.

  11. Audrey

    We named our son Alexander specifically for the variety of nickname possibilities, but now, 2 years later, I still only call him Alexander. And I get a little twitchy when people assume he goes by Alex. It’s a natural assumption! It shouldn’t bother me! And yet, it does. His name is Alexander. MAYBE Zander. He is most definitely not an Alex. Why? Because I’m his mom and I said so, that’s why.

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