“You know, it’s really rude for you to be checking Instagram while I’m talking to you” chides Scott the Mouth, who, as the name suggests, know everything, as we ride the 23 blocks north to the office in our morning cab share.
He’s right, and I hate it. It’s rare for me to not have a snazzy retort, but I don’t this time because dagnabbit, he’s totally right. I’m a rude girl. I’m one of them. And here I am trying raise children with good manners.
I work in a world when in any given business meeting I am in head to head competition with the client’s Blackberry, stuck to his hand with Spidey web goo. I spend an entire hour trying to woo him with my financial prowess and my impressive sector tongue in cheek charm, but it’s inevitable that he’ll look down, scroll, and perhaps even respond to emails, stock quotes, and news feeds that are luring him away from our conversation. And the sales person who is hosting the meeting has likely been mindlessly perusing Snapchat since the inception of the discussion. It’s perfectly acceptable, it is what the world has come to. But it’s still really unequivocally rude!
In my business, we yell, we interrupt, we call names. In my household we call this Thingamajig behavior, after one of my favorite childhood books. And we discourage it. Sometimes it feels like a fruitless exercise, but sometimes I’ll catch a glimpse of Finch speaking to an adult with enthusiasm, eye contact, and charisma, or Sparrow will kindly ask a waiter for more water like a refined restaurant diner, and I know it’s worth pressing on.
One dying custom that I refuse to capitulate on is the thank you note. Even in the business world where people seem to have no manners at all, when you interview someone, you expect to receive an email thanking you for your time and expressing genuine interest. A handwritten note, and the job is essentially yours! I refuse to join the army of moms sending email thank yous after the birthday hoopla has died down.
At first, they were customized (as they should be), but nowadays it seems to be a generic email sent to all party attendees before the birthday child has unwrapped a single present! You might as well not acknowledge the gift at all!
Instead, depending on their age, my children write their own thank yous. Lark scribbles a meaningful message on the back of the cards I write in her voice. Sparrow has fill in the blank cards for the recipient, gift, and his signature. He can grind those out in a few sittings with minimal complaints. And Finch is old enough to understand gratitude and is happy to communicate with his friends in ways other than text emojis and FaceTime. We’re not doing it to get a round of applause from parents in despair about the direction the world is taking (although the pats on the back sure feel good!). We’re doing it for us. Because it also feels good to act like humans and not robots.
To take a minute and think about the harried mom who ran to the toy store while her kids were at school or activities to pick up a gift that she thought your child might enjoy. Or the working mom who is a weekend warrior and plows through the “cool” clothing store accumulating t-shirts in varying sizes and appropriate sports teams for each child on the never ending birthday party list. To be happy that we’re all part of a village, and while there will be cat fights, and bullies, and general suburban drama, there will also be people to celebrate with you and care about you, and be grateful for your friendship.
My children are hardly perfectly behaved. Their listening skills leave me wondering if I should get their ears checked most of the time. They are leaning the art of talking back and refining the act of being sassy. But I think ultimately, they are also learning kindness, and are seeing the model for the right thing to do in everyday acts like simply saying thanks.
Now excuse me, so I can go check my Facebook feed.