Manners maketh... the Mom?
Sam's son Benjamin turns her world on its head with his impeccable manners.
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.
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.
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?”
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?”
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.
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
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....”
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.
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?”
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?
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