I’m going to sound like a pissed off old man. And I’m good with that. Bad manners are rampant. The way I see things going, manners these days are like harsh meanness and disinterested oblivion had a baby, and then that baby was handed a case of Red Bull and a shotgun.
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Everything from little pissy looks, all the way up to murderous road rage. It even seems like well-mannered people have gotten so accustomed to these Dark Ages of manners that when I hold a door open for them, they’ll steady it themselves as if I’m an optical illusion or some psycho who’ll let the door nail them at the last second. Sad.
Manners aren’t just about not being Captain A##hole to the rest of humanity, or sticking your pinky out like in a Jane Austin film production, they’re also about kindness and consideration. Helping, tolerance, laughing it all off, and sacrificing for the sake of others. When I look at some kids today, the future… I want to look away.
Manners are for OTHERS. So they don’t kill you.
One day, years ago, I realized that the boys were being taught manners, like so many things, without anyone having told them why. So I started out by asking Max and Cody, “If you were stranded on a desert island and you could only eat one thing, what flavor of PEZ would it be?” This was just to get their attention. Attention is an illlusive and whiley beast when it lives within a child under the age of 10.
Now that I had my audience, I asked them if you could have good manners if you were completely alone on a desert island. They paused, sensing a trick question, and said, “Yeeeeesss?” I made a game show FAIL buzzer sound and went on to explain to them that you couldn’t, that manners were for other people, and from them for you, that different groups had different sets of them, but that generally they were basically the behavior we agree on to make getting along with each other pleasant and easy… or to simply keep us from clawing each other’s eyes out. By then the boys were sound asleep. Maybe my lectures are better than any sedative with a bedtime story chaser, but then again maybe it had its positive effect. The boys have really good manners… most of the time.
When the boys got older, I went on further to explain that when manners get reeeeeeeally bad, the law takes over. And there’s no PEZ in prison. Not sure if that tidbit helped.
Yeah. I just wrote those two words together. Seems kind of weird and unlikely a word combination, right? Like “evil unicorn” or “skinny sumo wrestler.” But actually it’s exactly where I figure manners need to start, and Lucas is catching on fast. With some odd kinks though. Let’s take a look at an actual conversation:
Me: “Let’s get going, lad. Your mama’s waiting.”
Lucas: “No, thank you.”
Me: “Uh, okaaaay… Yes, please?”
Lucas: “No, thank you!”
Me: “Yes, please!”
Lucas: “NO THANK YOU!”
Me: Yeeeeessss PLEASE!”
Lucas: “NO! THANK! YOU!!!”
I’m not sure what kind of message my bursting out laughing sends, but he’s turning out okay. When we thank him, we’ll nudge with, “say ‘you’re welcome'” and he’ll say “I welcome.” Cute! We seem to do pretty well with leading by example and keeping a cast iron lid on my sailor mouth.
It’s an uphill battle in this world, but they’re all on their way to being gentlemen. Okay. Mostly gentlemen. Gentlemen-ish at least. Whatever! At least they’re not f##king douchebags!
Instructional Diagrams These pictures are worth more than a thousand words.
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