February 19, 2012 Sarah 2Comment

Yesterday, we went for our usual post Gymboree lunch with K’s friend C. Usually, we go before the lunch rush, so it’s a quick order and sit down in under ten minutes; perfect for hungry, impatient toddlers. But this time I walked in right behind a group of about eight teenagers. I immediately started thinking of a plan B. My friend had already ordered; was she sitting down? Could I put K in a highchair with her while I waited in what was going to be a very annoying, long line? Nope; she wasn’t within eyesight.  We were stuck.

And then, I saw one of the teenage boys turn around. “Dude,” he said. “Don’t cut the lady with the baby.”

Wow. Totally impressed. Not that I needed or wanted to cut them, (K seemed fascinated by all the people in line) but I couldn’t believe this young man had stepped out of his adolescent haze long enough to see the world around him.  And then, his friend answered,

“No way, we were here first.”

And the first young man pushed a little harder. “We should let her go first.”

“We don’t have to. “

It was settled. The first boy didn’t continue his argument. But it didn’t matter; I was already impressed and totally intrigued.

Here we have two teenage boys, who obviously were raised to view the world in different ways. One looked at what was around him and saw what he “should” do, and the other saw the world in terms of what he “had” to do.

Did I need to cut them in line? No.

 Would I have accepted the offer had they asked? Probably not.

But the fact that this one teenage boy, in front of all his friends, made it clear that he didn’t think it was cool to “cut” me, was just so impressive. He saw a situation that he believed was not right and he was willing to verbalize the unpopular opinion.  Wow. Clearly, this boys parents had taught him well.

As I sat down for lunch and watched little K spread out his placemat, I realized something. We are teaching our little ones, every day to make the right choice, be kind and generous and do the right thing. When they are toddlers, we get excited when they follow our directions. “Good job sharing.” “Good job using manners,” we say with pride. But our work is far from over.

The real test will be years from now, when our kids are on their own, in front of their peers. Will they be self-confident to speak up, even when their friends disagree?  Or will they go with the crowd because it’s easier? We have so little time with our children; how can we be sure we are using it wisely? How are you teaching your child to be a good citizen of the world?

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