Please and Thank You and Ruff Ruff


02MAR09_EMCThere 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.

“Yes, maam.”

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.

Her response?

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.

11 thoughts on “Please and Thank You and Ruff Ruff

  1. These little rewards are precious, aren’t they? Treasure them! They give you hope to attempt the next hurdle. I was great to see all three of you last weekend.

    Love, Pira

  2. Ebbs and flows, ebbs and flows! 🙂 My son is 19 and just yesterday I was saying to the wall, the ceiling, the trees outside my window:

    “Am I speaking Japanese here? Did someone come in during the night and program me to speak Mandarin and I’m just comletely unaware???!”

    Never stops. But he’s an amazing young man and is making his way through the world beautifully. It’s just funny that the dance continues. I’m 45 and my mom says it’s never stopped…

    Bon Voyage!

    1. My mom often used to say that it didn’t matter how old I was, she was still my mom…I don’t think it ever stops when you truly want your child to be the best that he or she can possibly be. Thanks for the comment and I’m glad you enjoyed the blog.

  3. I catch myself CONSTANTLY correcting. An although I know it’s my job to make sure my kids learn manners, integrity and dozens of other skills, I sometimes wonder: “How much is too much on my part?”

    Because when I leave for work, I miss them. And the fact that they only put away 50% of their toys before bed is overshadowed by the face that I won’t see them tomorrow for almost 12 hours.

    I have trouble balancing teaching with simply living.

    Thank you for the post.

    = ^ )

    babbo
    http://www.daddybrain.wordpress.com

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed the post. The correcting/teaching/simply enjoying parts of parenting require a lot of work to find the right balance, but its a fun and worthwhile challenge that I am enjoying.

    1. She is a doll, and I am very lucky to be her momma. Thanks for the feedback and enjoy the other “grits” as well.

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