Remember the Peter, Paul & Mary song “Where Have All The Flowers Gone?” The lyrics went something like this:
Where have all the flowers gone? Longtime passing. Where have all the flowers gone, long time ago…
I’d like to amend the lyrics:
Where have all the manners gone? Longtime passing. Where have all the manners gone, not so long ago…
Disclosure: I’m no spring chicken. But I’m not ancient either. Age aside, I consider myself a pretty hip, sorta cool, funny mom. My middle-school-aged daughter might say that’s subjective. I do enjoy finding the humor in any given situation. But now, I need to gripe. Can we please talk carpool, people?
SMASH CUT: 7 a.m. Carpool.
My daughter and I pull up to the first house. I quietly honk my horn (is that a misnomer?). The first sixth grader leaves her house and opens my car door.
“Good morning” I say in a friendly, spunky, but not too obnoxious timbre.
A barely audible grunt of a “hi” is given. I ask the obligatory “how was your weekend?” and I get a one-word answer.
On to the next girl.
I have to backtrack to get to this next tween. There is no “hello” when she gets in, so I once again chime “good morning.” I am pretty sure I get a “hey” at this point. Onward…
I keep backtracking to get to the final girl, who gets into my car with no greeting to me. Ever. All the girls start chatting at this point (to each other).
I turn on the radio. My daughter, sitting in the front seat with me, rolls her eyes at my choice of station. Whatever channel I press, displeasure shows up on her face. Clearly, I am not carpool cool. Breathe.
I HATE CARPOOL!!
I take in the outward beauty of my surroundings. Not so thrilled with the inner surroundings.
I wind my way through village traffic and twenty minutes after I pick up the last child, we pull into the middle school parking lot.
“OK, girls, I’ll let you off here,” I inform the kids with as pleasant a tone as I can muster. My daughter gives me a kiss and says, “Thank you, Mom,” but not one—let me repeat myself—NOT ONE of the Carpool Countesses says “thank you” or “goodbye” or “later Jeeves” as they get out of their limo. NOT ONE.
The door slams shut and I want to take a cold shower.
OK, I may be a sensitive geek-of-a-mom, but I’d like an acknowledgement of service provided. I’d even settle for a smile. Something human. Anything.
What has happened to our manners, people? I was raised with an Aussie mum who’d give me a piece of her mind (and palm) if I forgot my Ps and Qs. And it worked. I am the most polite adult I know. I’d say “thank you” to a mugger: “Thank you so much for not stabbing me” or some such thing.
But I’m not looking for strokes. I’m looking for answers.
Are parents too busy/crazed/distracted/intimidated to teach their kids manners? Isn’t it a fundamental part of raising kids, or am I just too darn European in my thinking? My English girlfriends (and I have a nice allotment) all have very polite children. I truly believe it’s the Anglo-Saxon upbringing. In England, Scotland and Australia, manners are important. These English spawn all say “Hello, Dani” when they see me and “thank you” after I do something thoughtful, like hand out a snack or invite them over for a swim. So I ask you, with all sincerity…
Where are our manners, America?
Look, it ain’t easy. Teaching manners is the most repetitive task in the world. My 11-year-old was a breeze to teach. Manners came quickly and easily. She’s a people pleaser. My (almost) 6-year-old doesn’t give a hoot what you think about her. While her independent spiritedness is to be admired, it is not at the expense of politeness. I have to remind her multiple times a day to say those word gems that, hopefully, will get her far in life. Let’s just say it’s a work in progress.
Too often we make excuses for our kids: “Oh, it’s the age. You know, those tween years, they’re sassy.” Or, “It’s tough being a teenager.” Or, “They’re only in kindergarten, they’re still so young.” Rude is rude is rude is…well, rude, people.
And it’s not the Republicans’ fault. Or Obama’s. Or even Kim Kardashian’s. We all know who I’m pointing fingers at…It’s us Yankee Parents.
Teaching manners doesn’t seem high on America’s priority list. Not as high as securing our kids into a good school or making sure their Christmas list is complete. We are so driven to getting our kids the best possible education, the most well-rounded activities to occupy them, that we are missing the boat on the most fundamental task of all…making sure they are NICE PEOPLE. Kids who would stop and help an elderly person across the street, turn off their phones during dinner or thank a parent who has driven them across town.
Seriously, people, manners will make us a kinder, gentler nation. It will. I know this to my core.
A few weeks back, my family went to Benihana to celebrate my daughter’s 11th birthday. My little hellion was there as well. The chef, in between twirling plates in the air and making onion volcanoes, congratulated me on having such polite children. “You’d be surprised by how many kids come in here and never say ‘please’ or ‘thank you,’ he said.
No Sir, sadly, I am not surprised.
Oh, and thank you so much for taking the time to read this.