Wednesday, March 21, 2012

R-E-S-P-E-C-T (Find Out What It Means To Me)

I've been holding off on this post for a week, but I can suppress myself no longer. Something must be said. But it must be said to parents, and I fear I will come off as accusatory or—heaven forbid—holier than thou. This is not my intent.

Think of this post as a call to action. For action must be taken quickly if we are to save all of humanity. Because our very humanity is at stake; the part that makes us think of others before ourselves, that makes us kind and pleasant to be around. It's the very notion that we share this planet, these cities and towns, our streets and yes, even our elementary school auditoriums.

And it's the auditoriums I would like to address.

Last week the fourth graders of Jacob Wismer Elementary school performed their yearly concert: a mash-up of singing, dancing and instrumentals led by our dedicated music teacher, Mrs. Phillips. They'd worked hard. Jonah was so excited he wore his black clothes to school every day that week in preparation, so he'd be ready for his native american feather dance.

I'm not an etiquette expert, but my understanding is when someone wants to perform something for you, you show respect and pay attention. Additionally, you show respect for those around you by not talking through the performance, not standing up and blocking other's views, and not allowing your children to run wild.

None of these acts of respect happened at the fourth grade performance.

I realize this was a family friendly event, but what better place to teach children how to show respect? Not only did many parents fail to hold their kids to a standard of respect, they, themselves, set examples of disrespect. I was horrified. Plus, I couldn't catch more than a fleeting glimpse of Jonah through the miniature screen of some lady's digital camera two rows ahead of me. (She was holding it high above her head to get the best pictures.)

So I ask, where has our respect for each other gone? How have we become so self-obsessed? When did we stop thinking about our "neighbor?"

I don't mean to go into histrionics, but this type of attitude could destroy us. (And I'm fully prepared to blame it on reality TV, but that's another post.)

I need help raising my boys. When I tell Ethan, who has a non-contagious, allergy-related cough, that he needs to sit on the aisle so he can step into the hallway if he needs to cough so as not to disturb those around him, and SIX  adults talk at regular volume non-stop directly behind us, what is he supposed to think?

When my eight-year-old can't see because someone standing up in front of him, but I make him sit so he won't block the view of the person behind him, how is he supposed to react?

We need to support each other in our efforts to raise the next generation of thinking, responsible, compassionate, honest adults. It's hard. Especially when kids see the adults around them exhibiting none of these traits.

Let's all rise to a higher standard of respect for each other. Let's be the village our kids can look to for how they should act. We're not perfect and we will make mistakes, but if we're all helping each other, it will be much easier, and we'll all be much more successful.

And for the love of Pete, if someone wants to show you something they've practiced and perfected and are proud of, shut up and watch. Clap when they are done. Show a little respect.


Anna said...

this wouldn't solve any problems right away, but you could mention it to the principal or at least the music teacher of the school and suggest they make a comment before the performances (and possibly during) to have parents and children remain quiet and seated. Knowing the performance is already over, you'd have to remind them before next year's performance as well. I would be totally embarrassed if I was talking at a performance and between the skits or whatever, the principal got on the mic and said, excuse me, could the parents in section whatever please show respect and be quiet... or could the parents of the children in the back please have their children sit down." I think, even if it seems bizarre, maybe they didn't realize how rude they were being. But to be called out like that - which they need to be if they are ever going to change - would definitely get their attention. (Chances are those people would be totally offended and if you're lucky, they won't even come to the performance next year)

Steve Atwood said...

Gee, we have none of that in Utah, it must be an Oregon thing!

Natalie said...

Ditto to your whole post! This is something that drives me crazy, too. How can it not occur to someone that when they stand up to record their child's part in a performance, the people behind them can't see anything? And when did it become fine to begin talking the moment YOUR child is done? Rude! It really is. Thanks for speaking up (but not during the show). :)