Biff America: Barking at children
Special to the Daily
Those two kids said a total of eight words, to me. Despite that, I had a fairly good idea of their upbringing, likelihood of future success and even their social life when they reach dating age.
My mate accuses me of scaring children. She says I am too abrupt, harsh and forbidding in my interaction with the little yard-apes. Perhaps she is right. I was the youngest of six and was raised in a home where being tough and acting old beyond your years was admired — there was no baby talk in our home. I speak to children as I would speak to adults. I remember loving it when, as a child, the same was done to me.
I was on a mountain bike ride and had stopped to take off my jacket, when those two kids (maybe 7 and 10) approached. They came around the corner fairly fast; both were sporting well-worn bike clothing and on decent steeds. They didn’t need to brake as I was off the trail, but I think I surprised them as much as they did me.
The track then steepened causing them to pass slowly. I spoke to them as I would have to anyone.
“Hey wassup, how you guys doing?” I said just as the first of them passed. Now, granted, I might have barked out that greeting but that is the way I speak. The first child, the older of the two, flinched a little but regained his composure and replied, “Fine, thank you,” and kept riding. As the younger one passed, he looked over, made eye contact and added, “Fine, thank you.”
Now granted this is a massive assumption, but my first thought was, What a couple of well-mannered little nose miners. Just to test if it was a fluke or not, when they were a few feet past me I added, “Have fun, go fast, take chances.” The youngest said over his shoulder, “Thanks, you too.”
Now obviously, I had no way of knowing if these were two future, Nobel Prize winners or ax murderers, but I would say the former was more likely. The reason being is that in life, intelligence, education and genetics are worthless without good manners and communication skills.
I was the least remarkable of all my siblings. I can honestly say contained in my five brothers and sisters are some of the most intelligent, compassionate and entertaining people I have ever met. And though I could never match them in those qualities, all of us were taught (force fed) by our parents good manners. We were taught to speak when spoken to, to look grown-ups in the eye, to speak not mumble and to be respectful to adults and figures of authority.
Now to be honest those skills didn’t prevent any of us, me in particular, from getting in trouble with those same authority figures and even the legal system. But it did go a long way of lessening the ire of teachers, coaches and cops who were busting me.
But more important, being taught manners and having the confidence to communicate goes a long way to allow children, teens and young adults the ability to assimilate and associate with those — in and above — their social, economic and intellectual standings. That and they are great skills to have when ingratiating yourself with those of the opposite sex.
My opinions on child rearing are not corrupted by any actual experience, but I would guess it is fairly easy to teach children manners and social skills; you simply teach them by cause and affect, repetition and most important, by example.
I gave those kids a few minutes to get ahead; I didn’t want to be crowding them. I knew the trail widened up ahead where, if needed, I could pass. About 10 minutes later I came up over a rise and saw the younger kid lying on the trail. It was in a short, steep off-camber section and he obviously lost traction and slid out. He wasn’t hurt only a little tangled.
He got up as I approached, “You OK, dude?” I asked. “Yes,” he said.
Over my shoulder I heard, “Tell Jeffrey thanks for asking.” I looked back and right behind me was my old friend Cathy; I had no idea her two boys had grown up. I remember them as infants.
Then it all made sense. Those two kids had good parents, polite parents, parents who took the time to not only love and nourish their kids but also to school them to be respectful children on their way to being respectful and well-spoken adults. Skills that the children will use for life.
The likelihood that I will become a parent is about the same as my getting abducted by aliens. If I did have children I would try to teach them three skills that my parents taught me — manners, communication skills and to slow down to allow old dudes to pass …
Jeffrey Bergeron, under the alias of Biff America, can be seen on TV-8-Summit and read in several newspapers and magazines. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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