You Go First

When I was a little girl, I used to dream about living in the south during the Gone with the Wind era, when belles wore full, swishy dresses and used southern hospitality. It seemed ladies were sweet and genteel, and courtesy was the order of the day. Now that I’ve grown up (and studied the Civil War and got accustomed to air conditioning), I don’t think of living then so longingly, but I do still wish that ultra-courtesy was our culture’s style of interaction.

Well, it’s not. Rudeness is quite common. But we can have create a culture in our own home where “You Go First” is the motto.

I once invited my friend and her large family over for a visit. I had baked a cake to serve as a refreshment. With my 7 kids, and my friend’s 12, there were plenty of eager dessert-eaters clamoring around as I cut that cake! My friend’s teenage boy had his youngest sibling in his arms. I noticed as the cake was served, he held back, making sure everyone was served first including his tiny sister. That isn’t normal behavior for teenage boys! I was impressed and starting observing more carefully. Although no one voiced it, “You Go First” was that family’s method of interacting, and I determined to make it mine as well.

So, I taught my preschoolers to say, “You go first” instead of “me first”. “You go first” is a very unnatural phrase for a little one. It wasn’t easy for them to restrain their desires and offer the treat or chair or privilege to their siblings, parents, or friends first, but with practice it started to work magic in my family. The older children caught on. Instead of everyone racing and scrambling to take care of #1, they were looking out for each other. What a victory!

It takes constant vigilance and reminders, but “You Go First” brings a pleasant sense of civility that makes home life glide along so much more smoothly.

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