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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?

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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.

Ready Or Not

Well, it’s here. All the wailing of gnashing of teeth cannot stop the march of time that has brought us here, to the brink of another school year. The kids aren’t too excited about it either.

That’s right. I’m the one who is dreading next Monday more than anyone in this house. Because while yes, I will be glad to have a little sanity back in my daily life, I will also miss the boys terribly while they’re at school. I will make the trips to their schools and leave them all with their respective teachers and administrators, then I will come home and cry. Because without them, the house is so quiet. And because I will be acutely aware again of how fleeting this life really is. Our time with them at home is slipping away, and no matter how hard I try to hang onto each passing moment, they seem to be going by faster and faster.

I am reading a new book that deals with the subject of life after 40, and I could hardly read past a line in the introduction that hit me like a ton of bricks. It said that we are passing into a phase of life where our children and our careers will no longer be the primary sources of joy in our lives. BOOM! Just like that, I realized all over again that this magical time is going to end, and before we know it, we will be sending our boys into the world to become the men God has created them to be.

Forgive my nostalgia, but this time of year for me is very much like New Year’s is to everyone else. My life isn’t measured by the change of the date on a calendar as much as it is by those big life moments, and each year, the first day of school ranks right up there with birthdays, Christmas and all the other biggies. It’s always been that way, maybe even as far back as when I was a kid preparing for a new school year. At the very least, I know it’s been this way since we took Peter to Kindergarten on his first day, then Brad went to work and I went home and locked myself in my closet so I could cry my heart out without scaring Matthew and Samuel. I remember that day like it was yesterday. And I remember the emotions from that day, primarily that of pure loneliness. Peter had been my buddy for five years! Then one day, our long days together came to a close and I started sending him away to spend seven of his waking hours with someone else. It felt so wrong and I struggled with it for years. But now that I’m a little older, I can see how easy it would have been for me to have leaned too heavily on him for my own sense of well-being, had I not let him go. And of course, he’s really started to enjoy himself these last few years. I wouldn’t take that away from him for anything – from any of them. No, school is the best place for the boys, I made my peace with that a long time ago. It’s just hard on my mama’s heart to go from these carefree days of summer – days of playing board games and taking swim lessons and traveling – to the regimen of going to bed on time so we can get up on time so we can make it to school on time…and so on. I know I’m going to lose something next week. But I will just have to lean even more heavily on the grace of God to get me through each new day. His mercies are new every morning, after all!

This entry was posted on August 21, 2013, in school.

The Best Day EVER (So Far)

In case you can’t tell, my post title today is a quote, taken from Peter.  The most recent time he spoke this phrase was a few Fridays ago, when Peter and Matthew were both recognized during their school’s morning program.  Peter’s name was picked among those in his grade receiving a VIP (for performing an especially good deed); Matthew was recognized by the Vice-Principal for receiving a “Positive Referral”.  That was his teacher’s way of telling him he was doing a good job keeping his anger under control and his hands to himself.  Matthew was so excited, and Peter was pretty excited, as well.  Brad and I both showed up for the program and I snapped a few pictures with my cell phone.

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Peter’s on the far right, middle row.

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It’s hard to see in this picture, but Matthew was beaming from ear to ear.

In other news, I’ve been cleaning up my laptop hard drive and moving all of my pictures to the removable hard drive.  In the process, I have come across some photos I had forgotten existed.  Here’s a couple of Matthew at around age 2:

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Something about this pensive look melts my heart.

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This was the day Samuel was born.  Look at how Matthew’s shorts almost touch the tops of his shoes!

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And here’s Samuel!

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Peter meets Samuel for the first time.  Feel the love, people, feel the love.  If only he still felt so loving…

Hard to believe Samuel will turn 5 this summer.  Where has the time gone?