Friday, January 29, 2010

I Got Your Good Manners Right Here

We all know that there are rude people in the world. But lately, they seem to be everywhere. Why are good manners and common courtesy so freaking hard for people? I try every day to use my good manners and to instill them in my children. [Editor's Note: Pay no attention to the fact that Lydia totally snarks off once she's in her happy place. Like here. Or at my house. -Kate] And people, I am from New Jersey so that is like hard-squared. But at least I try. And my kids really are polite. Most of the time. I sort of feel like my success as a parent is in part determined by how well behaved and polite my little terror suspects are. Talk about a losing battle.

As I have mentioned in the past, Hawk and Thumbelina were born in Alabama and there is no place on Earth where nonsense and snottiness from children is less tolerated than Alabama. [Kate says no place except maybe Texas] [Editor's Note: But that's only because every third person has a gun - duh. -Kate] So my first few years as a parent were informed by how people in Alabama expected their children to behave - especially in public. Kids down there had better mind their p's and q's and, at least to me, it seems that they do. Perhaps for fear of a whuppin'. Or because parents use some sort of mass-hypnosis technique. Because I have no other plausible explanation for how so many small children could be so quiet during church services every Sunday. It was almost scary.

Thumbelina, a little Southern Belle to her core, prides herself on her good manners. I have been told countless times what a sweet and well-mannered girl she is and when she hears about that, she preens. Well done, Thumbelina. Now, let’s try it at home. At school it's "thank you" and "please" and "may I" and "Ma'am", all with an angelic smile. Meanwhile, at home it's “MMMOOOOOMMM – I’m huuunnnnggryyy. Whaddya mean we don’t have any cheese sticks?! Hawk, you’re being a TURD. HEY! I’m hungry NOW, Mom!”

Oh no you dih-dunt.

But Hawk is worse. If I ask him to put on his coat once, using a nice voice and polite words, I can expect to be completely ignored. By ask #6, I am growling and he will scowl at me and growl back: “Not until you say PLEASE!”

Oh yes you did.

I am failing at raising respectable and respectful small Americans. It's so disappointing. But the above may also illustrate a kind of nature/nurture debate – you see, Thumbelina was born desperately wanting to be good and sweet and princess-y and Hawk was born truly not giving a shmidt. Mini-mini-me is still in development. It could go either way with that one. You know why I love the whole nature/nurture thing? Because then there's a chance that it's NOT MY FAULT. And let's get something straight. Based on the behavior of my children lately, you should take anything I say about parenting with a rather large grain of salt. Like a grain possibly the size of a boulder. Like Boulder, Colorado.

It's not just me, though. Lately, I am seeing a lot of over-entitled children. Ones who seem to think they are owed that juicebox in my hand and there is no need for them to say please in order to get it. I served snack at preschool and asked a three year old: "What do you say?" as I waited and waited and waited for a 'please'. The 'please' never came, just one small, raised eyebrow as if to indicate that I was not providing baby carrots in a timely enough fashion.

Then last week, it occurred to me that it wasn't just the kids. There are tons of really rude and disrespectful parents all over the place. How have I not noticed this before now? Have they always been there? Did a bunch of them just move here and I didn't notice? Or was it the Blur? We may never know.

Would you like an example? I have been to three funerals in the past four weeks. It has been wretched. At the last one, I saw some ladies I know from sports or scouts or something and they were behaving so badly that I was tempted to let my Jersey out. They were chatting, gossiping, giggling and talking about how the deceased should have taken better care of themselves. I had to stop myself from causing a scene. I wanted to grab this one woman's ponytail and use it to ricochet her head into the pew, in the hopes that it would scramble her brains back into alignment. How can you possibly talk trash at a funeral? Who are you?

But what did I do? I did nothing. I didn't even give her the Maude face. And I have been stewing ever since. Maybe I should have used the Carmela face (see below). So I have decided to use this blog as an opportunity to say something now. Here's a quick list of things I could have (should have?) said. Feel free to put them on little cue cards and tuck them in your purse. Handy. OK, here we go:

  • "Can I get you guys some lattees? No? Because in case you bitches didn't notice, we're not at Starbucks. So shut the hell up. Peace be with you."
  • "Hey. You might want to keep your buzzing little voices down because the deceased was my immediete family and my post-partum is flaring up and I'm off my meds and [angrily swat imaginary flies] I. Don't. Like. Buzzing. Noises."
  • "Omigawd you guys - move over, I like, totally brought UsWeekly. What? You don't want to see why Jen is awesome five years after Brad? Seriously? Oh. Because gossiping at a funeral is actually horrific? And you two should be totally ashamed of yourselves? Yeah. Boo-yah."
  • "Excuse me. Maybe you should just text each other a lot during the actual eulogy. Because that would be less rude."
  • "I don't mean to interrupt your conversation, but you seem to have something in your hair. Oh. I see. It's your horns. My bad."
When you take into consideration that I even have thoughts like those listed above, then obviously, I am no better than the women that I am castigating in this blog. I am Jersey. Hear me roar. But I am now faced with a two-front war against bad manners: trying to make sure that my children and I are polite and then figuring out how to deal with the rudeness that I see everywhere. And as with everything else, I am clearly over-matched.

Until someone from Alabama or Texas sends me that mass-hypnosis thingee, I guess this is my only solution. I will continue to fight the good fight at home and in public. I will stay classy, San Diego. But watch out if you cross the courtesy line, heifers, because I am a mommy and I have blog. Oh, and I have my cue cards ready.


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