Monday, September 26, 2022

Teaching your kids manners is always a challenge. When they are at home, we always say “please” and “thank you” and hope that at least those words will stick. There is nothing cuter than when your adorable little kid looks at you and say “peas” instead of “please.” It then becomes a party trick that the poor kid has to do for every grandparent, friend and neighbor who come into the house. All for a please...if it only were that easy.

The problem with teaching your kids manners is that you never really know if they apply them in real life. Every Shabbos before my kids go away (if they go away, please don’t think that I send them away every Shabbos), I say to them, “Remember to say please and thank you and to help bring things to the table and clear the table.” Do they do these things when they go away? I have absolutely no idea. I know that they rarely do them when they are home, so am both suspicious and curious about what they do in other people’s homes. I have never had a parent call and tell me otherwise, but I haven’t had a parent call and tell me the opposite was true either. So who knows? I will be positive (yes, you read correctly) and hope that they are polite and helpful when they are away from home. Though I am pretty certain that they aren’t saying “yuck” to their friend’s mom if she serves something they don’t like. The “yucks” are all saved for me, and don’t think I don’t know how lucky I am.

Another element of manners is what to call the grown-ups. Growing up, there were those people you had to address as Dr. and Mrs. or Mr. and Mrs. There was no negotiating those names. Calling them by their first names was totally unheard of. On the other hand, there were always those adult friends that you could call by their first names and felt comfortable doing so. I recently became Facebook friends with a mom of one of my friends from elementary school. I still address her as Mrs. Robinson and she wrote back to me, “Banji, you can call me Roz, it’s OK.” But it isn’t OK because she will always be Mrs. Robinson. That’s the way it is; doesn’t matter if I am now older that she was when I met her, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks (yes, I have just referred to myself as an old dog. I would like to be Great Dane because they are big and beautiful).

Another situation that has arisen is that of what to call your child’s principal. I have friends who know these men from another lifetime and call them by their first names. I cannot do that. I only know them as Rabbi or Mr. and to call them by their names would be almost sacrilegious. So my friend can ask how is so-and-so and I will say, “Oh, you mean Mr. P?” Ya, it would be weird to call them anything else. I only know them as they are now, men of authority, not what they were then, just regular people (yes, I still know they are regular people, but you know what I mean).

So what do I teach my kids to do? I don’t think that we have any friends whom my kids refer to by Mr. or Mrs. Any adults whom I call Mr. and Mrs., my kids know to do the same. However, some of my kids’ friends were raised to address all adults by their surname. This does not fly well with me. In fact, if they call me Mrs. Ganchrow, I automatically respond, “Mrs. Ganchrow is my mother-in-law, so PLEASE call me Banji.” Son #3 has told me that I have scared some of his friends when I say this to them because they are just trying to be polite. I am thinking that if that scares them, just wait to hear what else might come out of my mouth, then they might be really scared! I am Banji, please call me Banji...that is that. If husband #1 wants to be addressed as Mr. Ganchrow or even Your Royal Highness, that is his problem. I am not Mrs. Ganchrow.

I know that many of you might not agree with this and there needs to be a certain amount of respect between children and adults, and that is OK. If you decide that I can no longer call you by your first name, just tell me what you want me to call you and then I will tell you what I will be calling you behind your back...just kidding!

By Banji Latkin Ganchrow

Banji Ganchrow already knows that when and if her sons get married, she will let her daughters-in-law call her whatever makes them comfortable. She is fully aware that some of those names are not appropriate for a family newspaper.


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