My little guy and I were taking advantage of the extra warm, sunny Fall day in New England. And so were lots of other families. Our local community park looked more like Disney World during April school vacation than a typical October Saturday evening in a small, suburban town.
There are two playgrounds within our park—we’re lucky like that. One is set up for the older kiddos; the other for the little tykes. My guy, being the daredevil he is, likes to venture back and forth and try out his skills on the climbing towers and rope webs. Kids are flying in and out through the gates like the ice cream truck made a spontaneous encore after a long hiatus, but I savor the energy generated from their pure enjoyment of youth, time and fresh air.
We’re making our 40th transition back to the little park when two moms and two littler girls beat us to the gate. My toddler is just as zealous as the older kids that came racing through and wants to make it to the slide in the worst way. He’s about to push past these girls to get there, but I put my hand on his head. “Buddy, let’s open the door and let the ladies go in. Ladies first.”
At 2.5, he’s still a surprisingly good listener (well, only if he’s not tired or hungry), and he does as I ask without a second request. One of the moms say, “oh, no, it’s ok. He can go.” She pulls her daughter backwards.
And this raises a hair on my head. Um, no, it’s not ok. I can hear Oprah saying “teachable moment!!!!!” I agree, O. This is a good time, if not the absolute best time, to start laying the groundwork for manners. A life lesson in real-time about we should act and how we should treat people. How we treat ourselves, too, for that matter. I’ll tell you this... how we choose to act directly impacts our view of ourselves and our self-worth, which then translates into how we form and maintain relationships. You know that saying “hurt people hurt people?” It’s one of those chicken/egg phenomenons.
First off, let’s touch on the gender issue. As more and more women join the #metoo conversation, I’m thinking carpe diem, baby—time to reinforce or even reset the basic tenets of perhaps the dying art of being a gentleman. And a gentle human being.
Second, let’s go beyond gender. It technically wasn’t our turn at the park gate that day, anyway, so the courteous thing to do would have been to let the other party pass, despite their chromosome makeup. Kindness counts regardless of gender.
Maybe it seems like a little thing. I’m sure some moms will roll their eyes at me. But, how many eye rolls before the little things morph into their larger versions and lines are crossed, boundaries are ignored, voices are lost and people get hurt. Sometimes temporarily. Sometimes irreparably. Everything starts as a seed. Right? Right.
So, you best believe it’s my mom duty to teach my son to respect himself, and if that’s done correctly, then hopefully the latter will fall into place with little effort. Chicken/egg. But either way, yeah, rudeness aside and ladies and humanity first. Always.