I was so pleased. After teaching my five-year-old son to open doors and “let girls go first,” he started to implement these small acts of chivalry almost immediately. My husband was also observing his behavior as our family climbed into the car. But his reaction was quite different than mine. “Are you sure you want to teach him that?” he said low enough just for me to hear. “Some women are going to be offended if he goes around opening their doors.”
Are you kidding me? Is he right? Have we gone so far to empower women that we’ve kicked the knight right off his horse?
This is not a rhetorical question; it’s an honest one. I actually had to stop and process what my husband said. But the more I thought about my kids and why I was teaching them chivalry, the more upset I became.
I’m a bit more old fashioned than most. What I mean by that is I’m the cook, the dishwasher, the magical fairy that keeps all the laundry clean and neatly folded. My husband is currently running a RockHound and planting grass seed as I write this article. He takes out the trash, does the yard work, hangs the pictures and fixes just about everything himself. It’s how we’ve divided the roles and it works for us. But…he doesn’t open my car door. We’ve been married for a little over eight years and this has always irked me.
Sure I can open my own door. But after hauling loads of laundry, toys and kids up and down several flights of stairs all day long, I like to be doted on. Just a little. This is one of a few reasons I’m arming my pint-sized knights with chivalry.
It keeps them humble. Kids, especially mine, have a hard time remembering that the world doesn’t always revolve around them. These small acts are triggers to their tiny brains, reminding them that other people could use a hand sometimes. The same goes for grown ups too.
I’ve experienced grown men watch me struggle to hold a baby and herd two additional kids through a door, more than once. I can still picture the balding man waiting for a table at Brio staring over the top of his iPhone as I pushed my toddler’s stroller through the double doors. By the way, I was eight months pregnant. My sons aren’t going to be baldy.
It keeps them alert. Most kids are task-oriented. They like their actions—good or bad—to be noted. Ryker, my five-year old, is on high alert when we are out and about. He looks for people who might need a little help and runs ahead to open doors. One of his favorite things to do is unload the groceries. He puts them on the rotating belt when we check out at the store and loves to see how many bags he can haul from my trunk with one arm when we get home.
It keeps them connected. These tiny acts of kindness are a blip on the radar. To me, it’s less about the actual act and more about the mindset. “Look at my face when you’re talking to me,” I remind them when we’re at the breakfast table. Don’t walk around with your head down staring at your phone. Smile at someone when you’re in the elevator for 45 seconds. Ask someone how their day is going. Make eye contact. Be a living, breathing human and communicate with words—not Snapchat.
It teaches them compassion. This isn’t just for the boys—chivalry is for everyone. The world does not treat us equally. Children can be especially cruel. My kids are learning that there are all kinds of different kids at school. Some of them get sad or upset easily. Because we are happy, it’s important to share that experience with others because we know that “being sad is not fun for anyone.”
My daughter noticed a classmate being left out at school. The young girl would cry, kick and scream for sometimes no reason at all. Instead of running the other direction, my teeny three-year old would read to her during free time and hold her friend’s hand on the playground so she would go down the slide. If only adults could hold out their hands to an outsider more often.
I learn from my kids every day. They are tiny, but man are they powerful creatures. As a mother of three, I’m still trying to get this parenting thing figured out. Though, I do believe mine are starting to understand what chivalry means…even if they can’t pronounce it correctly.