Once or twice during the work week, I take a break from the “oh-my-god-we-have-to-be-out-of-the-door-by-seven-forty-five-and-drive-40-minutes-to-work” crazed dash to spend a little time with Lila out for breakfast. Well, breakfast for me and a mid-morning snack for her (after all, she’s been up since 5:30 or so. She’s eaten. I haven’t). We’ll stop by our local Starbucks or other cafe, split a muffin, have juice or a latte. Don’t worry – -the caffeine is only for and consumed by me. We talk. I still don’t know what she’s saying, but one day I will. We’ll leaf through a paper or book. It’s just a little bit of “we” time that doesn’t involve anything but hanging out.

It was nice enough to sit outside yesterday for our coffee break. We were flipping through Baltimore’s Child when a mid-fifties aged woman whizzed by in capris, tennis shoes and sunglasses carting a huge tote bag and one of those mega togo coffee cups. She called over to us- – “That’s just so civilized. Sitting. Drinking Coffee. Good for you!”


Dictionary.com defines the adjective civilized [sivuh-lahyzd] as “having an advanced or humane culture, society, etc.” or “polite; well-bred; refined.”

Hmmm. Humane culture. That’s something I can get on board with.

Then it dawned on me. Our coffee times are one of the only times of the week that I’m NOT one of those crazed, speed-demon, java-shooting women with the large tote bags running from one place to the next. While I’m not in line to sign my 11-month old up for finishing school (or whatever the 21st century equivalent), I do believe we want our kids to know how to relax and enjoy the simple art of conversation (or contemplation). If we don’t model it ourselves, how will they learn?

Those quieter respites help make us more empathetic, happier and saner. Often times, we hear or read about making time for ourselves. I think we often seek coffee time as ‘me time’ or ‘adult time,’ reserved for adult-only participation. While I’m not suggesting we give up such space, perhaps sharing ‘coffee moments’ with our children helps build a culture of respect – – and civility.

If you’re in the Baltimore/Howard/Carroll County areas, you’ve probably seen one of those “Choose Civility” bumper stickers. Choose Civility is an ongoing community-wide initiative, led by Howard County Library, to position Howard County as a model of civility. According to the program website, “the project intends to enhance respect, empathy, consideration and tolerance in Howard County.” The project was inspired by the book Choosing Civility: The Twenty-Five Rules of Considerate Conduct, written by Johns Hopkins Professor Dr. Pier M. Forni (now on my ‘to read’ list). I thought you might like to know what 15 (of the 25) principles of civility Howard County adopted:

Pay attention
Speak kindly
Assume the best
Respect others’ opinions
Respect other people’s time and space
Be inclusive
Acknowledge others
Accept and give praise
Apologize earnestly
Assert yourself
Take responsibility
Accept and give constructive criticism
Refrain from idle complaints
Be a considerate guest

Imagine if those were your household rules. Would you really need any others?

The project put together a list of civility-minded books for the younger crowd. You can download the PDF.

So today’s ‘cool’ tip? Grab some coffee. Sit outside with your kid(s). Talk. Enjoy it.