What’s the magic word? (Bite me?)
Lee says: I may be a bitch but I’m polite. I ask for things with a ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ regardless of who it is. I refer to people formally until given permission to use a more familiar name and I maintain these niceties at home as well. I don’t know whether this comes from my parent’s tutelage or my utter terror of the nuns at St. Catherine Laboure, in California. I strive to teach my children the same etiquette even in a climate of self entitlement.
Our children know that they must be polite to receive what they want. Some of the first words Ricky, the two year old, learned were ‘please’ and ‘thank you’. Perhaps its because we live in Miami, notorious for being rude, we feel that even basic respect is lost to the ‘me first’ attitude of the other residents. Where a simple wave of thanks for giving someone the right of way is never seen, children wandering in restaurants and interrupting your meal is commonplace and flagrant rude behavior is the norm.
We live in a city with no sense of customer service or urgency. We force clerks to say things like ‘may I help you’ since the norm is flagging them down or making your presence known with the same disregard for decorum as everyone else. The problem is we aren’t like everyone else. And, since we want our kids to learn to be polite we must make examples of everyone we meet as soon as we step out of the house.
We begin our work by insisting that we are all polite to one another in our home. We compliment each other and use words like ‘sir’ and ‘miss’ to show respect. We are honest with each other but avoid taking each other for granted. Our children know that permission must be asked and boundaries respected when they enter someone’s home.
For me there was a sense of fear when it came to respect. My mother is a force to be reckoned with and the nuns who taught me still scare me even beyond the grave. But the benefits I have gained from being a courteous person have reframed the respect to that of creating a peaceful environment, treating all with regard and being the people we strive to be. We tell each other that to have respect one must earn it, putting us into a catch 22 since no one is willing to be the first. We find people driving out of church flipping people off or refusing to let the person who just wished them peace to cut in front of them (not recently since we were kicked out of church several months ago but that’s a different post).
This is the world our children are growing up in. There isn’t any sense that this will change anytime soon. Now I would love to hear some comments on this topic that is so close to my heart. I spend most of my time driving stringing together expletives and judging the rudeness of the motherf*&er who just forgot to say thanks after I let them cut in. I don’t know what I’m teaching my children about being polite while we’re in the car but at least they will be able to cuss with the best of them!
Paul says: I brought the boys with me to buy donuts. It was a Sunday, so there was a line. Apparently, the Lord’s day is also donut day. While we were there waiting, there were two children about the same age as Ricky and Bobby. These two kids were having races through the line, weaving between people and screaming. This annoys the shit out of me and my kids know that that behavior gets an instant death penalty. I find it rude on the parent’s part.
My children, I am happy to say, stood by me. The two year old said ‘Hello’, ‘Please’, and ‘Thank you’. The five year old paid (with my money, of course) and, like his brother, used all of the appropriate pleasantries. Their behavior earned them conversation, compliments, and a free donut hole each. The other children didn’t get shit. Hah!
Lee responds: Sniff, sniff. Those are my babies!