What’s happened to our manners!?!

 Now this in not intended as a rant espousing Emily Post style etiquette on society at large.  But the disturbing reality that I seem to be bumping up against with alarming frequency is that we no longer eve...n have a handle on the basics.  For as much as we could all use some awareness around dilemmas such as which fork to use or which bread plate exactly is ours, it would seem our civilities have eroded to a level as remedial as “please” and “thank you.”  To be sure the absence of please and thank you is most noticeable in children.  Yes, it’s a monstrous inconvenience to reminded them four hundred and fifty two million times to say “thank you,” but do it anyway.  It always provides me with some amusement when I hear kids make a demand or a request, then their parents follow with a leading, “what do you say…” and the child responds with “please.”  So what structure are we teaching them exactly?  I’ll tell you exactly.  We are teaching them that they make a demand, then we follow with our scripted line of, “what do you say…,” then they finish the statement with the appropriate and constantly prompted “please.”  I have to remind my kids of this as much as the next exasperated parent, but the correction ALWAYS involves them stating the ENTIRE request over again with the unprompted “please” at the end.  Eventually they realize it is on THEM to make the “please” a part of their request and that it is a lot less work for them to make it a habit than it is for them to have to repeat everything.  Eventually I get to the point where if they make a request that lacks the prized please at the end I simply ignore them.  Flat out act as though they don’t even exist.  I’m not going to prompt, correct or cajole.  If you want something, I highly suggest you learn how to ask. On a similar and equally simple note, I’m one of those silly girls that still believes in chivalry.  And for as cute as it is to hear or say that “chivalry is not dead,” it is most certainly on the endangered species list.  Our older two children are girls and when we found out that we were expecting a boy with the third I broke out in a cold sweat.  My concern was born out of the fact that I believe it is an increasingly difficult task to raise boys to be good men.  How do you define “good men” you say?  I’m so very glad you asked. A good man knows how to treat women with gentleness and respect.  A good man knows how to break a sweat, work hard and knows what he is working for.  A good man believes that his word is his bond and wouldn’t dream of making a promise he wouldn’t keep.  A good man commits with a handshake, not a legal document.  A good man looks people in the eye and can look himself in the mirror.  A good man honors God, loves his family and is loyal to his friends.  A good man doesn’t care what’s trendy he cares about what’s right and has the courage to seek integrity over approval.  With this intimidating task in mind, I do simple things as consistently as humanly possible.  When I am serving dinner I make a point of serving the girls before the boys and saying, “ladies first.”  When we are walking into a store I have our five year old son run ahead to open the door for myself and his sisters.  My hope is that these small things, over time, will become part the men, my sweet boys choose to be. In the interest of fairness I shall point out at least one of my own various and sundry shortcomings.  When our first son was a toddler my in-laws were over at the house for dinner.  And let’s say that while I would very much enjoy describing my son’s behavior as playful and rambunctious, the fact of the matter is he was unabashedly out of control.  My father-in-law made a comment on his less than endearing level of discipline and while I must admit to bristling at his input as it called out my own, umm…oversights as a mom, the reality of the situation was twofold 1. Their heart was, is, and always will be in the right place.  Care is speaking up, not staying quiet. 2. He was right.  It is neither amusing nor cute when little Johnny is swinging from the drapes and jumping on the furniture.  No one is impressed with his athletic prowess.  They simply think that HE is a pain in the ass and YOU are a fool.  The moral of that story is to listen to the people who truly care for you.  Even if you’re not over the moon about what they have to say, their wisdom is a gift not a nuisance.  While it is easy and somewhat charming to talk about teaching our kids good manners, there is little charming in their alarming scarcity in both children and adults alike.  So considering the fact that brevity is perhaps best here, a highlight film will hopefully suffice: If someone gives you a gift, write a thank you note.  Not an email, a text, or a Facebook message; a WRITTEN note.  Real pen, real paper, real stamp.  If someone gives you their time, energy or hospitality send a thank you GIFT.  Acknowledge the fact that what THEY have given you is a gift and reciprocate in your own, but meaningful way.  One of the best “thank you” gifts I ever received was from a friend whose family had come to stay with us for a few days.  To be sure time together with great friends is its own reward, but beyond this, she sent a thank you card to every single one of us including our kids. With each card she recounted a memory, an experience or a laugh she had shared with each of our kids and in doing so, her words were a gift that made them feel deeply valued and special in ways that they truly will never forget.  Nor will I.    If you are invited to a party, RSVP.  If however, you are one of those fine folks who cannot be bothered with this simple courtesy, all will be well as within relatively short order you won’t be invited to anything and you will be duly relieved of this burdensome task.   If on the other hand you RSVP and therefore have the pleasure of attending a get together or a dinner…BRING SOMETHING.  And no, I don’t care if they cheerfully chirp, “Just bring yourself.” Bring something anyway!  If your kids are invited to a birthday party and the hosting family generously allows you to bring your entire brood, either bring a gift from EACH of your kids or get an especially nice gift for the guest of honor in thanks for the fact that they are entertaining (and likely feeding) your entire clan.  Don’t leave a mess…ever.  Clean up after yourself and your little darlings.  ASK people for their time, don’t take it. Do more than your share, give more than you’re asked, and work harder than expected.   DO NOT show up to any experience with your kids armed with their Game Boys or any other gadget in tow.  All our children are embarrassingly bound to their isolated worlds because of these bewitching devices.  Do they have their place? You bet!  Like on an airplane, during a painfully long car ride or in the midst of a power point presentation on how to use Excel.  Otherwise, these digital mind melters shouldn’t be seen OR heard.   Thanks in part to these electronic gremlins, it seems to be the norm that children, instead of looking adults in the eye and speaking to them with ease are regard, look down, mumble, and want to get any such experience over with as quickly as possible.  Kids need to learn how to be with, engage with and have conversations with adults.  This skill will serve them FAR better than their expert abilities at Angry Birds.  Be thoughtful, attentive and aware of OTHERS.  See a need and attend to it.  Don’t ever steal somebody else’s thunder.  Let them have their moment before you claim yours.  “If you borrow something return it BETTER than you found it.”  My husband was raised with parents who insisted on this impressive directive and I was so smitten with the notion that I apply the philosophy to nearly every aspect of my life.  Give credit where credit was due.  If the thought, the inspiration or the experience wasn’t yours, acknowledge who and how it was brought to your attention.  And speaking of attention, whether you are in line at the grocery store, grabbing a latte or ordering a meal at a restaurant, get off your f***ing phone and acknowledge that there is a human being in front of you.  Look them in the eye, and speak to them with dignity and respect.  Being on your Bluetooth while ordering a four shot Americano doesn’t make you important or impressive it makes you an idiot.  So for the duration of this post I have sacrificed verbal dexterity for sheer volume of thoughts and still we have only scratched the surface.  The reality is that we are becoming detached, disinterested, unconcerned and generally unimpressive when it comes to how we weave our way through the world.  The mark we make is a function of how we treat others.  Part of that mark is inevitably our manners.  Have I mastered this craft?  Not even kind of.  But because it matters, I will continue to try…every single day, I will show up and try.  Are these ideals outdated, old fashioned and unnecessary?  I can assure you, they never have been and they never will be.


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