We've all heard the expression "chivalry is dead." While I'm convinced true gentlemen are still out there (I happen to be married to one), I do wonder about the younger generation. Now that I'm raising a little boy, I think about the kind of man I want him to be. While I certainly want him to approach women with equality and respect -- and expect the same in return -- I wonder if there's still a place for traditional niceties like holding doors and pulling out chairs. Or is this behavior simply old-fashioned and obsolete?
Watching my 2-year-old son, I'm not so sure. I'm continually surprised by the everyday gestures he makes without a thought, some of which I'm sure he's learning from his father, and others of which just seem to be part of his nature. Here are 5 ways my toddler is turning into a little gentleman -- and giving me hope for the next generation.
1. He opens doors. Recently, I was locking the front door, when I realized something was missing: the feel of the outer screen door on my backside as I turned the key in the lock. I looked down and saw, much to my surprise, my little guy holding the door for me. I'm not sure where he learned this considerate gesture, since I can't remember the last time my husband and I actually left the house at the same time, and my daughter typically races out of the house like she's being chased by a demonic fireball, but somehow he picked up on the fact that it's more comfortable for Mommy to lock up without a metal door whacking me on the butt. Thank you, son.
2. He carries my bags. The other day, I was standing in front of the trunk of my car, mentally configuring how to carry 13 grocery bags into the house in one trip. I looked down, and there was my toddler, patiently waiting for me to hand him a bag. When I hesitated, he took matters into his own hands -- literally. Of course, watching him struggle with bags filled with milk cartons and yogurt was a bit unnerving (as is watching him drag the kitchen garbage bag to the front door, another way he insists on helping Mommy), but the gesture filled my heart with motherly pride.
3. He shares his food. This is a big one in our house, where, when it comes to food, we're all convinced we're living through the apocalypse. Except, that is, for my son. If he has a bowl of crackers, he always makes sure to give some to Mommy. If he has an apple, Mommy must take a bite. Very few snack times go by without my hearing "Here, Mommy!" as he hands me something from his plate -- or, at times, from his mouth. Yum!
4. He defends my honor. My son is pretty even-tempered. But when he gets angry, you better watch out. And one thing certain to incense my son is someone bothering Mommy (especially if that someone is his sister). He, of course, is free to inflict bodily injury or insist I "Go away, Mommy!" while he climbs on my head. But should anyone else mess with Mommy, they better be prepared to face his 2-year-old wrath.
5. He makes sure I'm seated... right next to him. My son is always quick to help me to a chair or a seat on the couch -- right by his side, of course. He's also happy to escort me to the bathroom or anywhere else I'd like to go. And while I'm perfectly capable of making it from his hamper to the washing machine without assistance, I don't mind the company. Because nothing makes a woman feel as special as having her (little) guy by her side.
Some people feel chivalry is sexist, that it undermines equality between men and women. And while I see their point, my son's sweet gestures remind me of something important. Small acts of kindness -- no matter which gender initiates them -- have the power to brighten someone's day and make them feel special. Even if the garbage bag does occasionally spill all over the carpet.