As we gathered up the kids to leave, I watched as he wiped down the cafe table and put chairs back in their place. He finished up by throwing the few pieces of trash away before meeting me at the door. I wrapped my hand around his neck and gave it a squeeze as I kissed his cheek and thanked him. He answered back with a “yeah” and a shrug of his shoulders as he walked to the car. He doesn’t like me to make a big deal of it, you know, when he does things like that without being asked. And I agree with him to a point… it shouldn’t be a big deal. However, as a parent and what I see day to day in the world? It is a big deal. Even though we have made it a completely normal thing in our own family life.
Now, don’t me wrong. I don’t get it right all the time as a parent. I get it wrong a lot and I make mistakes. All of us parents do. However, I can say without a doubt that I did this part right. I did this part so right and it makes me beam with pride. From the beginning, we started with ‘Please’ and ‘Thank You’. Even before the words were really clear and it was more of a noise they made, we were persistent and never let up with our kids saying those two phrases. Every time we got them a cup of milk, every time we tied their shoes, every time we did anything for them we would begin by saying “How do you ask?” and then followed it with “What do you say?”. It was routine. It was habit and we never let up. Persistently exhausting, but we never let up. It also grew into making sure our children look others in the eye when speaking to them. No matter how old they are, checking out at Target and after asking politely for a sticker, we make sure even our youngest looks the cashier in the eye and says thank you. And if they forget to look up? We ask them to say thank you again with a gentle reminder that they need to look up.
It’s never ending. It takes effort. And it takes consistency. And we never let up.
I now have a son who opens doors for women and others out of habit when we are out shopping. I have even been told by teachers that he does it at school as well. I have children who thank the waiter at the restaurant when they are handed their drink. I have kids who pick up a piece of trash and throw it away when they see it at the park or out in public. I have children who do things without being asked and who others comment on and tell me how impressed they are when they see it. And there I go again. Beaming with pride. Like I said, I don’t get it all right and fail a lot of the time. However, this part I did right.
I think it’s easy right now to look at the world we live in and blame it on a generation. A generation that is made out be lazy and self entitled. I think it has become easy to blame current problems on the so-called “millennial”, but maybe, just maybe, it’s my generation that has failed. After all, it’s easier than looking in the mirror and maybe seeing something that we may not like, right? So we point fingers. We shout. And we watch the train wreck that is happening in front of us daily. And our hearts break. But then what do we do?
I believe it all starts in the home. I believe it starts with us as parents. I believe it starts in the most simple and basic ways. Hanging out longer when tucking my daughter into bed to talk more about her day. Making sure my son knows that his friends are welcome anytime in our home. Spending time all together around the dinner table. Allowing them the space to talk to us about whatever they want – hopes, fears, dreams, goals, worries. It all matters. Even in the youngest of children. I believe in traditional manners. I believe in chivalry. I believe that the current state of our society, the problems and the chaos, it can all be prevented by what goes on in our homes. My heart breaks when I stop and think about the world that I am raising kids in. My soul fills with fear every time, every single damn time, my kids step out the front door without me. It’s the sweetest heartache.
But I do believe everything starts within the home. I believe it starts with us parents and never letting up. And I believe it starts with ‘Please’ and ‘Thank You’.