This weekend, BossLady and I took Peanut to her favorite NYC playground, a beautiful city water park located in the West Village on the banks of the Hudson River. Afterwards, we grabbed a few hot dogs and some lemonade and sat on a nearby bench to eat.
While we were chowing down and admiring the views of the river, a city sanitation worker was cleaning up all the debris along the piers. Suddenly, we saw a little boy about 5 years old run up to the sanitation worker and, completely unprompted by any adult presence, say, "Thank you for keeping our beautiful city clean, Sir!"
At first, this enormous hulk of a man looked down at the tiny boy and just stared at him as if in shock. But suddenly, a wide grin broke out on his face and, as he patted the boy on his head, he replied, "You're welcome, little man!"
Needless to say, we thought this was one of those great moments that make New York City feel like the smallest, loveliest little suburb in all of Pleasantville. And after BossLady professed her love of this little boy and started envisioning his future marriage to the Peanut, we remarked on how unusual it was to meet such a thoughtful and considerate young child.
Now, as many of you know, I'm a stickler for good manners. I believe that, aside from opposable thumbs, etiquette and civility are the only things separating us from the animals. Compassion and consideration for others seem to be dying art forms these days. Chivalry has gone the way of the dodo bird. And somehow it's now become acceptable for people to talk on their cellphones in theaters, eat Big Macs on the subway, and step in front of women to enter an elevator. What the fuck???
Let me pause here to acknowledge the several people who have e-mailed me privately to mention that they enjoy reading my blog but don't understand how a man so obsessed with manners can curse like a fucking sailor. I know this is a strange dichotomy but all I can say is that sometimes a point can best be emphasized by using the word "fuck." I also like to think of myself as the Poet Laureate of Cursing or the William Strunk of Swearing. However, as Dennis Miller once said, cursing can have a place in civilized conversation but it should be used sparingly...like saffron in a fucking paella.
Anyway, as I was saying, I was quite impressed with this young child's manners. BossLady and I have been desperately trying to cultivate the Peanut with a similar sense of etiquette and civility. If you ever saw us at home, you'd probably laugh your ass off. We usually stick Peanut in her high chair and do a little acting routine for her benefit.
ME: "BossLady, may I PLEASE have a cookie? PLEASE!"
BL: "Yes, you may have a cookie."
ME: "THANK YOU, BossLady! THANK YOU very much!"
BL: "You're welcome."
We will literally sit there and repeat our routine like a bunch of autistic monkeys putting on the world's worst one-act play in history. Unfortunately, our little Punch-and-Judy show isn't working out that well. Several months ago, the Peanut was saying "thank you" left and right. The dog would poop in the corner and she'd say "thank you." Now, she's either forgotten how to say it or she's decided that it's not really worth all the effort.
I really don't know where to proceed from here. I've tried leading by example. I've tried the carrot and the stick. What have you got, internet? How do you raise a well-behaved kid who is both polite and considerate of others? Is a 21-month-old girl too young to understand the concept? Or should I send her off to the good people at Manners International?
An inquiring mind wants to know...