Good manners have always been very important to me. If I’m ever asked to complete one of those Sunday magazine supplement questionnaires, the “trait you most deplore in others” will be bad manners. From another driver failing to acknowledge that I’ve let them into or out of the traffic to a simple please or thank you for anything at all, manners are one of those things that cost nothing but are priceless.
“Don’t forget your manners because my Mum’s a please and thank you kind of Mum,” big daughter has been overheard to say – even to new high school friends. I don’t think the reminder makes it an unpleasant experience to visit our house, and big daughter never seems to be short of a friend to come over for dinner.
Small daughter has reached the age where she usually remembers without prompting and will happily use her “big voice” if we’re ordering from a menu or buying something in a shop. It’s amazing what an effect it had on people, especially when she was very small, and she usually got a compliment about her lovely manners which pleased her no end.
My favourite bad manners experience (if you can have such a thing) was related to me by my husband. He was in a coffee shop queue when the person in front said at their turn to order, “Can I get a skinny decaf latte with a blueberry muffin?”
“No, you can’t,” said the barista, “but I can get it for you if you say please.”
If I’d been there, I’d probably have cheered. I was brought up to say “Please may I have” and my daughters have been too. “Can I get” is something that has come to us from American sit-coms and a phrase which seems to me to imply a lack of respect for the person behind the counter.
Still, you won’t be surprised, especially as a parent, to know that manners are a work in progress. On holiday last year, we were sitting in a restaurant waiting for our meal to be served. I’d been watching the moon rise in the sky and illuminating the inky sea, thinking about our day and how proud I was of my girls and their lovely manners, when small daughter wrapped her legs around her neck and exclaimed, “Look how bendy I am!” Oh well.