The intricacies of good manners

We were discussing good manners the other day, my daughters and me, and the conversation circled around the importance of learning to extend respectful kindness to those we encounter in a day.
We have made it more of a challenge for our wee ones these days to whom we instruct, it seems, from birth not to speak to strangers. The chanting of danger, danger seems more a course of action than please and thank you.
Three-year-old Linden has good manners, saying please and thank you at the appropriate moments. Though the concept at this point may be considered rote, more of a reflex than a willing practice, it’s a good convention to learn early on.
Having said that, manners are tested when a house fills with relatives. But still Linden digs deep for the fragments of good manners that in moments may seem out of his reach.
It’s not easy to have guests when we are three. Actually, it can be a challenge at any age, but Linden is giving it his best effort and he may be re-writing the rule book—certainly adding to Emily Post’s “The Blue Book of Social Usage,” first published in 1922.
Linden has added some essential edicts to Emily’s thoughtful ideas. Let me explain.
Linden currently is engaged in learning the intricacies of washroom use in an attempt to give up the crutch of diapers once and for all. It’s a slippery surface, with a two steps forward and one back sort of progress.
Using the toilet is never an easy transition. Thankfully, most of us don’t remember our personal struggle from those days long gone.
To ease the burden of learning a new skill, his mother reads him stories while reassuring his safety on the big porcelain monster. And after a successful flush, Linden enjoys the spoils of Smarties for a pee and a chocolate for the more challenging poop.
The rewards are adjusted accordingly in regards to effort, as with most things in life.
One morning last week, when Auntie Mantha, who had arrived late the previous night, had to use the facilities, Linden stepped up to make the experience more enjoyable for her; more relaxing, to make her feel at home, like any good host would do.
First, Linden directed all foot traffic away from the bathroom door. He used his big voice, the one with a hefty volume, with his hand held up, instructing passers-by to stay back. Then he got his favourite books and set up shop at Auntie Mantha’s feet.
He read to her, patted her knee, encouraging her to relax while checking on the progress of her bowel evacuation at appropriate intervals. And so he facilitated her bathroom experience with great skill and aplomb.
It was inspirational and, though I may not be quick to employ his tactics with my own guests, I was undeniably impressed. Credit where credit due, I like to say.
Take that, Emily Post.
wendistewart@live.ca

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