Monday, September 14, 2009
Children of all ages
I'm the parent of three children, ages 16, 6 and 2. They're at varying and appropriate stages in their social development, it would seem. They are a source of pride in that their upbringing includes manners which get used a lot. "Thank you" has always been a part of their vocabulary--to hear the six-year-old acknowledge a snack feels really great as his dad. My teen is polite too, and people always comment to me on her abundance of grace, charm and ease. (The two-year-old is learning how to use the potty, and that's plenty for her at the moment.)
It's not out of the realm of belief that people reflect their parents' upbringing. And even in cases where the parenting was either neglectful or wanting in quality, people have the ability to see what kind of difference civility makes and try to retrofit it and implement it in their own lives.
But nowadays, civility and manners and tact have taken a back seat to shock value and saying what's on your mind right when you think it. Because heaven knows, that sort of stuff is far more important in 2009 than anything as arcane as behaving in public or thinking before you speak. Trash-talking in sports is celebrated and encouraged; airing complaints in public is also completely accepted. Don't ever hold back your feelings, it would be untrue to yourself.
Yesterday was a banner day for that, with Serena Williams and Kanye West and their bad behavior. I guess we simply have better access to that with communication advancements, assuming stuff like that's always been going on. Now we just get it on live feed on TV, and the world can revel at it. Gee, come to think of it, all of last week was pretty ripe for interruptions and rudeness. Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC) shouting at President Obama during his speech to Congress defied decorum handily, and in a place where decorum has always been and always should be paramount.
Yet what I find when I look on the commentary that accompanies news stories about these celebrities is even more shocking. Many people feel that they were well within their rights to yell and threaten, that their behavior was acceptable because they were speaking the truth. Decorum is so 'old school' that it is unimportant. Manners are for the weak and gullible. It's the only way things can get done in 2009. They speak for those who feel the same way but are too restrained to say anything. It's justified because they feel it.
That kind of acquiescence is depressing. Someone's failing here. It's hard to stick this one to their parents, because all three of these folks are adults. And they should know better. And they probably do, but they're forgiven and embraced by so many other people that they get wholly validated for their bad behavior. And if there's any attempt at an apology to the wronged party, it's usually couched in some way that suggests that the feelings expressed are to get people off their backs, rather than that they're actually ashamed of their actions.
I wish parents would keep these shining assclown examples in mind when they're raising their youngsters. They might want to invest in the Munro Leaf volume illustrated above. It's still pertinent, and it's an entertaining way to make your point.
While you can't police your kids when they become adults, you can do your best while they're in your care to inform them that manners and thoughtfulness are always the preferred way. We have the six-year-old count to ten when he's mad, so that he doesn't say something he'll regret later. Would that Kanye West could muster up that kind of preventative measure so the rest of us don't have to cringe at his constant public rudeness.