Common Ground: Maybe you’ll be thanked some day

I enrolled my oldest daughter in an etiquette and cotillion program last fall, certain she’d want to go.

Instead, she pouted, cried and begged me to take her out of it. Apparently, this program would be the worst thing that could happen to her.

“Mommy, please,” she said. “I don’t want to do this.”

“Trust me,” I assured her. “You will thank me for this one day when you become a woman.”

For weeks, she seemed to dread the Friday afternoons when she had to put on her Sunday best and those white party gloves instead of playing outside.

When she arrived for her first etiquette class, she and many of the other young people avoided making eye contact.

It didn’t take long for Stacey Smith, the National League of Junior Cotillion’s local program director, to put her students at ease.

“How many of you are here because your parents made you?” my daughter told me Smith asked the class.

“Everybody in the class raised their hand,” my daughter said.

On our ride home, we both laughed about the students’ reactions, a huge relief considering my daughter had bawled her eyes out on our way to that first class.

Years ago, my mother enrolled me in a similar program hoping it would help me overcome my shyness, practice courteous social behaviors, sit and walk more “ladylike” and express gratitude better.

At the time, I was a 10-year-old tomboy who raced dirt bikes with my neighborhood boy pals, climbed trees and played kickball on our street each afternoon. At the time, I couldn’t understand my mother’s reasoning for sending me to those “refinement” classes.

It was awkward in the beginning, but the skills I learned still serve me some 35 years later.

With that knowledge, I continue helping my daughter fulfill her monthly etiquette assignments. Last month, she practiced giving compliments, introducing herself to adults, giving firm handshakes and saying “excuse me” and “thank you.”

It sounded easy, but she had to practice a lot to overcome feeling embarrassed.

Following her first winter dinner banquet and ball, I realized she was grateful for the program.

After the three-course banquet meal, she met her sixth-grade escort, danced with a group of students and then paired up to practice the waltz and the salsa. In between punch and cake breaks, I caught her smiling and giggling with her new friends.

Following the dance, she took a seat, sitting tall and crossing her right ankle over her left. I complimented her for sitting like a lady.

On our way out the door, she hugged me. I could feel the gratitude in her gesture.

Chante Dionne Warren is a freelance writer. She can be reached at