Gena Martine Santoni
Manners Begin at Home
It's true that manners really do begin at home, and home is where we find the most important people in our lives. But have you ever noticed that sometimes people treat perfect strangers with more consideration and respect that their own family members? Strange as that may seem, it is actually normal, at least from time to time. Since we are together so much, our families see us both at our worst and at our best. Nevertheless, if we believe respect and consideration are important, wouldn't we best show that in how we treat our nearest and dearest?
When we are cloistered at home and everyone is on top of one another all the time, it is easy to feel like family time has become too much of a good thing. We might be trying to work, or study, or just find some solitude and quiet time to think. Meanwhile, someone else in the house wants to belt out 80's classics or build something with power tools. In these moments it is easy to feel like the whole world is conspiring against us, including our beloved family. So, where to go for advice on living in close quarters 24/7 with a bunch of lovable yet sometimes irritating characters? Submarine captains and astronauts, obviously! Here are some great tips I gleaned from reading their advice:
Remember your mission. How would you and your family define your mission during this time? What is the bigger picture or higher purpose that you can focus on? Having this mission in mind can help to bring things back in focus when individuals are feeling frustrated, irritated or anxious - and perhaps using their outside voice . . . inside.
Communicate. For a family to act like a team it helps for everyone to be on the same side with the same goal in mind. When individual family members collaborate on schedules and chores, and seek to understand the needs of others as well as voicing their own, it helps bring the team together and lessens the chance that any individual will feel that they are less important than someone else.
Find a place where you can get away. My husband and I recently created a little private retreat in our own back yard. We put our pop up beach canopy in one corner of the lawn and used clothespins and sheets to curtain off the two sides facing the house. Now we have what amounts to a brand new room where we can enjoy the garden, sit and journal, read, or just think and watch the hummingbirds zoom by.
Follow a dream. What is that thing you've been wishing you had time to do? Perhaps now is that time. Start that writing project. Pick up that guitar. Get into programming. Clean out the garage. Maybe you have already started. Maybe you are still waiting because of all the uncertainty in the world. (Been there.) Perhaps you believe you still don't have the time because you are watching the news all day hoping for answers. (Been there, too.) My advice is to turn it off and go do something that makes your heart sing instead. The earth will still spin even if you take an hour to follow your bliss. Besides, who knows what inspiration might manifest from it that could enrich the rest of your life?
Bottom line? Let's treat our family with the same respect and consideration we confer to strangers. Let's help our children remember that their siblings are the most important people in their lives and will be there even as friends come and go - so to treat each other with love and kindness. Let's put the electronics away and give each other the full attention that shows true respect. Let's model what we want to see and hear. Manners really do begin at home - with each of us. •GMS