Chivalry, It's Up to Us!

My daughter Emily (17) came home from high school thoroughly disgusted. Emily is a very upbeat, happy spirit and she loves everybody and everything, so it shocked me to see her upset. She only attends 2 classes at our local charter school, and is very studious and diligent in her homeschool assignments. She tells me regularly that she loves homeschooling best, which brings me great delight!

Anyway, Emily was upset. Turns out that she had to go to a Senior Graduation meeting and when she arrived at the building, the boys didn’t think to open her door, but just walked in, in front of her, letting the door slam in her face. As she got to the classroom for the meeting, the seats were all taken—by boys! Many girls stood through the long meeting, and the big, strong football players lounged in the chairs without even a glint of recognition on their faces.

“Where are the mothers?” is always my war-cry! It takes mothers (and fathers) teaching kids to be respectful and mannerly, and if moms are occupied otherwise, the whole generation suffers from a plague of rudeness!

The next time Emily was summoned to a Senior Graduation meeting, the teacher had written on the chalkboard, “Boys: Give Up Your Seats”. She was a rather old-fashioned teacher, and apparently it had bothered her too. But, even with the posted notice, the boys did not all give up their seats. But the big surprise was that there were enough who did that there were empty seats in the classroom. There were also girls standing, who refused to sit down. (What!????)

How can boys possibly learn to be chilvarous if girls will not even allow them? How did this gentlemanly thing go so hay-wire?

Moms, Dads: it is up to us! Let’s teach our boys that someone female will bear their children someday and make a family for them to be loved by, and to come home to, and to work for, and to give their life meaning. Please, let’s teach our girls that boys honor that someday possibility by treating the whole feminine gender with respect and kind consideration, and to shun it is to do themselves (and other women and girls) a disservice.

Rudeness doesn’t have to be the order of the day. It is all in the hands of parents—what we model, what we teach, what we expect.


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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