Saturday, April 2, 2011

Uncle? Auntie?

2I was watching CNN recently when a nice memory flashed through my mind when I heard a correspondent mention his name – "Jim Clancy". Immediately, I remembered a few months (or is it “years”?) ago when one of my children would excitedly say to my husband (note I’m not saying “their Daddy” – not because he isn’t, he sure is.) Personally, I prefer to refer to him as "My Husband" – because that is more important (to me) and it happened before he was able to and actually became “their Daddy”...ok off topic- we’ll talk about that another time...
let's continue on this topic...

So where was I? Yes, I was saying that: I remembered a few months, or is it years, ago when one of my children would excitedly say to my husband, “Daddy look – it’s Uncle Jim Clancy.” Yep, he was “Uncle” to them and it had nothing to do with continent, colour and least of all, connection – neither family not friend.

Then early this year, another interesting thing happened. I went to visit a long time friend of mine and she said to her children: “Remember Auntie?” Then we exchanged pleasantaries. A looooooooooooooong time after the courtesies, her younger child came up to her and asked: “Mummy, is Auntie your sister?”
Talk about a teachable moment dropping into your lap...

She promptly took advantage of that moment and went on, very patiently and pointedly, to explain how we call some people “Auntie” or “Uncle” because they are related to us and how we call other people “Auntie” or “Uncle” as a sign of respect.

As I continue down this path, please note that: 
Respect is relative...it should also be a close relative 

The last part of the phrase may sound funny - well, the point of this piece is it is important to teach our children to respect others...and it starts from teaching them self-respect.

When an individual has respect for him/herself, it’s easier to extend that respect to others. A key part of engendering self-respect in a child is the level of respect we give them as children. When we recognise and treat them as individuals – just younger – that helps them build a healthy self-esteem and self-respect.

An example that comes to mind is one time my children and I went to visit another family. When it was time to go, I just announced it was time to go. The mother of the house – who I call “Auntie” (and we’re not related - but I almost feel as if we are) – said: “Give them time to wind up what they were doing”. She further counselled me that it was better and more respectful to my children and even to our hosts to do a count-down e.g. inform the children that we’ll leave in “X” minutes time. That way, they have time to wind down...or at least not start something new and feel they were "rudely interruppted." Needless to say, I took that advice and have been trying to apply it - not always, but trying my best to. Really, I'm trying... 

I guess, the challenge with that is also remembering to stick to the “X minutes” – now that borders on integrity and respect for self and others.

Ok, with so much said (& read), let’s wind down - see I'm taking my Auntie's advice. So here goes:

1. Respect is more than what you call a person – although it’s a big part – it’s more about how you treat the person.

2. Respect is reciprocal. However, the fact that a person doesn’t respect you or even goes to the extreme to disrespect you doesn’t give you a platform to do the same – overcome evil with good.

3. Respect your children, teach and show them how to respect themselves and others and that it includes not getting everything they want: “Self-respect is the fruit of discipline; the sense of dignity grows with the ability to say no to oneself.” ~Abraham J. Heschel

The bottom line is:

Self-respect is a virtue – we all need to develop and demonstrate.

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