I am afraid that we have seen the last of the days when gentlemen open doors for ladies and pull out chairs...the last of the days when keeping your elbows off the table as you ate and using a napkin rather than a sleeve to wipe your mouth are taught at home...the final days of an encouraged and sometimes enforced "Please", "Thank you" and "Yes ma-am". I hope I'm wrong ~ I'm afraid I'm right! Our boys didn't like it much, but my husband was really on them at mealtime to behave like civilized humans and keep their mouths closed when chewing. He would swat their elbows if they left them to rest on the table and he would hand them a napkin if a dribble appeared on their chin or a crumb got left behind on the lower lip. He taught them to open doors for me and he himself often pulled out my chair at the table to teach them gracious hospitality to women.
Another thing that I so appreciated was a thank you for the meal that I had often slaved over for hours which was inhaled often by our hungry teens within minutes. Thanksgiving was the ultimate example of that for me. I put my heart and soul into basting the turkey while it was roasting, making homemade mashed potatoes, and everyone's favorite green bean casserole. There wasn't a year that went by when my dear husband wouldn't bow his head and say, "Dear Lord, thank you for the hands that have prepared this beautiful feast for us with love and care!"
It's those little things, the attention to the details in our role modeling that makes all the difference. We can go through our days, humming happily, with everything going along pretty well and never really think of the small touches that make a big difference for someone who is always watching us: our child. They see, hear and take in everything about the way we act, the way we speak, the relationships we nurture or don't care about (as the case may be!) and you can bet that they will emulate what they absorb on the homefront!
We think we get away with bad behavior...the cursing, the disrespect for our spouse, the nasty way we treat a delivery person, the lack of courtesy towards a waitress in a restaurant, blatant disregard for an elderly person struggling in a parking lot, a snide comment about a disabled person who is taking too long and getting in our way...these all make an impact on our impressionable children. If they hear us reacting and responding to life in that way, they grow up thinking and understanding that it's okay.
We need to remember to keep our mouths, our thoughts and our actions in check! They're watching and manners matter!