A week ago Friday as I was on my way out the door to run errands, the phone rang and I could see it was the Middle School. I answered the call, and Zack’s homeroom and science teacher introduced herself. I reflexively went to that “oh sh*t” place, although I quickly rationalized that being Zack’s teacher, she was more likely calling to report an errant homework assignment than any kind of misbehavior on Zack’s part.
Instead, she told me that even though she’s so busy that she rarely gets the opportunity to make positive phone calls, Zack was such a special kid she really wanted to make the time to let me know. She went on and on about what a polite and kind young man Zack is, how bright and helpful and thoughtful he is, how he takes initiative in the classroom, and how much she enjoys having him in class. She said she really wanted me to know.
It wasn’t such utterly shocking news to me (I call him “Splenda” because he’s even sweeter than sugar), but I truly appreciated the teacher’s call, and thanked her graciously. But while she had such exceedingly nice things to say about my Z-Man, the call left me feeling a little bittersweet. Why is it the case in today’s world that Zack’s behavior and demeanor is the exception rather than the rule? That saddens me. Come to think of it, for years people have regularly remarked about how exceptionally polite and personable my guys are, and how unusual it is in this day and age. I never really thought anything of it; I just assumed people were being kind. Being their mom, of course I think they’re a great group of guys, but I don’t think of any of them as having any more than appropriate and acceptable social etiquette. I must be really out of touch if saying “please” and “thank you,” smiling, shaking hands, speaking to adults, looking people in the eye when talking, and being appreciative and thoughtful are so unusual that a child is singled out when he does do them.
While I can assure you that that level of politeness and kindness is certainly not de riguer when we’re at home, I have always expected it of my boys when we’re with other people. I thought everyone did. Apparently not. And don’t get me wrong – I’m not trying to pat myself on the back or be self-righteous. I just honestly didn’t know there were any other options. Being polite and personable was always expected in my family. We facetiously suspect that many generations ago someone in my Nana’s family hooked up with British royalty because that’s the only logical explanation for Nana’s high school nickname, “HRH The Duchess, Sonya” (her name was “Claire” for godssakes!). Nana had high standards for proper etiquette and civility, and I guess it’s hereditary. It’s just sad to me that it’s the exception today. It’s a lost art I guess, and I think the world is a poorer place for it.
Way back when David and I got married, we lived next to a family with three very sweet young daughters. They used to love to come over and visit with me, especially when Ben was a newborn. I always admired how unfailingly kind and polite they were, obviously a reflection of how their parents were raising them. Before our babies were born, I used to tell David that given the choice, I’d rather have polite and kind kids than rocket scientists. I got my wish four times over (well okay, maybe three-and-a-half times on a good day!). I am proud of my boys, and I’m proud to send them into the world, even if their behavior doesn’t make them popular. It may not be much, but it’s my own small contribution to the world.