I have many fond memories of the holidays and various fancy events as a child. I remember the joy and excitement, the special food, and family traditions. I also remember stockings, hard-soled dress shoes, and feeling hot and itchy from dinner in the evening and then on until morning. I grew up in the 1980s when getting dressed up meant, well, getting dressed up. This meant blouses, jackets, layers, ribbons, suits, knickers, and turtlenecks. Oh, and lots of velvet.
Today, I am eternally grateful for the general sense of ease that I see and feel within the community we live. Crinoline is totally optional and no one will judge you if you choose to put your children in it. It’s also completely fine to attend church in dark-washed skinny denim. It makes sense, and I embrace it, for a million reasons but, let’s face it, it’s Baton Rouge, not Manhattan.
I’m on board with society changing, becoming more inclusive, and in many ways relaxing. We are very much in a time of anything goes. But what about good manners? What about acknowledgments and saying ‘thank you?’ While back in the day, I may have been miserably hot and wearing uncomfortable shoes, but I still knew better. I knew to say ‘thank you’ to each and every person who handed me a gift. Are basic manners going the way of the pinafore dress? If so, I’m not sure how I feel about that.
I was recently walking into the Apple store with my hands slightly tied up – trying to put away my keys and phone, carrying my usually gigantic purse, and holding a coffee. Despite my self-inflicted awkward entrance, I still managed to hold open the door to allow another woman to enter. I was holding all of the things, she was holding none of the things and didn’t even need to open the door on her own. Still, she sashayed by me without a single utterance of acknowledgment. I did what any self-respecting southern woman would do; I mumbled under my breath, “You are most certainly welcome!”
Now she’s an adult, and to withhold judgment, she may have been very distracted and assumed I was a doorman. Either way, she’s responsible for her own actions. So what about kids? What happens when kids don’t say thank you or acknowledge gifts, actions, or any other type of social offering?
I have certainly let go over the years and loosened up some things such as my strict, hand-written only thank-you note policy. But I haven’t given up on the necessity for an honest thank you; no matter what form it comes in. My kids are still young and don’t have access to their own phones so naturally, their ability to acknowledge people falls on my shoulders. If our children receive a gift or any type of social offering, they are directed to make a phone call. Sometimes we make a thank-you video and send it to the person. We may opt for a video chat. Whatever the form it may take, it still happens.
I am 44 years old. I am not a millennial. I am Generation X and I love my cell phone and all things tech, but I still have a land-line in my house with a working phone number. You know, because, well, you never know. I’m totally fine with my son never owning a suit until he absolutely has to. I’m fine with never, ever wearing pantyhose again for the rest of my eternal life. If Katie Couric didn’t need them on national television, then I certainly don’t need them here.
But I don’t think I can get past the idea of a society that does not say thank you.
I have had the experience when gifts go unanswered. I have had the experience when there was no acknowledgment or expression of gratitude; even from children. While these experiences do not go unnoticed, I can’t help but wonder how or why this happens. Is this the wave of the future? Are kids no longer taught the importance of being respectful?
I understand that when I give a gift, what happens next is not up to me. What the receiver chooses to do, or not do with the gift is up to them, not me. I give gifts or offer to hold doors because I choose to do so, not because I’m looking to get something in return. But when someone does something nice for me, I want to let that person know they are appreciated. I know I am not required to do anything, but I want to. I want people to know when their actions are meaningful. Isn’t that the way things should work? Isn’t that what makes humanity unique?
It’s quite possible that I am currently living within a time of life where I am straddling two very different universes; polar opposites in which I am planted in the middle. Parenting today is a totally different gig than my parents had, and I acknowledge that fully. While I don’t have any interest in forcing my kids to wear velvet just because it’s December, I will always require them to show respect and maintain appropriate levels of etiquette.
I guess my best option at this point is to flex where I’m willing and fight where I’m not.
When it comes to raising our children to be respectful, I will not waiver no matter what changes are happening around us. If we are allowing kids and people in general to possibly shift into a society of zero etiquette or worse yet, entitlement, I will rail against this. I will honor the admirable traits of the glorious decade of 1980 and utilize the words of Twisted Sister as my battle cry. In other words, we’re not gonna take it. Are you?