This may come as a surprise to you, but I’m not a particularly traditional parent. I’m pretty sure most of the traditional parenting methods (fear-based parenting, authoritarian rule, seen-and-not-heard mentalities) have resulted in maladjusted whacky Americans at best, Unabombers at worst. When I hear about parents telling their kids blatant lies in attempt to manipulate and control them, or deploying violence and scare tactics as a way to maintain power, I want to kick them in their teeth (the parents, not the kids).
I don’t care how my kids dress (although for my daughter, that tween mini-skirt slut gear is out of the question).
I don’t care what toys my kids play with.
I don’t care how my kids end up politically (although admittedly we’re nudging them to the left on social issues).
I don’t really care if my kids go to college or not (let’s admit it. It ain’t for everybody. And there are other ways to gain experience, wisdom and education.).
I don’t care if they’re gay or not.
I don’t care if they’re religious or not (though I’d prefer a bit of spirituality, in whatever form that takes for them. Unless it takes the form of acid or other psychedelics. Cause those are dangerous.).
But there is ONE THING I REALLY CARE ABOUT…
There is one thing that I force down on them with Stalin-like tenacity.
I am unbending.
I am mean.
I am neurotic.
I am old-school, 1950s-regimented I-know-better-than-you “don’t fuck with me on this one, children” when it comes to MANNERS.
We will not chew with our mouths open.
We will not flail about at the table, eating with our fingers and slurping out of cups.
We will not scream and run in restaurants.
We will not play with our food or any other interesting item at the table.
We will not interrupt.
We will not belch, pass gas or engage in other bodily functions in the presence of others.
We will say “thank you,” “please,” “excuse me” and all other niceties.
And kids. Check it out. We will acknowledge one another, especially adults. We will say “hello,” shake hands, and answer questions when addressed. We will say “goodbye.” We will hold conversations with people attempting to engage us in conversation (obviously, people we know. I don’t force my kids into conversations with strangers or anybody they aren’t comfortable with).
I am so not nice, so not easygoing when it comes to this particular issue. I drive my kids batty.
But I don’t care. They’ll thank me later. For this one thing, they will thank me later. (And it may be the only thing they thank me for, so I’m holding onto it with a death grip.)
I mean, have you ever been around an adult who chews with his or her mouth open?
Yes. Exactly. ‘Nuff said.
And have you ever been around a child who is dead terrified and/or completely disrespectful of adults? I’m not talking about toddlers. I’m talking about 5 or 6 or 7 or 8 or whatever year old kids who feel it unnecessary to acknowledge your presence – even when you try to talk to them.
A few months ago I went into a home with two children. I was hanging out in their living room for at least 3 hours. These kids didn’t acknowledge me once. They were about 8 and 10. I tried talking to them. They just looked at me like I was some sort of alien life.
Admittedly, I’m scary. But I was being nice. I was using my inside voice and good behavior.
Because my mama taught me manners.
(Thanks again, mom.).
And their parental figures just stood there letting them ignore me.
Yeah. You aren’t doing your kids any favors there, sunshine. Basic manners and civility are generally considered a win-win in this world. Pretty critical skills, as far as I can tell.
Unless you’re the Unabomber.
Then it’s cool to be all rude and withdrawn and shit.
Or if you’re one of those tragic artist writer types. All deep and anti-social.
Although even they probably chew with their damn mouths closed, cause there’s nothing poetic about half-masticated food and chomping sounds.
Don’t ya think?