By DENENE MILLNER
So there we were, my girls and I, strolling through the department store, drooling over cute purses and fancy shoes, when a sweet little old lady, for sure the most unintimidating person on the planet, smiled, said Hello, and then got to talking to my daughter, Mari. The kid had on a t-shirt featuring the logo of a local cooking school for children, which made Mari a walking billboard for the camp she'd attended just a few weeks before, and so it was only natural for someone who had questions about it to, well, ask questions about it. So ask, the old lady did.
Mari replied to all of the old lady's questions with umms and uhhs and one word answers. She had a case of mumble mouths, as our family calls it. I mean, I get that my kid is a tad reserved and can't always summon up the perfect words for every conversation thrown her way; she's still a kid, and talking to grown-ups can be a little intimidating. But I do think it's high time that this extremely smart, well-spoken, thoughtful 11-year-old start to exercise her networking muscles. She needs to figure out how to start and hold a conversation, answer questions thoughtfully and use her communication skills to get comfortable in not-so-comfortable situations.
Knowing how to talk to others, after all whether on the playground, at a birthday party, on a job interview or at the office soiree is a part of etiquette 101 as important, in my book, as using the right fork at a fancy dinner table or saying thank you to the person serving you. It shows not only that you have manners and a firm grasp of the King's English, but that you're confident and in control of your own thoughts and opinions and quite capable of expressing yourself things that serve the most successful among us well as we navigate everything from the workplace to our closest relationships.
That's why right then, right there, as soon as Sweet Little Old Lady got out of earshot, I ran Mari through the paces…