There are times when I wonder if anything I say is making its way into my daughter’s head. Consider the time she was sitting at the dinner table, playing with her food, sticking her tongue out.
“Keep your tongue in your mouth and your mouth closed. You’re a young lady, not a dog.”
“Ruff, Ruff,” She barked in response.
My husband did all he could to restrain his laughter, but he couldn’t hide the grin, and I realized that I was beginning to sound a lot like my mother.
Or, sometimes if my daughter is busy playing and I ask her if she wants some chocolate milk, I’ll get a grunt and a nod of the head for an answer. I find myself quoting my dad’s favorite phrase: “I can’t hear your head rattle. Answer ‘yes, please’ or ‘no thank you’.”
There will be days when every affirmative out of her mouth is “yeah”, and I have to prompt “yes, please” or “yes, maam.”
(How many times did my dad correct my “Huh?” into “Pardon”, when I didn’t hear what someone had said to me? I know now how he must have felt.)
I keep finding myself on the verge of commenting “If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a thousand times…,” just like my mother would have done.
Or, my daughter will march into the kitchen, grab my arm, and demand, “I want cookie.”
“How do we ask for things?” I say in the most patient voice I can muster as the pasta boils over and the garlic bread burns in the oven.
“Please! I want cookie,” is the all too demanding reply.
After a week of “No”, “Mine” and “Go away” at the mention of bed time, potty time or cleaning up the toys, I wonder if I ever could have been as exasperating a two-year-old to my parents.
Then I think about the busy weekend we have planned—one during which naps will be drastically off schedule or nonexistent. I silently fear the terror that we will be unleashing on friends and family.
We go out to eat at a Fish Fry on Friday.
“Would you like bread with butter?” I ask.
I do a double take and raise my eyebrows at my husband. Did I really hear “maam”?
Then, when I hand her the buttered roll, she replies, “Awesome. Thank you.” That’s the first awesome I’ve ever gotten.
When our server takes her plate at the end of dinner, she smiles her most disarming smile and says, clear as a bell, “thank you.”
We go to visit friends on Saturday. Every suggestion I make about going potty is cheerfully accepted. She distributes grapes to each person at the lunch table, and if a person says “thank you”, my daughter offers a cheerful “you’re welcome.” All voluntary and unprompted.
When we go to visit her aunt and uncle and grandma and grandpa the next day, her manners are impeccable. “Thank you” at all the right places, even to me. She finds her aunt’s kitchen broom and helps “clean up” after lunch. When Grandpa chokes a little on his lunch, she rushes over and pats him on the back. Her behavior is something to cheer, and my husband and I do. All weekend after these amazing performances of grace and kindness, we praised her and thanked her for being so incredibly well behaved, telling her how much we appreciate her good manners.
A cheerful “You’re welcome!”
I have no doubt that in days to come I will be exasperated once more as I deal with “No”, “Mine”, “Don’t wanna’”, etc. And no doubt I will have to continue to remind her about “Please”, “Thank you”, and “Excuse me”— a thousand times over.
However, I do know, from what she showed me this weekend, that all the work my husband and I put into correcting and teaching is making a difference, and she is listening, and she does know right from wrong.
And, I am confident that when she exits her teenage years, she will have the foundation to become a polite, well-mannered young lady. (But, secretly, I hope she has a two-year-old of her own one day.)
© 2009 Michele Arduengo. All rights reserved.