Uncommon Courtesy

adult-bar-beer-1267244We’ve become an unpleasant people. All the commons, like courtesy, sense, knowledge and good, aren’t nearly as prevalent as they should be. But we’re Americans! We’re resilient! We survived New Coke and the Sony Betamax. We can definitely start using old-fashioned common courtesy. Making America Great Again should include some of the following:

Be Thoughtful

Being thoughtful doesn’t have to be inconvenient, like throwing your jacket on top of a mud puddle so I can cross without getting my dainty feet wet. (Disclaimer: I’ve never had dainty feet). Even small actions amp up your kindness cred.

Open doors, smile, give up your seat, wipe down the machines at the gym (you know who you are!!) or offer to carry a bag of groceries. Maybe thoughtfulness means doing something you’d rather not do, like play Yahtzee with your grandson 327 times in a row, watch golf with your husband or help a friend move.

Offer to buy a stranger’s coffee, remember important dates, use manners, write thank you cards and let someone go in front of you at Walmart. Watching their wary acceptance is pretty hilarious.

Shut up and Listen

Have you ever talked to someone and realized their eyes were more glazed than a Krispy Kreme conveyer belt? That means you’ve monopolized the conversation and it’s someone else’s turn to talk. (“Conversation” means two or more people exchanging ideas.)

We’re horrible listeners. We interrupt, interject with personal stories, refuse to make eye contact and try to keep that supercool thought in our brain so we can jump right in as soon as the speaker takes a breath.

Calm yourself. Listen to learn. If we already know everything, there’s absolutely no reason to pay attention to someone who’s talking to us. If you agreed with that last sentence, your wife is slowly poisoning you.

Put Down Your Damn Phone

We are WAY too invested in our cell phones. I’m not excluding myself. My husband and I often have this conversation:

Tom: Can you put down your phone and watch TV?

Me: I’m watching.

Tom: What just happened?

Me: The guy did that one thing to that other guy.

Tom: Hand me your phone.

Me: [Eye roll] Gees, you don’t understand.

Our discourteous cell phone behavior made headlines this spring after a cast member of Hamilton called out audience members in Salt Lake because they wouldn’t turn their phones off during the performance. Good grief! We’ve even irritated the Founding Fathers (again).

Leave your phone in your car, on your shelf or in your fish tank if you’re in a situation that requires decent human behavior.

Be Generous

Utahns are notoriously cheap. I mean seriously-perhaps-we-should-be-in-therapy cheap. I’ve had two daughters who worked in food services. They’ve shared horror stories of impolite guests, demanding drunks and overall poorly behaved people.

Come on, everyone. The wait staff survives off your chintzy tips. They usually make less than $3 an hour and when you tip $2.75 on a bill of $100, you are a villain.

Don’t be afraid to pry open that creaky, dusty wallet and tip your restaurant servers, hair stylists, pizza guy, Uber driver or dog walker.

 Let Drivers Merge for Cryin’ Out Loud

Nothing more needs to be said about this one. (You know who you are!!)

Every action we take builds or destroys a community. I don’t want to see common courtesy go the way of Freshen Up gum, dodo birds and our democracy. Let’s Make America Pleasant Again.

Originally published in Iron County Today–http://ironcountytoday.com/columns/life-laughter/life-and-laughter-uncommon-courtesy/

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How To Be a Better Parent

Now that my daughters are “adults,” I can start telling other people how to raise their children. I can be one of those women with opinions about EVERY aspect of parenting, especially the ones I really sucked at.

Group

(The tall ones are my daughters. The short ones are my grandkids. They’re all perfect. Like me.)

First, play with your kids. With my daughters, this meant playing Barbies every single day for 16 years. Of course, I was never Barbie, I was always Ken. And I never had clothes. And I was always at work.

Next, listen to your kids. Especially when they’re in the back seat of the car, and don’t realize you’re paying attention to the conversation. I learned LOTS of “secrets” by keeping my mouth shut in the driver’s seat.

Put the helicopter parenting techniques in the hangar. Nothing is more infuriating than dealing with a woman (or man) who does book reports, organizes science projects, accompanies their child to every play date, hides in the car in the parking lot during school hours to make sure kids play nice at recess, and who yells at the teacher when their child fails a subject. You are teaching your children NOTHING!

norma bates

(Norma Bates: ultimate helicopter mother. And we all know how Norman turned out.)

Allow your kids to fight. Allow your kids to be bored. You are not a cruise director. You do not need to organize, plan and entertain these creatures all. day. long. Kids who are bored are forced to use their imaginations. Of course, that often means you end up with disemboweled stuffed animals and missing spatulas. Still a mystery.

For every rule you set, your child will break it in many, creative ways. That’s all I have to say about that.

Be flexible with your schedule. Sometimes you just need to drop everything and spend the afternoon in the park. Other times, laundry can wait while you read “Brown Bear, Brown Bear” 634 times in a row.

brownbear

(If this doesn’t drive you to drink, nothing will.)

Spend time one-on-one with each of your children. Go for ice cream, watch a movie, walk through the dinosaur museum–do what they love. Also, spend one-on-one time with your spouse, your therapist, your bartender and your mom–who is now laughing at you as you maneuver the pathways of parenthood.