Manners…Or A Lack Thereof
I’ve let my blog sit idle for a while now, but today is the day I break my fast.
(Does that make this post breakfast? If so, I wonder how to follow it up. Will my next post be lunch? Or maybe brunch?)
Any who, I feel I just have to comment on something that I see going on in my little neck of the woods. It’s becoming more and more evident to me that some people these days simply have no awareness of the other people around them. Nowhere is this more evident than in the carpool lanes of the elementary and middle school where my children attend.
Before I begin to describe what I have encountered in these carpool lanes (or “circles of hell,” as I like to call them) let me just say that prior to having children, my husband and I spent nine years becoming the resident experts on how to raise the perfect kids. Of course, a small dose of reality in 2001 destroyed our expertise (nothing like having a baby to put you in your place), but nonetheless, one thing we observed has remained true: the next generation that is being raised has largely not been instructed in the art of “otherness” – which is what manners are, at their heart.
[Quick disclaimer: if you know my kids, you know this is the pot calling the kettle black. I am aware of the irony of the mother of possibly the most selfish kids alive writing a post on manners; however, it’s not the kids I’m condemning; it’s their parents. So stick with me.]
Having given birth to 3 very self-absorbed kids has taught me how difficult it is to train children to put others first. It’s hard enough to train them to eat with utensils (how many times do I have to say “Spaghetti-O’s are NOT finger food!” to my 8-year-old?), but putting others first? That’s darn near impossible. We certainly haven’t figured it out.
But here’s the thing – what hope is there for children to learn this if their parents have never learned – or at least, refuse to put into practice, these basic principles we in the South like to call “manners”.
Before you crucify me for being old-fashioned, and before you plant a picture in your head of someone with a frilly long dress and matching umbrella worrying about which color of gloves are appropriate for an afternoon tea, let me explain. See, manners are so much more than just chewing with your mouth closed and addressing an elder with respect. Putting your napkin in your lap and looking someone in the eye when you speak to them – these are all manners too – but at the heart of all of these is this idea of simple “otherness”. Deference to another human being. Awareness that you are not the center of the universe. THIS is the general attitude I fear is going the way of the Dodo in our society.
(Of course, it’s not extinct yet, as evidenced by the young men – all Aggies – who recently delivered our firewood. They were incredibly polite, even writing “Yes, Ma’am” in their text messages to me! They understand something so few people seem to get, and that is the importance of treating others at least as well as you would like to be treated.)
So, now that I’ve built it up, you’ve got to be wondering what in the world caused this rant?!! It was small – just a few things that happened the same morning while I was trying to get my children to school. The first was at the elementary school. One car was showing patience and allowing another car to turn in front of them, despite the fact that the first car had the right-of-way. It’s a common turn-in to the drop-off lane, one which we all maneuver through once or twice a day. First car – the one that was being polite and taking turns – had stopped and was waving the other car through – when the SUV behind her got mad and went around her, cutting off BOTH cars – the one being polite and the one she was waving through. It was just so…arrogant. Such an ugly display of selfishness. We were ALL waiting our turn, we were all playing nice – until that one person decided that for some reason, they mattered more (or more likely, their KID mattered more) than the rest of us waiting patiently in line.
Now, I understand that sometimes, there are emergencies. Maybe she had just spilled coffee on herself and needed to hurry home. I can forgive those unusual moments of someone’s rudeness. But then I drove to the other school – the middle school – to drop off my older son. Because there are no teachers outside to direct traffic and help open car doors, it is way worse at the middle school. In fact, it’s been so bad that people have taken video of cars cutting each other off or running stop signs and sending them to the front office, who then distributed them to all the parents to see the latest “cars behaving badly” video. I only wish it made a difference but it hasn’t. Instead, on a daily and bi-daily basis, I see parents pull up directly in front of the school – right in the middle of the cross walk, where there are cones preventing anyone from going around you – and then proceed to park their car and talk to their child before letting them out of the car. Never mind that there is a line of approximately 237 cars behind you. Never mind that you have chosen not to pull up enough so that the rest of us, whose children have long since exited our car, could pull around you. Never mind that the staff at the school has over and over again asked parents to pull up past the front of the school before letting their children out. Never mind all that – you have important matters to discuss with your child. To heck with all of us, you need to hand her a dollar for her lunch. Don’t worry that all those people who can’t even turn into the school yet are trying to get to work and can’t even get close enough to the school to let their children out. You go right ahead and take all the time you want. JUST AT LEAST PULL UP FAR ENOUGH SO THE REST OF US CAN GO AROUND YOU!!!!
It’s just beguiling that the parents – the ones who should be setting the example – are the ones behaving badly. What hope is there for our children if we don’t have the decency to at least give a thought to the other people who must live in society with us? What will our world be like in one or two generations if we continue this pattern? What kind of world will we be living in, once common decency has deteriorated and gone? Can you just imagine what our kids will be like if we don’t stop being the center of our own universes and start paying attention to those around us?
Of course, according to Samuel, this could all be avoided if we had an RV. He’s been advocating for us to buy one, even putting it at the top of his Christmas and birthday list. Because, if we had an RV, the kids could eat breakfast during the 5 minute drive to school instead of having to sit down at the kitchen table in the mornings. And since I would be basically driving a bus, I could pull into the bus lane and let them out, avoiding all the other traffic.
Leave it to Samuel to find the perfect solution.