Our boys are eight and four (oops, sorry, ‘almost five’) years old and we are constantly drilling manners into them, only to find their shirts smeared with lunch (because they didn’t use napkins), demanding instead of asking (I don’t hear any request without ‘please’), and interrupting because they have to know right then why the moon only comes out at night (they forget thatwe’ve reminded them 173,289 times not to talk over someone else.)
Christmas and family gatherings present a whole new set of worries for us, as parents of manner-challenged children. We prep them on proper greetings (hug and kiss, and don’t wipe off grandma’s kiss on their cheeks while she’s looking), food handling (you touch it, you take it), and thank you hugs for gifts—even if the gift wasn’t what they really wanted.
Last year, we started the manners boot camp soon after Thanksgiving. By the time Christmas came, we were confident that our boys would be the poster children for impeccable manners. We beamed with pride as our younger son stared at a plate of cookies and then reached his hand out delicately to pick up one cookie without handling any of the others. My husband and I nodded approval when our older son thanked someone for a gift he already had—without telling them he already had it. And then, it happened.
My older son opened a gift from my Aunt and Uncle (I can’t remember what it was now) and he gasped in surprise. He ripped all of the paper off of it and looked at my Aunt and Uncle, wide eyed and blurted out, “this was like fifty dollars, that’s way too much money!”
Oh, boy. We didn’t anticipate that one. I gently shook my head ‘no’ at him. Not one for subtlety, he said, “what? That’s how much it cost and I can’t believe they spent that much on me.” I cringed. Everyone sat in silence for a few seconds and then my Aunt and Uncle laughed, and others followed.
You can bet that this year, we covered the money aspect of gifts (at his birthday, our older son had asked how much a gift cost…another cringe moment for me.) We went through a refresher course on gift-thanking etiquette and the ever-important food behavior. I think they’re ready for another shot at being GMAs (Good Manner Ambassadors.) What we’re going for is a display of their natural exuberance tempered by graciousness. We’ll see what happens…
I hope you enjoy the holidays and time spent with friends and family. I want everyone to feel the warmth of love. May the memories made (no matter how embarrassing) bring a year full of stories (or a blog post or two) and a lifetime of smiles.
And, in case you’re wondering, my well-wishes didn’t cost a dime 🙂