Monday, November 3, 2014


One of the kids at the Halloween party said something inappropriate.  It wasn't awful, but it was shocking enough in its own right.  The grown-ups were momentarily appalled, which was, I imagine, the extent to which the act had been thought through beforehand, but they didn't give it more than the cursory attention it deserved.

I, on the other hand, made it a teachable moment.

Those who knew me in their youth are groaning right now.  I rarely let an opportunity pass me by.  Amster's kids learned about opening doors and Ladies First and the value of a firm handshake coupled with eye contact at a first meeting with a bewildered stupor often covering their faces.

Why was I, the fun grown-up, the one who always said yes-as-long-as-it's-not-dangerous, the one giving lectures on behavior?  What was the fun in that?

The answer was simple, and bears repeating in every generation. Manners make the world go 'round.

I said it to my children and I'll say it to my grandchild(ren).  Stuck in the back of an elevator in the Sutter Stockton garage, I leaned over to explain to Big Cuter's ten year old self that if he watched, he'd see what I meant.  The gentlemen in front of us held the doors open, unnecessarily but politely, as the elderly couple, then the women, then we exited.  It was crowded, but our departure was smooth and quick.  Manners making the world go 'round in action.

I always compliment the young men holding the door for my wobbly self at the gym.  I encourage them to tell their own grownups that they must have done something right.  I'm always rewarded with a smile.  For that moment, Mom or Dad or Grampa or Aunt Suzi  is standing there in the doorway with us, feeling proud.

A big part of manners is their relation to an earlier, courtlier time.  We hold the door for our mothers, for women of a certain age, not because they are incapable, but because they deserve the honor.  It's a sign of respect.. even if it's only respect for the number of years passed on the planet. Often, it's an acknowledgment of their value in our lives. 

Holding the door for peers is trickier.  Walking a fine line of feminist-friendly-but-oh-dear-God-Mom-is-looking-over-my-shoulder, Big Cuter has decided that he'll take Dad's line and say 'My mom is watching.' Any girl who won't smile at that won't be worth his effort.

There are times when I think I might have gotten one or two things right while parenting.

Miss Marjorie's daughter threw her a surprise 70th birthday party this weekend.  The stair-step, tween grandkids greeted the guests with handshakes, smiles, their names and an introduction to the next sibling on down the hallway.  They were unselfconsciously delightful, thrilled with the surprise and unable to forget their manners.  There are many wonderful things about Miss Marjorie; not the least of them is having raised a daughter who is raising these children. 

It gives me hope for the future.


  1. I was having a conversation with my nine year-old on Saturday about manners. For some reason, she thinks they don't apply at home. I tried to explain to her that manners everywhere are important because they show others you respect them. She tried to tell me that if she burps a zillion times, she's not going to say, "excuse me" every time. I told her she should. Manners are so very important. I talked with five year-old about using his manners trick or treating on Friday. To always say, "thank you".

    Nothing irks me more than people without manners. I cannot tell you how many times I've been out shopping and someone walks right into my personal space and doesn't even say, "excise me". I then get annoyed and I say, "excuse ME". Sometimes they catch a clue and other times they are so oblivious. It's a huge pet-peeve of mine. That's why I'm trying to get my children to understand why manners are so important. The greatest compliment I get as a mother is that my children are very polite and use their manners.

    Hope you had a lovely weekend.

    Megan xxx

  2. Keep having that conversation with Miss 9 ... when she's 12 and furious b/c you both are breathing and on the planet at the same time, you will have an easier experience if you can remind her that she doesn't have to like you but she does have to BE POLITE.

    Yes, it's one of life's great joys to hear your children being complimented for their manners :)

  3. Terry and I were just having this conversation at lunch about how cranky I feel because things don't seem to be as they were 40 years ago. Manners being one of those things.

    1. There must've been something in the air! Rudeness floating In the atmosphere?


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