Charm school circa 2013

by julie on January 28, 2013

Having departed hastily Friday afternoon for Snow Mountain Ranch (more on that awesome excursion soon), it wasn’t until this morning that Tacy dug through her backpack and handed me an invitation to Cotillion.

My eyebrows shot up. “Cotillion? I didn’t go to Cotillion until I was a freshman. I even still have my dance cards,” I laughed.

We had a lovely mother-daughter trip down memory lane, wherein she inspected my dance cards and insisted that I look up the Facebook profiles of my dance partners. “Did you like Cotillion?” she asked.

“It was okay,” I shrugged. “I got to dance with some boys I really liked. But I didn’t learn anything.”

We had two “mixers” in an elementary school gym (where we were supposed to learn to dance), plus two dances and one dinner dance (where I eschewed tradition and took the initiative to fill my dance card with boys I considered friends, rather than waiting to be asked). So much for my dance education.

Nowadays it appears that Cotillion is meant to be more instructional than it was in 1986. The program includes classes covering conversation skills, verbal and non-verbal communication, and dining etiquette. Attendees learn the fox trot, waltz, tango, and jitterbug, among others. Fourth and fifth grade girls are required to wear white gloves.

I know two of the mothers on the Cotillion committee, and I like them. I like their kids. I wholeheartedly agree that good manners and social skills are desirable qualities — both in children and adults. I’m working to instill them in my own kids, like so many other parents I know. I’m just skeptical that Cotillion, particularly in elementary or even middle school, is as essential to future success as the organization that puts on these programs claims it is.

Of course I recognize that as a sales tactic, and it’s an effective one. What parent wants to deny their kids a potential advantage? Certainly none of us who dabble in Extreme Parenting. (Come on. We all do it occasionally.)

I’ve been teaching my kids good manners and social skills since they could speak a sentence and maneuver a Cheerio into their own mouths, and in spite of varying degrees of success, I’m not yet convinced I need to outsource the job.

Especially not if it means I need to shell out for white gloves.

RookieMom Whitney January 31, 2013 at 9:00 am

I’m not familiar with this tradition/institution. Is Cotillion a brand of etiquette lessons? Is it like Scouts, where local parents head up their own classes? Does it have a religious affiliation? I’m fascinated.

I was just telling my husband that I think it’s time our 8-year old started holding the door for other people. This is an etiquette practice that I was oblivious to until I went to college where I felt like a Luddite who didn’t have this habit. I guess in the outdoor malls and schools of Southern California, there weren’t many institutional doors to open…? So I wonder what else am I missing that should be passed on to my children. And does the passing need to be formalized, or can you just yell, “Get back here and hold that door until your grandmother walks through it!” until they don’t need to be told?

cathy January 31, 2013 at 12:00 pm

I’ve actually never heard of this before – never had it when I was growing up. But I’m positive your child already knows any etiquette rules they’d be teaching! If you wanted her to learn the fox trot, though …

Chrysula January 31, 2013 at 5:10 pm

We live in a Cotillion kinda town. Ugh. Things about the North East that drive me crazy? This would be one of them. Having watched aghast for the last 13 years at how Americans eat mostly with a fork instead of using a knife and fork in a teamwork sort of fashion (yes, I’m a foreigner of Brit/Aussie origins), I’ll not be risking any outsourcing in this regard. It’s my way or the highway :) . There are some areas into which I flatly refuse to integrate!

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