Everyone is busy these days. So busy that important things like exercise, diet, family and friends all take a back seat to work, schedules and deadlines. In times like these, it is easy to put many things on the “luxury list”. We all have a list of things that we’ll do someday, when we have more time. Sadly, many of the things on the luxury list are things for our kids that just have to take a back seat to higher priorities.
What if I was to tell you that there is one, very important thing you can do for your kids and it only takes one minute? Would you do it? Would you invest just 60 seconds to give your child a lesson that will serve them well the rest of their lives? It will make them more successful at work, at home and in all their relationships. Would you find one minute to give your child this gift?
I’m talking about manners, and this is the story of how I learned manners in just one minute.
I learned manners in Kindergarten at Lehi Elementary School. Well, not actually IN Kindergarten, but one afternoon after Kindergarten had ended for the day. I was outside playing with my classmates, waiting for the bus to come. It was just another nice afternoon. I’m sure we were playing tag or kickball or just running around the lawn. Just being kids. I don’t remember anything unusual about that afternoon at all. Until…
Sometime while playing, a girl in my class (I’m pretty sure it was Anna Skinner), stood next to me. For some reason at this point—I can’t remember and really can’t even fathom why; I hit her. I don’t remember where I hit her; I hope it was somewhere that didn’t hurt. I don’t remember what happened between us in those following seconds. The next thing I do remember, my mom, (Lucile) was there and I was getting a lesson in manners.
I’m not sure how what happened next is possible. I suspect it’s one of those events where people summon superhuman strength in an emergency. The power I summoned? Somehow I watched this entire event unfold as though I was sitting on the top of the flagpole. I don’t remember seeing my mom walking toward me—the view I remember is from the side and up high. I can see her walking, like only a mom on a mission can walk.
My mom isn’t very tall, but in my memory, she covered about 30 yards in 6 steps. She marched across the lawn and took me by the ear. I remember watching from atop the flagpole as mom pulled me toward the car and after the first stride kicked me in the butt. I never thought of my mom as being particularly strong, so I don’t think the trip to the car was a feat of strength. I would describe it as a spectacular display of timing, coordination, strength and agility. I watched my mom holding my little self by the ear and somehow I made it to the car without ever touching the ground. From my vantage point, it looked like Mom was playing paddleball with my butt as the ball & my ear as the string. Every time I was about to touch the ground, Mom’s foot shot out like a paddle & rocketed me skyward. Every time I almost escaped gravity, her grasp on my ear pulled me back to earth.
By the time we made it to the car, I’d learned manners. I mean, sure, I’d heard of manners before then. I’d seen my dad demonstrate them a million times. But I hadn’t ever really understood why I should learn them. At five years old, manners were kind of like soap—seriously, when would I ever need to know how to use them in real life? One short flight, and manners were crystalized for me. Not only did I know how, when and why to use manners, I couldn’t wait to get back to that playground and impress my mom with my new skills. I wanted to sprint to Anna, fall to my knees and beg her forgiveness. I wanted to make my mom happy.
Manners became important to me after that day. I started respecting others more. I started holding doors open for others and I never, EVER hit a girl again. (Ok, my two sisters who were immediately older than me may have gotten hit a few times when I got bigger than them, but when we lived together I never considered them girls and it was payback for years of sitting on my chest tickling me.)
Before anyone gets wound up about my mom’s approach to teaching me a lesson, let me say this—it was me and I’m grateful for the lesson. Sometimes, you have to get a five-year old’s attention before you can teach them.
Finally, I don’t think I ever apologized to Anna and for that I feel deep regret. Anna, if it WAS you that I hit, I am truly sorry. If it wasn’t Anna and someone knows who it was, tell me & I’ll apologize. That’s what people with manners do.
Guy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.