Inspiration can come from the most unexpected places. Perhaps I read or hear or see something, and the associations and ideas run riot in my head. This happened to me this evening. Ben, one of the people in my circles on Google Plus, was the source of my post this evening. You see, his wife had a work event this evening, and his mother was kind enough to treat Ben and his two young daughters to dinner in a local restaurant. I imagine he was worried about how dinner would go, because he mentioned that "they were very well behaved at the restaurant."
Anyone who has read many of my blog posts or comments knows that the force of smart-aleckiness is strong in me. I commented that the girls had used their grandmanners, special behaviors that are used to beguile grandparents. I have seen these behavior patterns used by many children over the years. Heck, I'm pretty sure I even used them myself. I have no children, but I know that I have been the recipient of auntmanners on more than one occasion. Here's what it boils down to - kids are not dumb. They know when to turn on the charm. If they go out with mom and dad, there are perks to being well-behaved, of course. But if they have meltdowns and embarrass their parents, mom and dad will still take them home. And continue to feed them and such.
But grandparents are a step removed from the situation. Not only do the kids get to spend some time with someone cool that they really love (more on that in a moment), but they get a chance to work their goods. Because grandparents might do something that mom and dad won't. Grandma might take us out for ice cream after dinner! Or buy us some candy or a toy! They do that sometimes, you know. I am not saying children are knowingly manipulative. I'm just saying that like cute little puppykitties, they learn to repeat behaviors that get rewarded. In this way, I suppose grandmanners are a great thing. They give kids a chance to learn that people enjoy you more when you're not driving them insane. It's one of our first chances, if you think about it, to practice our innate good manners and behaviors outside of our core family unit. I like that.
Now, about the other end of the grandmanners, the behavior of the grandparents themselves. They have the chance to just relax in a way that they might not have been able to do with their own kids. The years have mellowed them. And of course, there's always the whole revenge bit. "Just wait until you have kids!" comes into play. They don't tell you that when you have kids, they will reserve the right to get them all excited and hopped up on sugar, and then smile at you sweetly as they hand them over just before bedtime. Of course, there's also the cranky old grandparents who you never really liked, who suddenly become sweet and delightful with your children. I have my own theory about them, too. Yes, they have gotten more relaxed with old age, and perhaps have mellowed a bit. But I have long been convinced that they see themselves getting older, and realize that maybe they weren't as kind as they would have liked to be. I used to tell Gram that these people were cramming for their finals. Changing your ways may not make a difference, but it couldn't hurt!
Although I have written this with my tongue firmly planted in my cheek, I will honestly say that I think that grandmanners and auntmanners and companymanners are all good things. Especially when they become automatic, everyday behaviors that turn kids into the warm and beautiful people that we know and hope that they can become.