Manners

I had just finished my first post-Sandy grocery shop. The shelves were mostly bare but I managed to get most of the essentials I needed to restock the house.

I pulled my carriage into the check out lane behind a woman and her three, possibly four, year-old daughter. The woman was dressed in pajama bottoms and a stained t-shirt. Her daughter was disheveled, in filthy clothes, hair unkempt with a barrette clinging to a few strands, a large pacifier in her mouth.

The child stood quietly, waiting with her mother to pay for their few items. I was thinking about how cute this girl was, how she would break hearts some day. The little girl then turned around. Her bored expression instantly transformed into a grimace and she shrieked as if someone were disemboweling her favorite doll.

I watched carefully, wondering what in heaven’s name could be so horrible as to illicit that noise. I thought perhaps the child had injured herself and I had missed it. Then I heard her mother say Well go ahead and get one, then. Which one do you want? I was certain I had misinterpreted. It could not be that the shriek I heard was a tantrum that was then rewarded with the child’s choice of candy. Are you freaking kidding me??  Sure enough, the girl picked out a kitkat and she stopped shrieking as suddenly as she had begun.

Not two minutes later, the girl began shrieking/whining once again. I looked up and saw her pacifier had fallen out of her mouth and onto the floor. Her mother, without missing a beat, picked it up off the floor, wiped it on her shirt and popped it back in her child’s mouth. Like hitting a switch the child was quiet once again.

Yes, I’m judging here. It is quite possible what I witnessed was a child with a mental disability of some sort and her barely coping mother. I really hope that’s what it was. If not, there is absolutely no excuse for spoiling a child to that extent by that age.

I hear all the time how well mannered my son is, how considerate and sweet. Sure he’s a great kid but he is not an exceptionally polite automaton. He is just a well behaved child. I don’t take any guff from him. I never have. He was/is never allowed to be whiny for any reason.

I now understand why my son seems so exceptional. If what I saw today is how people are raising their children, simple manners must be outside the norm. I worry for future generations … and for those of us who will share the planet with them.

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3 thoughts on “Manners

  1. People tell me all the time about how well-mannered and well-behaved my children are…I usually ask if they really mean mine, because for me they’re sometimes a little less well-mannered…but I know that’s due to familiarity…I’m sometimes astonished at the behavior I see coming from other children…and like you, I hope that what you witnessed was not a perfectly healthy child being spoiled rotten…

    • Kayla, there is no child capable of being perfectly mannered all of the time. They are children after all. We, as parents, can only do our best to praise them when they get it right and gently correct them when they get it wrong.

      • I agree completely…it’s almost the family joke that they’re very well-behaved as long as I’m not around…a friend of mine says it’s because they know I love them and won’t beat them, and they’re not so sure about anyone else…

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