It’s Not All Mary Poppins

Would you, could you, please?

“I have a runny nose.”

She does indeed. Two thick yellow streams descend from Grace’s nose toward her upper lip. As they have done all day long for the past three days. Ick.

“You certainly do.” I turn my attention back to the book I’m reading to NBG and Poppy. (Poppy will now sit right beside NBG!! Only if she’s in my lap, but it’s all progress!)

“But Mary, I have a runny nose.”

I look up again. “Uh-huh. It’s pretty gross.” Back to the book. Grace stands in front of me, looking at bit at a loss. What to do when the adult is being inexplicable?

Why, repeat yourself, of course. Endlessly, if need be.

“I have a runny nose.”

Now, I shouldn’t have to give her a clue. We’ve been through this endless times over the past two or three days. Each time it goes the exact. same. way. I shouldn’t have to give her a clue, but I do.

“You have a runny nose.”

She nods, expectant.

“Is there something you want me to do about that?”

She nods. I wait. She waits. I wait some more. And then…


I wait some more, an encouraging smile on my face. A smile which masks the moan of boredom in my brain. How many times? How many, many times?

“Mary … would you wipe my nose, please?”

And then, as if I hadn’t had to pry the phrase from her reluctant lips with a crowbar, I reward her with a warm and delighted smile. NOTHING could please me MORE than to get my fingers oh-so-slightly damp with the gallons of yellow snot pouring from her nasal cavities.

“Sure I can! Bring that little nose here!”

I object, I really, really object to a child imparting what is in fact information, and expecting me to leap into action.

“I have a runny nose.”
I’m thirsty.”
“I did a poo.”
“I’m hungry.”
“I can’t get my shoe on.”

It’s the sort of thing you often step in to solve without even thinking about. Maybe I’m persnickety. Maybe it’s because, with four or five of them doing this to me all day long, it’s harder to be oblivious. But, really? To me they feel like orders, orders which display a fundamental lack of respect, that the orderer can’t even be bothered to ask politely.

Of course, that’s not it. I know that. These little ones intend no disrespect, they just don’t know the polite forms. Nonetheless, it’s a bad habit. If they don’t learn manners now, they may never learn them, or at least, they may not become second nature, which is the goal. It may not be disrespectful now, but it will be when they’re 12 or 22 or 42, and people will be less and less likely to cut them any slack for it. They’ll just be that obnoxious person who expects everyone to serve them. The person people avoid or, if avoidance is impossible, they’ll resent.

Good manners start NOW.

It’s like driving a car. At first, you have to consciously think of every single action. In time and with practice, many of the tiny decisions involved become second nature, and your driving becomes smooth. Beginner drivers get into more accidents not just because they make poorer decisions, but because their reflexes are unpracticed, slowed by the split-second of hesitation. I’m striving to produce smooth social drivers, who can manoeuvre the trickiest situations aided by their second-nature reflexes. (Kids who, if I’m entirely honest here, are more skilled than me. Sigh.)

So the rule is, “If you want me to do something for you, you start, ‘Would you’ and you finish with ‘please’.”

“Okay. Would you wipe my nose, please?”

“Sure I will! Here you go! There, feel better?”

“Yes! Mary? I’m thirsty.”

One step at a time. One step…

September 19, 2012 Posted by | eeewww, Grace, manners | 12 Comments