I was brought up to have manners and to treat others with respect. Please and thank you were drummed into me from an early age.
I like to think that I cycle courteously. I like to think that I respect other users of the roads and paths as I would like them to respect me.
But it’s just not that simple.
See, when others give way to me, I thank them. When I give way to someone, I expect thanks. It’s basic manners.
I appreciate that the cargo bike is fairly big (albeit smaller than even the smallest car) and very slow. I don’t like it when cars squeeze past me so I pull in to let them pass if they are going to be stuck for any distance. When I do so, I expect thanks. It’s basic manners.
I appreciate that cycle paths are shared spaces and every other user has a right to be on them. When people allow me space to pass, I thank them. I wait when other people need time to move their children or dogs or whatever to one side to allow space for me to pass. When I do so, I expect thanks. It’s basic manners.
I’m sure you get the idea.
It depresses me that in the majority of these situations, I do not get any thanks. I don’t want a medal, just a simple wave or smile is fine.
What depresses me more is that I am gradually responding to this lack of courtesy by becoming discourteous. I don’t bother to let cars pass before a narrow stretch. I don’t thank others for giving way when it’s my right of way.
I am becoming just like the people who annoy me.
I am becoming the kind of person I do not want my children to be.
I am teaching my children to be rude and inconsiderate because I am being rude and inconsiderate.
Oh no, yet more mummy guilt.
If my 4 year old told me that he was rude to someone at nursery because they were rude to him, what would I say to him?
I would tell him that I understood why he reacted like that.
I would tell him that he must try to be the better person.
I would tell him that he has to create the kind of world he wants to live in. If he wants to live in a world where people are polite and kind and thoughtful then he has to be polite and kind and thoughtful. Even when others around him are anything but. Even when he feels angry about that.
Sometimes, I don’t realise just how much I am asking of my children when I give them advice.
Sometimes, I forget to practice what I preach.