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Newport Manners & Etiquette: Newport Flower Show + The Art of Listening + Grandchildren

Wednesday, June 14, 2017


Newport in June is gearing up for the annual Newport Flower Show, and readers are wondering, what's the drill? How to be a good listener and how to be an active grandparent were other great questions to Didi Lorillard this week at NewportManners.

Newport Flower Show

Q.  We girls are taking a day trip to the Newport Flower Show and want to be prepared by knowing what to expect ahead of time. Like, how do we dress?  Julia, Cohasset, MA


A.  You girls will have a delightful experience! However, expect to do a lot of walking. Even though there is a free of charge trolly ride of several blocks from Chateau-sur-Mer, where you'll be parking, to Rosecliff, you will spend a fair bit of time on foot. Wear sensible shoes and I don't mean flip-flops. Gladiator sandals, ballerina flats, and espadrilles are fine, but stiletto heels will sink into the grass and possibly catch the wearer off guard with a tumble.

Outdoor flower shows are all about hats. You all will definitely need to wear a hat or, at the very least, a pretty visor. One of the first booths you'll see on the back lawn of Rosecliff that faces the sea is LILO.  Where the renowned milliner Lisa Stubbs sells her fabulous hats. For thirty years Lisa's designs of headpieces, boaters, chapeaus, fascinators (decorative headbands), and visors, have been the status quo of Newport's summer season. 

Whether you're searching for the de rigeur hat to flaunt at Ascot or Wimbledon, or to adorn for your daughter's wedding ceremony, you'll find it at LILO Hats. All headpieces are one-of-a-kind. Lisa's specialties are her made-to-order original hats for that special occasion, as well as the simpler straw hats we wear everyday in the garden or at the beach.

After an hour of browsing the many vendors, how about a lovely refreshment overlooking the Atlantic Ocean seated under a luncheon tent. Great for people watching. Oh, yes, there are flowers to admire on display or buy, but that's not what you were asking about. Ahead of time go online to look for the starting times of special events and lectures with a floral motif. No Newport Flower Show is the same. This June the French garden theme prevails. 

Even though you'll be wearing a hat, bring sunscreen and reapply, reapply. And don't forget to take plenty of selfies.

The Newport Flower Show is set to run from June 23 to June 25.

The art of listening 

Q.  My fiancée complains that I am not a good listener. When she talks, I stare into her eyes and listen to every word. Even if I'm really thinking about work or wondering when I'm going to get a chance to check for messages. I try very hard not to interrupt. Then when she's through I feed her back what she just said so she know's I've been listening. Isn't that enough?

JR, Orlando, FL


A.  Be the energy giver not the energy taker. Forget about not speaking when others are talking. Forget about not interrupting. Forget about making strange sounds acknowledging that you are listening such as, yeah, oh, ah, mmm, to make her think you're following her train of thought.  

What you really want to do is to engage in a conversation by asking questions. Be curious as to what she's thinking, feeling and trying to communicate to you. Find out what role she expects you to play, what plans she wants you to be part of, what advice she might need. Turn what your fiancée is saying into a two-way conversation. That doesn't mean mirroring back what she just said to prove that you were listening.

Real listening is interactive conversation that fosters curiosity. Listening is not about sitting passively feigning interest.

The third wife

Q.  As the third wife, even after ten years of marriage, I feel like the outsider. My husband had three children with his first wife, who unexpectedly died too young. As a widower with three children, he may have married his second wife out of loneliness, but his now adult children remain close to their first stepmother -- to the extent that she might just as well be their mother. I can't seem to break through into the family circle. When we get together for holidays, birthdays and graduations, it seems as though there are three people in my marriage. Even though I know my husband favors me, his children favor her. Any suggestions?  GB, Seattle, WA


A.  Your husband's adult children have a strong bond with their first stepmother. After all, she was not only your husband's second wife, she is the closest they had to a real mother during formative years. They've been through a lot with their first stepmother. The bonds could be much stronger than you realize, especially while your husband was mourning the death of their mother.

If you really want to make it into the inner circle, create your own relationships with the adult children, their spouses/partners and your husband's grandchildren. Make your and your husband's own memories with them. 

Think of yourself as a memory maker. Everything you do should generate a happy lasting remembrance.  It is not about how much money you spend, but about the quality of the time you exert remembering birthdays and anniversaries and celebrating graduations and other milestones. 

Encourage your husband to experience time with his adult children and their children alone by going fishing, sailing or taking a camping trip -- adventures that he does without you or his second wife.

Offer to help out with the grandchildren. Go to their soccer or baseball games, dance and musical recitals and attend plays. With your husband invite the grandchildren to spend the weekend or stay with you for a week during their vacation so that the parents are freed up to be alone together.  

  • During that time, teach your step grandchildren how to muck out a stall, plant carrots, bake cupcakes, scramble eggs, wash a car, ride a bike, play chess or checkers, pingpong or croquet, draw or watercolor. You get the picture. 
  • During these times have each child keep an album of photos, drawings, and well-wishing messages that they can return to the next time they visit. A memory book.
  • Display their artwork and be sure to have photos of each grandchild visible and laid out in frames around your home. It will make them feel welcome.
  • Keep file cards of each child's likes, dislikes, and allergies. If one child doesn't like hot dogs, don't serve them; when a child is allergic to peanuts, don't even have a jar of peanut butter in the fridge.
  • Find activities you can do together and have craft supplies and games in a bin that they can access easily filled with such items as: play dough, construction paper, watercolors and brushes, crayons, children's scissors, puzzles, board games, cards. 
  • Take out books from your public library ahead of time, so you'll always have stories to read aloud to them, and eventually they'll read to you.

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