Sunday, October 30, 2011

Please, Thank you, You're Welcome

Just in time for Halloween when complete strangers are handing candy to your children.  Now what do we say?

The foibles of parents can create blind spots for kids and even as a parent when you want to provide broad, correct and useful guidance--sometimes you can't get out of your own way to see that you are biased.  Case in point: niceties.

Please, Thank you, You're Welcome.  Are they necessary to get you what you want in life?  Yes.  Are they what civilized, enlightened people say to one another?  Yes.  Do they expend extra energy & time to say and sometimes smack of formality and expose weakness?  Yes.  Back in college, when I was learning to direct television programs and television news especially--there was no "please."  There were short, barked commands and then magically stuff got done.  I loved that because my dad was right, I was put on this planet to boss people around.  Well someone has to do it.

In raising a 2-year-old, economy of words has worked fine especially since she's just learning to talk.  She'd say with escalating panic:
"Where monkey, where monkey?" "Here," I say as I automatically hand the stuffed animal to her.
"Want raisins!"and I hand her the box, as she snatches it and runs away.
"More milk!" and I simply hand her the cup.
She expressed what she wanted/needed, I understood, I fulfilled.  This is my life.

But perhaps I've been programmed to give and simply accept orders because that is "what Kali would do."  (WWKD?) When Sidney was able to start putting correct nouns and verbs together a few months ago, we were absolutely thrilled.  If it was an acceptable action or desire, we just did it.  We didn't put any emphasis on niceties because it would just complicate matters.  This is not to say that I didn't use niceties ever.  I did and do.  If she does something I ask or gives me something, I thank her and God knows I ask her to do things with "please" and then employ a mountain of patience that I didn't know I possessed.  I have never said "please" so much nor waited so long as she decides she wants to come over and put her shoes on.  But I digress.

A few weeks ago, one of our toddler friends was visiting us with his parents.  His most excellent manners became immediately self-evident when he said "thank you" every time he received something.  Ken and I were impressed and a little alarmed.  Sidney is 2 months older than him with a firm vocabulary but this polite behavior does not happen.  Ken was all concerned, "We need to work on this!"

The final straw was a week ago at preschool co-op when after inhaling her first helping of grapes, dry cereal and cut strawberries, Sidney proclaimed, "More gwapes! More gwapes!" To which my response was to just reach for the spoon and start dumping more grapes on her napkin.  As soon as I started doing that, a mom who was right next to me looked at Sidney and said in a saccharinely sweet sing-song, smack down voice, "What's the magic word?"  I froze.  Oh snap--Sidney (and I) just got "pwned" by another mom.  It burns, it burns!

So here we are in "nicety bootcamp" where even I am having to remember that every exchange, every request, every action probably requires one of these things to be said.  But Sidney is on to us and now will roll through the list hoping that one of them works "peese-tankoo-welcome?"  That's my girl, efficiency at it's best.

(Also posted on Sidney's Page and

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