Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The Deafening Sound of Silence

It's been quiet around here. You see, my muses were missing. All last week, and yesterday morning, I was teaching a staff development class for the county, and so my parents kindly took care of the kids at their house.

They had a blast. The kids did, anyway. I think my parents were a bit exhausted by the end, and glad to have their house and time back to themselves, but I'm pretty sure they had fun, too. Claire got to swim at least once every day, and sometimes twice in the lake. She has no fear in the water (she either goes in a little float that she can propel by kicking her feet or uses a suit that has float devices built into the chest and she can either just kick, or kick and paddle to move). She demonstrated for me on Saturday morning how she could make vrooming noises and spin in a circle like the jetski they had seen the other day. Ben has gone from crying and clinging when he gets into the water to happily floating in his ring, splashing and smiling. He can spin himself around, but he doesn't seem to be aware that he's doing it.

Mom taught Ben to say "gobble gobble" when you ask him what a turkey says, so he will definitely be ready for football season which is coming up very quickly. They must have also emphasized him saying please because yesterday I noticed him saying "peas peas peas" as he held his hand out for something. He's already pretty good at the "tack oo" (aka thank you).

Which brings me to today's thoughts. Saturday afternoon after we returned home from the lake with a stop at Ryan's birthday party, Ben and I headed out to two stores to pick some stuff up (Harry Potter!) and to pick up pizza for dinner. At each place Ben chimed in with a cheery "hi!", "bye" or "tack oo!" at appropriate times, complete with waves. Even the woman who took our pizza order who seemed bored to tears with her job gave him a bright smile and a cheery wave when he talked to her.

Sunday morning I headed out with Claire to a birthday party held at an indoor kid gym (like Gymboree or Little Gym). Claire politely waited her turn, followed directions, and responded enthusiastically to instructions. She said thank you after the coaches helped her with things, or gave her turns, and (after I prompted her) gave the birthday girl a nice hug and told her happy birthday. I was pleased, but a little surprised, when one of the coaches complimented me on her manners.

It led me to wonder whether it is abnormal that I am teaching my children to be polite, and to know how to respond in common situations. The woman at the parking garage Saturday seemed genuinely surprised when I told her to have a nice day after she opened the gate. The coach at the gym was amazed that Claire thanked her for helping her off of the swing. Is this so outside the norm? As a society have we grown to expect that since these people are paid to do their jobs that they don't also deserve a nice thank you and a smile or wave?

My kids manners are far from perfect. Claire, like most 3 year olds I know, rarely thinks twice about interrupting me in the middle of a conversation. She frequently needs to be prompted to ask for something politely instead of demanding it. But when prompted she knows what words to use, and says them with a smile. Ben is hard to resist when he gives you a big smile and a cheery "hi!", but he still has occasional meltdowns if he doesn't get exactly what he wants when he wants it. It just strikes me as odd that when they are well-behaved and polite it is considered extraordinary and unusual.

No comments: