“thank you for the bread. that is really kind”

“hey j. can i tell you something?” a. shouts out from the “way” back seat of the mini-van. i stress mini-van because anytime someone refers to it as a car, van, vehicle, anything – a. is right there to remind them that it is a mini-van. which, at times, adorably enough, comes out as “vini-van”. today, we were fortunate to be joined on our adventures, so a. sat in her booster-seat in the “way” back of the mini-van to make room for our extra passengers. she had a pretty proud look on her face. “that’s mr. j. a.” i remind her from the “way” front. “oh, mr. j….” and she went on to ask that he guide me to our destination. boy, she has a lot of faith in my navigational skills. this morning we went to the north alabama railroad museum in huntsville. we sandboxed, rode a train (which the conductor was able to push start), played firehouse (a. dropped her voice a few octaves when something very serious needed to be done) and enjoyed getting to know another dad and one of his daughters. after our train depot experience we headed to sam and greg’s pizzeria and gelateria for a black olive and cheese pizza, headed home for a popsicle and headed to our rooms for naps.

at lunch, amidst other pleasant conversation and parmesean cheese pouring, i asked the dad i was with, a native alabamian, if there was/what was the proper way that students/children should address teachers/adults in alabama. like many, or most who have watched t.v. and never ventured south of illinois, i have an image of respectful southern children who address all adults in a way that exhibits an understanding of the hierarchy in society. adults are to be respected, in actions and language. not that there is any more/less respect for elders in the south than north, but perhaps a different vocabulary of showing that respect. he shared that in elementary school they typically call their teacher mr./mrs. and their first name, and that perhaps when you reach high school you address the teachers as sir or ma’am. i grew up addressing all of my friend’s parents as mr./mrs. last name, and still do to this day. we are teaching our girls to refer to adults as mr./mrs. first name. it is my feeling that no matter how much we want to relate to our kids, and have them see us as people they can come to, there still needs to be a distance established that dictates the foundations of those relationships. i am not my kids friend. am i friendly? do i play with them? yes, but i do not, and hopefully will not, look to them to fill the role of a friend. someone i “hang out with”. my feeling is that this relationship will become even more necessary as they reach the high school years, when we may want to relate to them on a different level, and will, but i can’t see identifying with them as friends. i don’t think i’m alone by any means, but i do, right or wrong, know that there are different views to raising children. there was always the “cool dad” in the neighborhood who everyone called by his first name. come to think about it, he didn’t have children, at my young age i thought all older men were “dads”. he was just “rick”. “rick” didn’t have to be the “uncool dad” and call his son in for dinner or bedtime. “rick” was able to fill a different adult role for kids in the neighborhood. i can understand a feeling of want or – gulp – jealousy that we may have watching the relationships that other people are going to be able to have with our kids. weird thought, but as a teacher i tried to remain ever-mindful that parents may feel that way about me. a feeling that parents do the “hard work” and others get to relate to/enjoy them on a different level. perhaps true enough, but i’m guessing that the feelings of pride when you see them able to establish healthy and long-lasting relationships will be incredible, and in my experience – relationships of every kind evolve.

r. laughs at my need to shake people’s hands. i now ask her opinion if i went for a handshake at the wrong time. our last conversation about handshakes was when a. had met a little girl playing at the “y” when i was working out. we went to the pool afterwards and the little girl was there with her mom, i introduced myself and reached out my hand. r. thought i should have given a bent elbow wave or just said “hi i’m andy”, but what would i do with my hands? now, this is something i would like feedback on. i feel the need to shake just about everyone’s hand. i’m not a weirdo that walks down the street and tries to shake the hands of strangers, those are politicians, but when i see someone i know or introduce myself – i stretch out my hand. i think it is so engrained in me that i don’t even think about it anymore. is that too formal? are we beyond the age of handshakes? does everyone shake hands and i just happen to extend mine earlier than most people – the same way i put my blinker on two miles before a turn? the responses i get vary from a firm handshake to hesitation. should it be different for men than women? i treat both equally. i do hold back if i get the feeling that they know my style and want no part of my hand, and i don’t go out of my way to shake someone’s hand if i see them at a distance. imagine, i’m in my garage “hey wait a., j. is at the end of his driveway putting out the garbage. i gotta go shake his hand.” no, i am not like that, i think i do it because it helps me focus when i first see someone or they are leaving. it’s sometimes the only time i am focused when just meeting someone. i know i do it because it shows respect. so, i ask you – what are your thoughts on handshakes?

formalities and respect, which have come up on more than one occasion in my blogs, are important to me. more important to me is the carrying on of traditions. i value the order that those who went before us passed on. i like tradition, though i acknowledge that i have knowingly halted the passing on of certain traditions that were/are important to my family. i do see formalities and respect as an extension of continuing cultural traditions that preserve who “we” are. who are “we”? good question.

off to run and swim at the “y”.

as j. was leaving, after popsicle fest, we shook hands and thanked one another for a good morning. our kids were tired and ready for naps. after the door closed i realized i didn’t thank him “one final time” for the bread. perhaps respect and kindness don’t always need outward recognition. or over recognition. perhaps it is just understood.

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