Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Difference between boys and girls on The UK Choir Tour

Dear Good Manners Devotees':

The Good Manners Family has returned from across the Pond and is back state-side after the Good Manners Daughters' phenomenal UK Choir Tour.

Good Manners Dad and I were so proud of them! Hearing their beautiful voices in such ancient places so jam-packed with history -- well, it's hard to put into words just how I felt.

Needless to say, I got chills. And I teared up. And I had a big smile on my face. Wow.

Imagine singing right next to Isaac Newton's tomb (Westminster Abbey). Or singing where St.Thomas a Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, was murdered (Canterbury Cathedral).

And while they didn't get to sing for the Queen, they did sing right over top of Henry the 8th's grave at St. George's Chapel, Windsor! (I'll bet his bones -- and the bones of Queen Jane Seymour, Charles the 1st and someone else's infant daughter buried there -- were rattling!)

(Side note: The Queen was at Windsor when we first arrived. Her flag was flying over the castle. But at some point during our tour of the castle, she left and her flag was removed. We did see them setting up the Waterloo Room for a charitable dinner to be hosted by Prince Charles that night.)

It was a wonderful musical and historical experience!

Unfortunately, what wasn't so wonderful was the girl choir members' behavior.

Now, it was a long trip (17 days) and it's understandable how people may have gotten a little sick of each other. And I'm not saying that it was all sunshine and daisies with the grownups and boys.

But the girls ... wow. (And I don't mean wow the same way I did when I said wow, as in awesome, about their performances.)

We chaperones have never witnessed anything like it: the backstabbing, the tears, the forming-breakup-forming of factions, the meanness, the language, the alienation, the jealousy (of each other, not of the boys -- they are a little younger).

What made this even more disturbing is that this was a Church Choir.

Our(unlucky) minister (also one of the chaperones) had to hold 3 separate meetings with the girls to talk about their behavior. Treat others the way you want to be treated and don't say anything if you don't have anything nice to say were repeatedly ignored.

The Head Chaperone also held a meeting in which she told them that it would be terrible if all they remembered about the trip were their actions instead of all the spectacular singing.

Singing that they practiced over 4 hours a week since the Fall to perfect.

While "treat others the way you want to be treated" and "don't say anything if you don't have anything nice to say" seem fairly self-explanatory and easy to follow -- apparently it's tough on Middle School and High School age girls when you may be trying to follow them but others aren't. And it's hard not to retaliate.

The boys (in this instance) were totally different. If someone said something, they tended to shake it off, and just ignore the other person. When it was realized there was no reaction, everyone became friends again. No drama.

The girls' behavior nearly upset the balance of the trip -- by making their behavior the focus/memory rather than the singing and the good times. After all the time and effort put into practicing, planning and fundraising, that would have been a terrible shame.

So, Good Manners Devotees', I leave you with these thoughts:

Although it may not be to the same scale, if you've got the urge to really tell someone off, or share a piece of gossip, or make fun of someone ... resist it.

It's a momentary thrill that won't last -- and it will affect how people treat you, and treat you back. And when you think back on what you did, it may not seem so clever and fun as it did then.

In the meantime, now that we're home, we're focusing on the good memories and helping the Good Manners Daughters find the strength to do their part to break the cycle.

Until my next post,


P.S. To put this in context, I should add that there were 30 girls on the trip! In hindsight, maybe that should be been a big red flag!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Manners fit for a Queen

Dear Good Manners Devotees':

Over the weekend we sent the Good Manners Daughters off on their choir tour to England.

Good Manners Dad and I will be joining them in a week, just in time for the London leg of their tour. In addition to visits to major tourist attractions such as Big Ben and The Tower of London, they will be singing at Westminster Abbey and Windsor Castle.

We are not sure if the Queen will be there (we were told that she goes to Balmoral at the end of July so she is probably still in residence) so I stressed to the Good Manners Daughters that they had to follow very special manners and rules if they found themselves in the presence of the Queen or -- even better in their opinion -- either Prince William or Prince Harry!

Speaking of manners (what a polished segue, don't you agree?), I had a dandy of a time finding 8 thank you gifts that were thoughtful, appropriate and also fit into their suitcases for the families who are housing them for most of the tour.

I ended up with boxed soap bars (typical) and boxes of Tastykakes to represent our city, Philadelphia (inspired).

(We thought it was fun to give them something American and made in Philadelphia -- but that it might be rude to give them reminders of the Revolutionary War,such as something from Valley Forge Park.)

I carefully wrote out notes personally addressed to the 8 hosts and packed them in order of their stays. Ah -- the sweet feeling of success ...

... however fleeting it is. Sadly, I found out today that several of the children fell ill and host families were scrambled ... and my notes are useless because the Good Manners Daughters are NOT with the families listed on the itinerary. And, because I had used up the handy 8 pack of notes, they did not have blank ones with them to write new ones.

If only I had left them blank, or addressed them generically.

Oh, well. It's the thought that counts, right?

With visions of tea and scones and clotted cream dancing before my eyes,
I look forward to blogging again once the Good Manners Family has returned from "across the Pond."