Attitude,  Character,  Gratitude,  Parenting

8 Things I’m Teaching My American Pre-Adults in Mexico

Don’t Wear Red to a Chinese Funeral

In some cultures it’s downright rude to wear certain clothes to certain events. Even if they never end up at a Chinese funeral (where they should only wear white or black), there are some things my American kids need to learn about clothing.

Please don’t wear a fancy white dress to a wedding. (Unless you’re the bride.)

… or a baseball hat to church.

… or Crocs to a party. Or ever. (Unless you’re a nurse or you’re creek walking.)

… or a tube top to a business luncheon.

… or a mini skirt after a certain age. (ahem—39?)

If you feel you must break this last rule, at least stay off the roof. That’s just weird.


Why “Gracias” Matters

In Say Please, Say Thank You, Donald McCullough links gratitude to how busy we’ve made ourselves:

“If I’m too busy to take five minutes to acknowledge a gift, I’m not simply in danger of Miss Manners hauling me before the court of public opinion and throwing the book of etiquette at me, I’m just too busy for my own good and the world’s too.”

He also reminds us how being grateful gives us a sense of satisfaction:

“There’s another reason why we should say thanks: it helps us. When we express gratitude, we experience, however fleeting and brief, a moment of contentment. When we say thank you, we heave a sigh of satisfaction in a world of grasping. Instead of reaching out toward more, we pause to enjoy what we have.”

Write the email, send the text, make the call. Better yet, take an extra three minutes to write a real thank you note. On paper. With a pen.

Unless you’d rather serve yourself and get up six times for all the sauces you need, don’t be an entitled diner who ignores their waiter. Call them by name and acknowledge their efforts with a thanks.

Be a jaywalker who waves at the driver who didn’t mow you over.

The checker who figured out the secret code for your bok choy, bagged your groceries and told you to have a nice day? She’d probably like to be looked in the eye.


Ditch Your Lifeline While Chewing & Dreaming

We use this technological marvel to constantly enhance human community. Parents listen to homesick children, spouses call from work to apologize for being jerks at breakfast, and siblings call to ask forgiveness and other things that only took 17 years to get up the courage to say.

Indeed, God has used the phone in ways that have mended and bonded us.

But satan has used it too.

I tip my hat toward Alexander Graham Bell, but according to Donald McCullough, “The telephone has had some unintended consequences, not the least of which was becoming a first-rate instrument of intrusion.”

Even when the game pings its score, the next i-whatever device sits poised to release, and he’s anxious to see his buddy’s rad lemur video, the man-child does not need a phone while he eats. It’s okay to find out about the excitement twelve minutes after the rest of the world.

And as she grows, can a girl silence the noise long enough to get a full night sleep? Long enough to truly hear about her brother’s kickball homer on the playground? Her roommate’s stolen car? Her boyfriend’s promotion? Her mother-in-law’s burnt bundt?

I don’t want my kids to make themselves such slaves to the phone that the humans around them know where they stand: after the next call and ping.

Respect Your Elderberries

Parents and grandparents, yes. But can we move beyond the obvious and include the people who nurtured us, encouraged us to stay on the road of life and gave us the constructive criticism we needed?

I’m not sure when it became okay to call the elderly couple down the street “Henry and Bertha,” but a little “Mr. and Mrs.” is good for the soul. We acknowledge the living they’ve done when we extend respect.

And we remind teenagers they’re not the center of the Milky Way when they’re required to give others a title higher than their own.


Park Around the Corner Like a Creeper

This one doesn’t apply to us in Baja, but I’m still teaching my pre-adults that in most parts of the world being on time continues to rank as respectful, smart and expected.

My Grandpa Talbott was hands down one of the top three worst drivers I ever met. But when he got to where he was going, you can bet your bottom peso he arrived early. His secret? He left before he needed to. A successful insurance salesman and administrative assistant to a congressman, he knew the business world revolved around the clock.

So he left early to account for unexpected delays, parked around the corner, reviewed his notes, and pulled up to the house/office when the clock struck the appointment time.

If my pre-adults argue about not having time to leave early, I will remind them how it’s a choice to make time. We value others by not being late Lucys.

What R.S.V.P. Really Means

Rachel Sullivan’s Very Pretty?

Rude Students Vandalize Patios?

Rescue Schnauzers Vacation Privately?

Uhh… no. “Répondez s‘il vous plaît” is French for “Please respond” or literally, “Reply, if you please.” It doesn’t mean only respond if you’re coming. It doesn’t mean only respond if you’re not coming.

It means respond.

The first time I threw a large party with edibles I finally understood the plea. Your host most likely spent hours cleaning, ordering or making food and planning seating. Quadruple that stress if it’s a wedding. Picking up the phone to say yes or no pales in comparison.

Clean Up Your Campsite

Camping Etiquette 101: Leave it better than you found it.

Take this rule everywhere you go and you’ll start seeing opportunities to bless the person who’s coming behind you.

Dressing rooms: Pick up a hanger, return clothes you don’t want, take out clothes that weren’t yours.

Bathrooms: Flush the nasty toilet, toss the extra paper towel, wipe the wet counter. Soap and water can take care of your germaphobic concerns.

Beaches/Campgrounds/Parks: As my father said when I was a child, “We are all part of the custodial team, Carrie.” Embarrassment rose every time he bent down to retrieve trash, but his example stuck.

Bottom line: Do unto others.

Tell Your Buddy His Fly is Open

Ok, this title is for the dudes, but we can all help each other out in embarrassing situations. Because friends shouldn’t let friends walk around with chia seeds in their teeth. Or flax. Or romaine.

We need each other. Be my mirror and I’ll be yours.

What did I miss?

Are you teaching kids, tweens or teens a life skill?

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  • Nicole

    Make your bed ever day. It’s the biggest thing in your room so if you make it early, your room is mostly clean all day.

    Refrain from teasing via text or email. There is a high probability that it will be misinterpreted and you’ll end up looking like a jerk.

    I’m with you on the “all part of the custodial team.” We call it community living. It doesn’t have to be yours to mean you should pick it up.

    We made a little motto: “Be the one who doesn’t act like a teenager.”

    • Carrie Talbott

      You’re awesome, Nicole. Thanks for all the great additions! I especially love the text and email reminder; that’s huge. Feliz Navidad, amiga.

  • Molly

    To play with the little kids, to not HAVE to have the designer label, to say sorry quickly, to pray for the firetruck that just blew by, and to avoid partially hydrogenated oils as much as poss!