As I’m nearing my deadline this week, searching my brain about what to write about, it came to me like a daily theme on Sesame Street: The word for today is “Respect.”
The day started with me getting up early to take No. 2 to school. He usually rides the bus, so I had to get up 30 minutes early to drive him. This also meant that I have to get Nos. 3 and 4 up early to ride with us. Quite the daunting task.
While I’m still on cup of coffee No. 1, I tell No. 2 that he needs to wear his jacket today, sparking a dispute that we have often in the Fisher home. I believe I’ve even referenced it before in this very column. It was followed by the usual “why?” And I tell ya, I couldn’t have planned it better; the weather guy came on at that exact moment saying that it is “currently 34 degrees, high of 48.” Even after that, I got more resistance.
I had to explain to my son that 34 degrees is flippin’ cold! After a mild skirmish, he hesitantly sulks away to retrieve his jacket. This reminded me of my younger days and my parents’ favorite response when I asked why I was supposed to do whatever thing it was that they told me to do, that I didn’t want to do: “Because I told you so.”
I try to make sure my kids understand why I ask them to do the things that I ask them to do, mostly because I remember how I always felt when my parents said those four words. Now, as a parent, I understand why they said it. Fully. When I tell them to wear a jacket I shouldn’t have to spend the next 10 minutes explaining that it’s two degrees above freezing outside. I shouldn’t have to say another word. I am your father; you should respect what I say.
Oh jeez, my wife is right: I sound just like my dad!
But that’s not the end of the skirmish. When we get to school, we pull to the front of the drop-off line. Now, for the uninitiated, the drop-off line has rules. Unwritten rules, mostly. But, if a parent breaks these rules, it results in rolled eyes, a sigh of disgust, a ruining of someone’s morning and, quite possibly, a honk. Nobody wants to get honked at in the car rider line!
One of those unwritten rules is this: You pull up, kid gets out — quickly — they shut door, you move on. If everyone does their part, it can move like clockwork. But one bad cog can gum up the whole works.
On this particular morning, No. 2 has to get out, then go to the trunk to get his project backboard, then get out of the way so the car line can move along fluidly. So, we’re testing the patience of the other parents in the line already. However, he decides — before he retrieves his backboard out of the trunk — to remove his backpack, take off his jacket, put his backpack back on, then pull his project board from the trunk, then get out of the car line’s way.
I could feel my face reddening as the smoke shot out of my ears, a la Yosemite Sam.
You see, it’s not the jacket. If he wants to wear his friends’ collectively decided on school uniform (athletic shorts or athletic pants and Under Armour hoodie) and freeze his giblets off, then that’s fine. Truth be told, I fully expected him to take the jacket off and shove it in his locker when he got into the building. But to do it right there in front of my face? I had to bite my tongue. I was livid. I most likely would have overreacted (keep in mind, I’m still only one cup of coffee in). But it was just a flat-out display of disrespect.
I don’t want to put all the heat on my kids here. As I’ve stated on several occasions, they’re great kids. We just had a moment and we learned from it.
But respect is something that I value highly in all regards of life. I will generally respect someone until I am disrespected, whether it be a friend, acquaintance, a family member, a stranger or a coworker.
I was asked at a job interview recently, “What would be one thing that would be a deal-killer for you as far as working for this company?” My answer: “Being disrespected.” I was brought up to work hard to excel at everything I do. And I am confident that any past employer will confirm that I have done that.
I’ve held many a job, from running a Mexican fast-food window to hosting a quite popular afternoon radio show. But I just cannot respect a company that doesn’t respect me. I may still work there and do a great job. Everyone needs a paycheck, right? But how can you fully expect an employee to be passionate about their job and, more importantly, your company if you don’t show that employee respect? Most employers would be surprised what a little bit of a display of respect will do for productivity within your team.
I was born and raised an Augusta. Georgia, boy through and through. I was brought up to respect others and definitely respect my elders. I fully plan on passing that lesson down to my kids, along with another lesson that is just as important. A lesson that I need to sometimes be reminded of, myself: Respect yourself. If you can’t respect yourself, how can you expect respect from others?