03 June 2008

We're not worthy!

Dad and I are always trying to get the kids to be polite when they meet grownups: to shake hands, speak clearly, look the person in the eye, etc. But when their big chance comes, of course they mumble, hide, and generally don't do any of the things we told them to.

I was thinking about this and it struck me how unnatural most of these conventional politenesses are to children. In fact, what made me think of it was how shy I feel when meeting new people, especially those who are particularly distinguished (whether by the world or in my mind). When I meet someone of a higher office or greater accomplishment, I have to fight to make eye contact because I know my place in the presence of comparative greatness: lower, down there where my eyes feel like they belong. Our culture's faux-democratic rituals of acquaintance are counterintuitive and uncomfortable for us lowly types.

So now what do I tell the babies?


Gauntlets said...

I guess when I was a little person I said things like, "Get your hands off my dress," and "Get to your mother," instead of being, you know, nice. I don't say such things anymore . . . out loud. ;) All that aside, we do all the social instruction with our little people, but I myself am still pretty bad at it, and I always feel sympathy for them when they growl instead of smiling hello.

Isn't it just terrible? What is the world coming to, anyway?

Reb. Mary said...

I always feel a bit hypocritical when explaining to BoyOne that pretending to be deaf-mute is not an acceptable solution to social awkwardness. I'd try it if I thought I could get away with it.

Glenda said...

I've come to believe that the problem isn't our children who don't remember what we've taught them, it is the adults of this world who shouldn't be speaking to the children with much more than a hello. In our society of coveting youth and wanting to stay young forever, children are put up on pedestals, aren't disciplined, are asked for their opinions on things like war which has nothing to do with them.

Children should be seen and not heard. In this way, children observe how adults are to interact and can learn what to do when it is their turn.

Now if I can just instill in my youngest three that they don't interrupt adult conversations.

Gauntlets said...

AMEN, Glenda! I'm with you!

This is actually the very reason I don't talk to strangers' kids unless they're staring at me and we're in a corner all to ourselves. Then, I might ask them where they got that pretty hair bow. Then I might point them toward the game of tag happening outside.

But I never know to what extent I should expect others to return the favor for my kids. I still need to work some perceived social expectations out of my new pastor's wife mindset as it regards my parenting . . . perhaps.