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Tuesday, 15 May 2012

20. Mind your manners!

Spoiler alert:  I am about to vent.  Ready?  So, to begin.  Compared to the some 500-something sized school the girls attended in London, their new school in Singapore houses 25 per class, 10 classes PER year group.  Give or take.  Yes, the school is much larger than the last.  And as we edge towards the end of the girls’ first year at their now-not-so-new school in Singapore, in the past week, we’ve had to attend a quite a few school events: picnics, sports meets, year group concerts, etcetera.

Scenario one: the school asks the parents to form ‘country representative’ tables filled with ‘local’ goodies for the school community to taste and enjoy.  The premise is for the collective to sample what each country has to offer.  I brought along 5 trays of Rocky Road.  No nuts or cherries I was instructed.  And so, my version had chunks of marshmallows and Mars bars enrobed in chocolate.  Mmmmmm…super sinfully enticing. We were swamped.  But the number of children AND adults who left their manners at home and decided to dispense with “please’s” and “thank you’s” surprised me as I thought they would be more gracious about getting FREE food!  But no, I was wrong.  I found myself transforming into an ‘etiquette Nazi’, prompting people to remember their social graces as I handed out chunks of not-so-healthy grub.  I felt aggrieved.

Scenario two: concerts at a school of this size require serious crowd control and the school has a system that should work – if everyone followed directions.  But no.  No matter how many times the announcer gave directions, a good number of parents behaved like hooligans without conscience, purposely going against the human flow of bodies in their rush to watch their precious darlings.  I couldn’t help my jaw drop as I watched the spectacle of individuals brazenly ignoring and pushing past the poor brave soul holding up a “no entry” sign.  If the parents behaved that appallingly, what hope do their children have with that kind of role models to learn from?

And so, here I sit, wondering if I am being too judgmental.  Who is to say what is correct and incorrect behavior?  Take queue cutting for example.  It some cultures, standing-in-line is plain madness as it means you will most certainly be destined to end up hungry or miss out on what everyone else is clamoring for.  And then, I read somewhere bad manners is pointing out someone else’s bad manners.  Drats!  I am so burning in ‘bad manners hell’ because I am rubbish at just standing by and biting my tongue!!  So, where does it start or end?  Somehow I suspect my query echoes the “which came first, the chicken or the egg” centenarian debate.

In the interests of complete candor, I suspect some of my long-suffering friends scattered around the world probably think me uncultured as I don’t often write notes on paper, preferring to send my sentiments of thanks electronically.  I regularly have foot in mouth disease, and am known to slouch if I am tired.  Christmas cards and birthday wishes are only done via email.  No, I most certainly am not a specimen of ‘correctness’.

But while I may not be the epitome of perfect manners in the traditional sense, I strive to put myself in the other person’s ‘shoes’ and treat them how I would like to be treated.  Sometimes it is unappreciated, but other times, when it makes a difference to someone’s day, its worth it. 

Somebody once told me, “don’t expect others to live by your ideals as you will only leave yourself open to disappointment; and when that happens, you only have yourself to blame.”  Harsh but true.  And so, as I teach my girls the virtue of being mindful and kind to themselves and the people around them; I continue to learn new lessons.  Of the importance of sometimes keeping my own counsel.  Being true to myself but not being so quick to judge others by my own book as its all in the eye of the beholder.


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