I grew up in the South. Some people call it the southwest but Texas is not like New Mexico or Colorado or Utah or (yikes!) California. Texas leans towards the type of southern culture found in Georgia, South Carolina and Tennessee.
Some of the distinct culture I remember about this Southern upbringing are:
-It was never an option to arrive at a family gathering and run and hide in another room, but instead I was taught to smile and hug each and every family member who was already gathered. Sometimes this was a hugging of 30-40 people.
-Meals consisted of things that were fried and covered in gravy with sides of creamed corn or biscuits or okra (all of which could also be fried and covered in gravy).
-Adults were spoken to with eye contact and "Yes, ma'am's" and "Yes, Sir's," "Thank you's" and "Please's."
-Kids sat in floors while adults got the chairs. Men stood and gave women their seats while women cooked and let the men get their food first.
-Wooden spoons were not only for cookin' but also for spankin'.
-People made eye contact with you in the grocery store, asked how you are doing and meant it.
-Words were made up and continued to get used, like Howdy (Hello), Fixen' (I'm fixen' to go do that), Yon't to? (Do you want to?), Borry (Can I borry that book and give it back next week?) and Ya'll (You all).
There are bits and pieces of this upbringing that I have found myself wanting to instill in my California born daughter, especially those that have to do with manners and respecting others. It is interesting to watch how something that I now do easily is so extremely difficult for her and I can see it is due to a change of heart. My daughter resists, so greatly, saying "Yes Ma'am" or "Yes, Sir." Saying those two words is easy and doesn't hurt her (although she might beg to differ), yet she fights and fights having to say them. I have watched as her eyes squint with determination and her jaw clenches when I ask her to repeat those two words of agreement back to me, usually following me saying something like, "I said, no you may not play with that knife that was accidentally left on the counter. Do you understand me?"
Her lips purse and she might try to turn away but I gently hold her shoulders and tell her, "I need to hear you say, 'Yes, Ma'am.'"
This may seem silly to you, especially if you weren't raised the way I was but I have found that there is something much much greater just beneath the surface of a child learning those two words. There is a raging battle of will and respect and identity. Her brain telling her that she doesn't want to submit, even two words, to me, her mother. She doesn't want to admit/allow someone else to be right and her wrong. She doesn't want to give up control.
So we have battled. We have word wrestled. She has cried and stomped feet and screamed but in the end, sometimes with a relieved exhale, she finally gives in, releasing those two words like a white flag of surrender, "Yes, Ma'am."
After much persistence, I have noticed a shift. Her "Yes, Ma'am's" come more easily now. There are fewer battles and therefore more joy. Time spent of tantrum throwing has been gradually changing to quick submission and moving on to something else that is fun for both she and I.
I think about her going to school someday and her once again being confronted with someone else to listen to and follow. Of someone else who will be telling her, "No," and correcting her and I hope that perhaps all of these moments I have had eye to eye with her will pay off and she will quickly realize the need to respect and obey her teacher.
Then I think about the day she might see her Heavenly father. When she might hear Him and follow Him. Then when He might correct her and guide her. Will she have been taught to respect Him and listen to Him? Will she obey Him? Will it be easy for her or will it take years for her Creator to teach her to say "Yes, Sir?"
Finally, I think about if, even after all the years of my mother and father teaching me, I still find myself digging my heels in and clenching my jaw and furrowing my brow, shaking my head "No!" to what He asks of me? To what He would teach me? To what He would show me?
I know I still do. But it is with this acknowledgement that perhaps I am one step closer to a shift, where there are fewer of my own battles and more joy.