I got into a Facebook argument yesterday. Actually, I was debating…meaning relying upon logic based upon history, sociology and culture. They personally attacked me as a mother. Over what you ask? Manners!
That is right. Adults, who are complaining about children not sitting quietly at the table in a restaurant, that parents need to teach their children ‘manners’, have no compunction about personally attacking a stranger they know nothing about on the Internet. If that is manners, shove them where the sun don’t shine.
But it got me to thinking about ‘manners’ or more accurately old, outdated assumptions and rules that bind all of us. Things like not talking on the bus, Tube or train. Sharing your toys with perfect strangers on the playground. Which fork to use. No elbows on the table. No talking at the table. And yes, sitting still.
Don’t get me wrong. Not all manners are wrong. We do need to wait our turn…usually. We should give up our seats for those less able to stand. And I am sure there may be one or two others.
But as I argued with those ‘well-mannered’ individuals, those are not manners but KINDNESS. Something I do believe in teaching children. And adults too.
But here is the hard truth about manners: they teach you…
I am not going to argue that point when the lives of a whole space ship crew are involved. BUT when it is a matter of adult convenience versus children’s natural tendencies? Guess which one I come down on the side of?
As I said, I used sociology, history and culture to argue my points…
- The USA and the UK are not family friendly places…any more. One person complained about ‘free range’ kids. Yet from a global, sociological and anthropological standpoint we are the minority. Many other cultures do just that sort of thing with the children laughing, running and playing…yes, even in restaurants. And it does not bother the adults, who just smile and drink with a watchful eye if they are needed. Don’t believe me…Greece, Italy, Spain, Cyprus…all are MUCH more child and family friendly. In fact, even in London, when I do take PanKwake out to eat it is to ethnically owned restaurants for that very reason. They call her Princess and make accommodations for her.
- It was not always this way. I like to talk about what a good little girl I was, but when I took off my rose colored glasses and looked back at those times honestly I realized that my behavior then would NOT have met the unrealistic standards we hold of children today. When I talk about sitting through Sunday school with a bunch of 60+ year old women, I remembered how I was forever swinging my patent-leather Mary Janes and hitting the legs of the chair sometimes. But they only smiled and gave me a piece of peppermint candy, calling me a good girl. They rewarded my best efforts…because these women who had raised their own children and struggled through the Great Depression were just glad I was there…the next generation…something to be cherished and protected. How different were they from the elderly today who think they deserve respect just because they have lived to a certain age, sucking up air, water and the earth’s precious resources? They were more in line with the Nordic tradition, where when times were bad the grandparents walked naked into the cold…so that the next generation had a chance…after all they had lived a long life, time to make way for the new.
- Children in other cultures have a childhood. If you examine, how indigenous peoples treat their children you will see a marked difference. In addition to running around naked until they are four or five and nursing almost as long, childhood is just that. Not enforced indenture servitude that our Western cultures impose on our children. Yes, children like the women work, often along side their mothers gathering or farming food. But there are no quotas…no standardized tests to measure if they are pulling their weight. We on the other hand rob our children of their childhood. Forcing them into uniforms and sitting them at desks for 7 hours per day or more. It is any wonder that they grow into stressed, depressed and alcoholic. Mental illness is virtually unheard of in these cultures (until Westerners introduce ‘civilization’ anyway).
So the next time you see children ‘misbehaving’ or being ‘naughty’ in a public place. Take a deep breath and ask yourself…as the friend who wrote that original Facebook post did…WHY? When she thought about it…they were trying to get their parents’ attention. But that is another Mommy Monday post.