Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Mr. Manners

A new war has broken out in my household. It’s one I think all parents have faced at one time or another. Or maybe you’ve faced it two times ... or twenty. I think I’m up to Fracas Number Forty-Two.  

Teaching a child to consistently apply manners in his everyday interactions is a daunting task. I think I’d rather face smelly Tamara-eating trolls. Or Lord Voldemort teamed with Sauron and Megatron. Or my housework ... and honey, you know I don’t do housework. 

We go through brief snatches of time when Kiddo remembers he should be polite and grateful for gifts, clothing, food, and the fact that Mommy isn’t on top of the roof pouring cauldrons of boiling pitch on those strange people who drive a truck around the neighborhood selling meat. Yes, that is a thing here in Brunswick, Georgia. I don’t know when door-to-door meat salesmen became the next great wave in entrepreneurship, but it needs to stop. I do not buy steaks out of the back of a Chevy Silverado or even a Ford F-150. I do not buy it from people who look like they might have gathered said meat from the sides and surfaces of the roads. I sincerely pray no one does. If you’re that desperate for a meal, give me a call and I’ll bring you a casserole. 

But back to good manners. Kiddo has them once in a great while. Right now it appears that he has lost them to whatever gremlin runs about stealing a child’s natural angelic sensibilities and my sanity. Each time he descends into a new round of rudeness, he does so with increasingly brow-raising results.
Heard in my house in the last week: 


“Give me cookies.” 

“Go away.” 

“I won’t do it!” 


“Chocolate. NOW.” 

Okay, that last one was me. I never claimed to be Miss Manners myself. Plus I really do want chocolate right now and forever. 

Once more, polite utterances of ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ and ‘excuse me’ have made their exit from my child’s store of speech. He knows better. He even occasionally remembers better when I give him my now-patented stare of ‘Sh!t’s About To Get Real All Over You’ (soon to be available through Amazon and other fine retailers for only $14.99). 

Yes, it’s irksome. Yes, it makes me wonder if I’m raising a feral savage or future pro wrestler, two stomach-churning possibilities. But I also remember a time when I would have given anything to hear my son respond to a question with a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’. That he does so now – often at the top of his lungs with his own kid’s patented stare of ‘Sh!t’s About To Get Real All Over You’ (soon to be available through Toys ‘R Us and other fine retailers for only fifty cents and a sticky handful of gummi worms) – is something of a blessing.  

Autism can steal a child’s voice. For a long time, it hoarded Kiddo’s. He spoke early, but it was only to mimic phrases and sentences he’d heard. Interactive speech and actual conversations were impossible for some time. That he can tell me some of what is on his mind now – even if it’s a grouchy snarl of “Move!” as he shoves past me to get at something he wants – is a blessing. As is knowing that he is capable of those precious manners. Someday he will appreciate them as they help him fit into and survive a world that all too often gives no quarter to those with special needs. Knowing that he will be able to shout “No thank you!” to purveyors of questionable meat at his doorstep fills me with joy and relief.

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