My youngest starts Kindergarten next fall, so the talk around the campfire always turns to that question of readiness. She’ll be a young 5 when she starts, possibly the youngest in her class, but the metrics of readiness for school aren’t knowing the ABC’s or basic calculus. It’s socialization. That same argument that pops up when homeschooling is discussed. A kid, in kindergarten, needs to be able to sit and listen for a few minutes at a time. She needs to be able to share well, and play nicely with others, and not run with scissors or throw blocks or scream rude names at strangers.
That got me thinking; when does all that training fall apart. I mean, not being a complete asshole is pretty day one stuff in Kindergarten. So far, in my limited experience, that message gets driven in over the next couple of years. My kid was near tears when she learned about Martin Luther King Jr. and all of the segregationist bullshit. And aside from one or two kids who prioritized the creation of candy forests, the “When I’m President” posters the 2nd grade class drew focused on making sure everyone in the world was safe and fed and educated. These are kids from parents of different backgrounds and political leanings, but they (mostly) seem to get that there is an intrinsic value in kindness. More-so, respect is an expectation. Some are admittedly more interested in cheese fountains and candy forests. But hey, who isn’t? Deep down? No?
So what the hell happens? Somewhere along the line, do parents just give up pretending that manners matter. When did basic human decency go from being a hallmark of maturity to…what…a sign of immaturity? Naivety? “Look at all those adorable snowflakes who still believe in equal rights and respecting each other’s differences!” When do kids stop being “people in training” and go back to being loud, narcissistic toddlers who can drive and (almost) spell?
The Madness had a visitor in class recently who taught the kids some internal conflict resolution skills. He called it cooling the soup, or something. Take a deep breath in – smell the soup – exhale long and slow – cool the soup. Now, before she resorts to pinching her annoying little sister, I remind her to blow on her damn soup. I remind myself the same thing, before I comment on the internet. Mostly.
Because manners still matter.
Because civility is a skill.
Look at that, I actually did learn something in Kindergarten!
I mean, I forgot for a while in high school, but it came back to me. Mostly.
Don’t ask the Engineer. Or Whiskey. They lie.