Right before the holidays, I took my kids out to run errands. Parents, you know the craziness inherent in this statement on just a regular day, but during the holiday season? Fuhgeddaboudit!
I made promises of fun later in the day if we could just make it through these important errands (which included the 7th circle of hell—a trip to the grocery store) without me having to get on them. Because my kids love to get a little crazy and they get goofy, and when I’m trying to concentrate, this is not a good thing because I am just as easily distracted as they are (oh, the irony).
So after leaving one store, I decided that our collective grumpiness and inability to concentrate is likely due to hunger. Let’s get lunch! We stop. We discuss our options. We negotiate on what will be included in their lunch (do you want the bigger sandwich or the toy that will end up in the trash in a few hours?) We order. We sit. We get back up when we forget napkins. We get back up when we need more napkins. We get back up when I realize I forgot my drink. And then we eat. And we all start to feel better.
As we’re winding up our lunch, we’re cracking jokes and cleaning up. As we get up to leave, a woman at the next table calls me over and tells me that she is impressed at how well-behaved my children are.
And this means more to me than diamonds or rubies or Powerball money. Because this is what I work for. In our house, we put a lot of time and energy into teaching our children respect for others. I know that the older my kids get, the more these manners will degrade; I know that a polite 8 year old will be a somewhat less polite 13 year old. But I hope that with all of this emphasis I put on their behavior now, at least some of it will stick. And when they’re surly teenagers, they will be surly teenagers who will occasionally say “please” or “thank you.”
In the car, I explain to them what it means, what that woman said. I told them that they should be proud and I told them that I couldn’t be more proud of them, because how they treat others is so important.
Of course, at the grocery store they both lost their heads a little bit and got a little crazy, but when my daughter was dancing in the aisle (it’s not her fault they play such good music) and the other shopper couldn’t get past us and she moved to the other side of the aisle to pass by, my daughter did say “thank you.” And when my son dropped the coupons because he was spinning the baggie around on his finger, he did say “excuse me” when he had to get them from under those other shoppers’ cards. Okay, so maybe the other shoppers didn’t have quite the same opinion of my kids’ behavior as the woman from lunch did.
Perhaps I should have asker her to write a testimonial?