Manners maketh... the Mom?

I have never been big on manners. I’m sure there’s some unremembered childhood trauma underpinning this, but I have always seen manners as a way of hiding one’s true self from everyone else. I know... a bit of a curveball, but that’s how I feel.

Being someone with no internal monologue, it’s always been hard to hide anything about myself, which is why I am so uncomfortable around composed, polite folk. While I am bumbling forth about the eye-wincing minutiae of my life and falling all over myself to spill my personal failings... polite folk tend to clam up, watching me in mild distress and sometimes distaste. Which, of course, exacerbates the burble.

Picture the scene.

“Hi I’m Sam,” I’ll say winningly at some launch or other, waving a wine glass. (‘Launch’, I’ve discovered, is just the new millennium term for that 70s stalwart ‘cocktail party’. Apparently, it sounds more enticing to journalists.) “Those canapés look delicious!”

“So nice that you could come,” says polite person, smoothly. “Would you care for a canapé?”

“Gosh, I’d “care for” SIX... but my tummy’s been a bit dodge today, so I better not,” I’ll reply. “Although, we all know that after a couple more glasses of champers, I’m going to eat as many as are left, so why not?”

Polite person looks puzzled and leaves scene of faux pas as quickly as possible. Now, if she’d just been impolite and said something like, “I know! I ate a tray in the kitchen before I brought them out! They are DELICIOUS! Hey, does my breath smell like liver pate?” we’d be BFFs for the evening. But no.

For me, the ruder I can be around you, the closer the friendship, and vice versa. I never introduce myself on the phone to close friends, I just start talking. I complain when guests don’t bring me drinks in my own house if they’ve made for themselves. I ask deeply personal questions from the get-go.

I just find politeness, well... very boring.  That is, until I met my son Benjamin.

Born polite

Benjamin was born polite. Hell, he would have thanked me fresh from the womb, if he hadn’t had to go through that pesky ‘learning to speak’ phase. And it’s a joy to behold.

“Hello, I am very pleased to meet you,” Benj will say, extending a hand to anyone newly in his environs. “My name is Benjamin Spath.” <cue winning smile> “And this is my mother, Sam Wilson.” <cue deferential gesture in my direction>

“Um, hi,” I’ll mumble awkwardly, whilst wiping my perennially sweaty palm off on my jeans. “It’s nice to, you know....”

But readers, you must see the impact it makes on people. A little politeness, applied with skill, and people light up like Christmas trees on Holy Night. Which in turn makes my beloved Benj feel really good about himself. Thereby kicking off an entire cycle of happiness... from just one polite gesture.

“How do you DO that?”  Andreas, Joe and I will ask Benj after such encounters. (Because while all three of us are also nice, no one else got the ‘self-assured politeness’ gene.) “Who taught you? Is it hard?”

“I don’t know,” Benj will say, with a smile, “it just comes naturally to me. And it makes meeting people and talking to them so much nicer if you’re thoughtful from the start.”

Wow. Way to turn my world on its head, little guy. This parenting schtick is not for sissies.

Read more by Sam Wilson

How polite are your kids?

Disclaimer: The views of columnists published on Parent24 are their own and therefore do not necessarily represent the views of Parent24.

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