Picture it: Fort Wayne IN. The Mall. 2002. I am in line at Blondie's Cookies because I LOVE their Peanut butter cookies and whoa what a splurge (back then if you knew me and my eating issues you would understand...). Kevin was standing next to me and there is a mother with a little boy of about 5 years of age and an older child. The five year old is pouting LOUDLY about what he wants. And his mother is holding several bags filled with toys and clothes and she is saying "what do you want? Do you want the brownie? The cookies with M&Ms on it?, etc..." The little boys screams (I kid you not) "I want the Cookie Monster cookie NOOOOOOOOOW". I look - it is the biggest cookie in the case mounted high with blue icing and looks like something I would definitely not feed anyone especially not a whiny five year old. His mother says 'no'. At this the child throws an absolute fit to which his mother apparently in order to shut this child up says "okay you can have the blue cookie." Meanwhile his older brother looks pissed off at being ignored like if a cat walked by he would have kicked it angry...
I looked at Kevin and he at me. We rolled our eyes. We were still in the mind set that we would just be a happy couple sans children forever. That was the plan at the time (which we are glad changed, mind you!) After the scene, we discussed this incident. I said if we ever have kids that will never happen & he agreed. We will never give into our child like this - I would just take my child out of line and go home. No toys, no new clothes, definitely NO cookie - just home.
I still feel the same way now. It is horribly hard to say no, to walk away and today I can only imagine how that mother felt that day in the mall in Fort Wayne IN. I know that some times these things are unavoidable. It happens to all parents with the best of intentions. I/we am/are fairly sensitive to the timing of things with Matthew or the moods he is in but you know there is still "the unavoidable".
Like traveling with a three year old. You are stuck on the time frames of a flight and the choices of others. We work hard to make sure that when we schedule flights that are around nap or snack times and bring lots of treats and toys to entertain him. It generally works well both for travel and just the usual around the town stuff we have to do. As a rule, I live by the well rested, well fed child thing mostly because it is true.
With all of that said, I found myself being very proud of Matthew this past trip. We travel quite a bit by air and in the past Matthew was fairly mute for various reasons. He is getting better at talking to people and will look at them in the face rather then hiding behind my leg. He seems to love the adventure that travel presents and that is more then I could ask for in my child! The thing that caught me off guard, that amazed me was the number of compliments we received all over the place about how polite Matthew is/was. In fact, one stewardess practically shouted enthusiastically to the whole plane "You are a very polite young man! You keep that up and it will serve you well!" Like how many bratty kids (adults???) does this lady deal with on any given day? My child simply asked for "Apple Juice please" and said "thank you" after receiving it.
I think it is very important to teach Matthew the lessons of politeness both to strangers and the people he sees all the time. Like all kids his age, he is not perfect at it and that is okay. I have no expectations but on the other hand every time I let it slide he suddenly turns into Cookie monster kid. 'I want, gimme, slap, hit, growl!' It is a fine line. We remind him often and he knows what he is supposed to do and generally does it. That please and thank you to the stewardess was all him. No prompting from me or Kevin. BUT when we do prompt he reacts immediately by saying what he needs to say. He knows the drill and sticks to it. The thing is we make it fun and he also gets plenty of praise for being polite which he seems to like - his cheeks flush, a grin flashes and he seems to fluff up a little like he is thinking 'YEAH I did something good!'
Whether he is completely aware of what these words mean or not today to me it is as important as learning his numbers or letters. He will one day know that 1+1 = 2 and that those ABCs that he sings loudly form the words he can use to read and write. That knowing those things alone will open a world that he has yet to imagine!
I am hopeful that in addition to those reading and math skills that if we continue to teach him manners - he will say please & thank you unassisted, he will hold the doors for people, help someone in need and generally be a polite person - that being polite will not always mean having the overwrought stewardess yell about how great his politeness is but that he will just know inside himself that people are thinking that of him. That will make me proud!