I remember sitting in our kitchen sometime during my preteen or early teen years and watching my Dad have a conversation with my brother. My brother was two years older than me he was standing on the precipice of the dramatic high school dating scene. I remember my Dad being very specific with my brother about what it means to be a gentleman. I remember him talking to him about how a gentleman behaves and treats others. I remember learning that being a gentleman was not just acting a certain way when he was with a girl, but it was a way of being at all times.
I’ve never forgotten that scene. In our house, being a lady or a gentleman was expected. There was just no other way.
I came home from work yesterday feeling extremely discouraged. During my workday I had a conversation with a man who was sharing with me the qualities that he wishes to see in his life. In our conversation he shared with me his thoughts about the characteristics of a gentleman. Some of the words that were mentioned were: power, control, money, stature, a following, notoriety, and dominance. He followed these words up with examples of gentleman: President Obama and President Clinton.
I am not looking to get into a political discussion, but honestly, the reality that these were the first two gentlemen that came to this person’s mind was stomach wrenching to me.
When I think of what it means to be a gentleman or a lady words such as: humility, class, dignity, integrity, consistency, honesty, respectable, gracious, patient and kind come to mind.
But I wonder. . . has this era passed? Has the tide changed and ladies and gentleman are defined in a completely different way? Will the hunger for power and notoriety squeeze out the standards, values, and morals of yesterday? Have they already done that?
I came home last night feeling extremely discouraged about the state of the world. I looked into the sweet, innocent faces of my little ones and wondered if it will always feel like an uphill battle to raise them to be different in the world.
Don’t get me wrong. I am all for women’s rights and I would even consider myself, in part, a feminist. However, I love when my husband or a stranger opens a door for me. I appreciate when vulgar language or jokes are halted when “a lady” enters a room. I enjoy it when I am in the presence of someone who believes that chivalry is not dead.
I am fully aware that I think too much. That I should just let things be and go on with life, but my conversation with this individual has really gotten me thinking. It has made me reflect on my interactions in the public and the things I see and don’t see. It makes me wonder if Dad’s and Mom’s are still sitting around the kitchen table teaching their young sons and daughters what it means to be a gentleman and a lady.
Charlie is only five, but we have already started. We’ve talked to him about not hitting and being cruel to others. About not being rough with girls. About letting the girl go first. Sharing. Being kind and generous and helpful. He’s not perfect at it, but we see glimpses when he slows down for his sister and makes sure that she is okay and has her needs met.
We’ve even begun with Chanelle. I talk to her about the appropriate way to sit when she’s wearing a dress and about how sometimes it’s okay to remain silent. She hasn’t perfected it, but she’s hearing it.
I realize that these words might make me sound stuffy and old-fashioned, but I have no intention of changing. As much as I hope Charlie is strong, I also hope that he is gentle. And as much as I want Chanelle to be independent, I also hope she carries humility. I think this is one of the great things about having a boy and a girl. We have a lab right in our very home.
|Like I said, the gentle thing is a work in progress. . .|
As I sit and watch them from afar I am faced with the reality that we will be playing tug-of-war with a society that is ever changing. On one side the world will be pulling hard toward power, control, and independence and on the other side will be the things that we are trying to teach them today: humility, integrity, and class.
Even though there is a part of me that gets really nervous about this battle, there is this other, stronger part of that is completely confident that Charlie and Chanelle will find their way just fine.