Monday, February 9, 2009

Mind Your Manners

I learned the hard way what it's like to be at the sandy playground without sand toys. While all the other children whose mothers had the foresight to actually pack a bucket of shovels and molds and rakes and trucks, I was meagerly handing my sons a few twigs and a handful of pine needles to muck it up in the sand. I played it off as the beauty of imagination, not the lameness of leaving the house in a daze and having no clue what the park would behold.

Now I keep the mother load of sand toys in my car. Each item painstakingly initialed in hard to reach crevices lest the sand wear away the Sharpie.

And unlike those other moms, my kids and I share our toys. If I encountered a mom as clueless as I was that day, I'd offer her a shovel. I'd do what I could to help her save face in front of her kids. Most of all, I'd extend our universe to let in some more kids, allowing everyone to have a piece of the sandy pie. A playground is no place to be closed and provincial. It is called a PLAYground after all, not a don't-play-with-them-ground. Is it not the quintessential place to learn all of life's lessons?

Play nicely.
Walk, don't run.
That slide will be blazing hot in August.
The see saw is gonna hurt.
Don't show your panties on the money bars.
A dress is a bad idea on the jungle gym.
Sensible shoes are a must.
Don't eat sand.
Pee in the woods if you must.
Introduce yourself.
Introduce your friends.
Say please and thank you.
Don't be a hog.
Swingers don't necessarily have more fun.

Our family celebrated our long awaited taste of spring yesterday by heading to the park, sand toys and lunch in tow. Deal promptly dumped out the toys and began digging his way to China, unearthing gold along the way. I sat filling castle mold after castle mold to help build our new city. A colorful pile of sand toys at the park holds a magnetic attraction to everyone in the five and under set. A veritable swarm of children pounced, grubby little hands stretching to pluck a rake or shovel from the pile. Wails of "But I waaannnnntttt the ggrreeeeeennnn one!" ensued. And ever so calmly, Deal handed over the green shovel. When one kid took the elephant mold right out of Deal's hand, he simply picked up another toy, walked over to the culprit, and held it out for a trade.

I don't know about you, but if it were my kid playing with someone else's toys, I'd be a hawk making sure my kid played nicely. I'd be all annoyingly ingratiating to make sure the mom and kid knew how grateful were were to play with their made in China shovel. Not so for the moms and kids we encountered yesterday. Oh, not so at all. Harumph.

I was kneeling in the sand building with Deal. Actually interacting with my son. Getting dirty. Sand all under my nails. The other moms, upon seeing their children distracted by our toys, plopped down on a bench and gabbed away the afternoon, leaving me to tend to the minor battles, tugs, and tussles. When it was time to go, those moms simply took their kids' hands and walked away. No thank yous, no smiles, no waves. Nada. Zip. Zilch. They played with our stuff, left the mess, and trapsed off.

Poor Deal shared like a champ and made me beam. Those other moms and kids made me steam.

How can we possibly teach manners to our children if we don't model them ourselves? Well, good manners, that is. I'm pretty sure the bad manners are the ones that are innate to our very being. Those mothers at the park should have made a concerted effort to thank Deal for sharing (or made their children say thank you). They should have helped collect the strewn toys. They should have shown some grace and class and manners.

Painful as it is for Mac Daddy sometimes, we spend a lot of time focusing on our manners at our house. Napkin in lap. Use your fork. Say please. Wipe your mouth...not on the placemat! Look her in the eye when you say thank you. What's the magic word? It's admittedly a lot of blah blah blahing, but I have to believe it will one day pay off. Granted, there are many days I feel it isn't working at all. Don't judege me by my children. Oh, that's another post in and of itself! For the record, I don't blame those little kids. But I fully blame their rude moms. Even Deal sullenly noted that no one said thank you. How 'bout that Ladies, called out by a three-year old. Shame on you.

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Anonymous said...

Awesome post! Ever since the boys were old enough to go to the park or anywhere to play we have had one Golden Rule. If you take it out to play with you, you have to be willing to share it.

I wish I had been at the park that day you were without toys. We would've gladly shared.

Parents need to be willing to get out and play with their children and use each moment as a learning activity. Whether it is to teach them to share or how to get along with others.

If don't act as role models how can we expect them to know how to act.


Anonymous said...

I second down30's comment - great post. Some parents are just lazy. LAZY.

Lumpyheadsmom said...

The worst thing about those kinds of parents is that they're the first to get all offended the minute you ask their precious Grabby McSelfish to share or tell the Double Fisted Sand Thrower to please stop that.

Kim Tracy Prince said...

How timely. I've got a post coming tomorrow on LAMomsBlog about how I'm the sucky playdate mom with a heart of gold.

Favorite line:
"Don't show your panties on the money bars." Um, isn't that what the money bars are for?!

Anonymous said...

Grrr. Rude, lazy playground moms! I bet they will get what they deserve when their kids are a bit older and don't care about anyone but themselves. That really can't be easier in the long run.
BTW, if you want to see rude-beyond-belief moms teaching some really bad manners, come sit in my school pick-up line some time! These people will cut you off like a NYC cab driver--right in front of the teachers and all the kids. How's that for setting an example?! It makes me completely nuts.
Thanks for the great post btw.