Last week was a weird whirlwind of birthday parties and other events for me and my three–year-old daughter. We met lots of nice, well-meaning people, some of whom were a little annoying. This letter is to them.
Dear people at the parties:
Hi. You and I don’t know each other very well but we met over the past week. You might remember me as the mom with the most beautiful child in the whole world. You know? The one with the green eyes and crinkly-faced smile that sends everyone nearby into paroxysms of delight? Yes, her.
She is a delight. I know. And I want her to grow up to be even more of a delight. I want her to be polite, and friendly, and to be someone who is aware of her surroundings and interacts with others of all ages with ease and charm.
This is why it’s really important to me that she learn how to interact with people now. It’s important to me that she say “Hello,” when we meet you, “thank you” when she is given something, and “good bye” when we leave. I also want her to respond when people talk to her in a comfortable social setting, so when you ask her how she is doing I want her to tell you, and then ask how you are doing. Or when you ask her name I want her to tell you, and then ask what yours is. I want her to talk with adults as well as children.
It goes beyond “please” and “thank you.” I want her to engage.
But sometimes you make this hard.
Several times this weekend, I had interactions that went kind of like this:
Person: “Hello! How are you?”
Me: “Can you say fine thank you, and you?”
Person: “Oh, that’s OK. She doesn’t have to!”
But, here’s the thing, yes, she does have to. Because I asked her to. And you shouldn’t contradict me.
I know it’s kind of the norm these days for kids to ignore grown ups or refuse to speak when spoken to, but this isn’t how I want to raise my child. She doesn’t have to speak to strangers in the street or anything. She just has to be polite and responsive in safe settings when I am with her. Just like you would expect me not to walk away without saying a word, and start licking the icing off if you were to hand me a piece of cake, I think you should be able to expect the same of her. (We’re also working on the fact that she’s always the kid at the party sticking her fingers right into the cake, but that’s another issue.)
And I know this might seem like a small thing and like I’m making mountains out of molehills, and I also know that you’re just trying to be nice – and I’m really sorry I’m so uptight about this. Sorry sorry sorry. ** Holds hands up in what I hope is a placating gesture ** But I’d really appreciate it if you could just let me teach my kid the things I want to teach her. Because not letting me do so is undermining my efforts and sending her the messages that she doesn’t have to listen to me and can behave however she wants.
Please don’t do this.
And yes, I know she might actually learn this stuff on her own, without my help. But have you met people? A lot of them are kind of jerks. I don’t want my kid to be one of them. Not that she would. Because she’s so awesome. But, you know, just in case.
Soooooooo. Yeah. Please. The next time you’re tempted to tell my daughter she doesn’t have to listen to me, could you not?
Please don’t say, “Oh, it’s OK. She doesn’t have to [say hello/fine/ thank you/good bye]!” Because, she does.
Just let me do my job, OK?
Sorry if I’m making too much of this, but I wanted to get it off my chest.
The Mom of the Delightful Kid Who Still Needs to Say “Thank you”