I was sitting with a friend outside one of our favorite restaurants enjoying the Indian Summer when we heard a bang and a cry. We looked over and a baby stroller had tipped over onto the brick patio. A 2-year-old was in it and it looked as if the 4 and 5 year olds around it had tipped it over. The parents were several tables away enjoying their dinner. No adult was keeping eyes on the stroller or the poor little girl who had her head thump onto the brick. Immediately after that incident, five children around 6 to 8 years old went screaming in and out of the patio with the decibel level so loud that we couldn’t hear ourselves talk. Needless to say, their parents were nowhere to be found.
To me, this was a minute captured of what is so wrong now in our culture. There is little responsibility taken for children’s upbringing. Manners are not taught. Consideration of others is not inculcated in our society. Graciousness and politeness seem to have largely disappeared. Consequently, we have candidates that are rude, and parents and children who do not have any awareness of others’ feelings.
As I was growing up, it was politically correct to let kids do “their own thing” and consequently most of my generation seems to have passed on this laissez-faire upbringing to continue. At the time, I thought I was unfortunate to have a Southern mother and a Marine father to dictate public behavior. Now I am incredibly grateful.
Don’t get me wrong. I can frequently forget my manners and I can be obtuse and say things that are hurtful. I am no saint and have inherited a “sailor’s mouth,” but I do know better and I do try to remember to be kind and gracious. And I try to always apologize when I am out of line. I made certain my daughter knew that she had a public voice and a home voice. She also knows which fork is for what because teaching someone to eat politely and not chew with her mouth open does indeed make for a more pleasant dining experience. She and her polite husband will have the same standards for their children I am certain.
I think if we societally brought back some of those polite standards, we’d have a better political environment as well. We need Miss Manners!