Things you never thought you’d say

Lori Borgman finds the funny in ev­ery­day life, writ­ing from the heart­land of the US. Now, if she could just find her car keys...

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There are cer­tain things you never imag­ine your­self say­ing. ‘I just got a worm in my eye!’ is one of them. And yet I did say it. Screamed it ac­tu­ally. The fam­ily was all here and we were out­side when I saw a worm nearby. I asked a six-year-old grand­son, lover of all things creepy and crawly, to come re­move the worm.

De­lighted at the re­quest, he picked up the worm, stud­ied it briefly and then glee­fully threw it into the air.

In hind­sight, which is al­ways 20/20 – un­less you have a worm in your eye – I should have said, ‘take it to the trash’, ‘toss it into the grass’, or ‘throw it to­wards the equa­tor’. But in­stead, I sim­ply asked him to get rid of it, which is what he did by launch­ing it into space.

Un­for­tu­nately, once air­borne, the worm arced and fell back to earth, land­ing on my left cheek­bone snug­gling against my lower eye­lid.

That’s when the scream­ing started. And the jump­ing up and down.

You know how they say when you en­counter a small crea­ture, that the small crea­ture is just as afraid of you as you are of it? They lie. The worm demon­strated no fear what­so­ever. I, how­ever, am still hy­per­ven­ti­lat­ing, and the worm land­ing was sev­eral days ago.

The im­por­tant thing in all this (next to the worm be­ing dis­posed of) is that a lit­tle boy said he was sorry.

I’d just been read­ing a book that makes a cor­re­la­tion be­tween adults do­ing the slow and hard work of in­still­ing man­ners in chil­dren and greater lev­els of ci­vil­ity in so­ci­ety. Ta­ble man­ners, lan­guage man­ners and even man­ners in dress all re­flect lev­els of self-re­straint and self-con­trol. Hav­ing a mea­sure of self-con­trol lim­its what we say and how we be­have, mak­ing many of us ap­pear a good deal bet­ter than we re­ally are. Good man­ners also have the po­ten­tial to make meal­time a pleas­ant ex­pe­ri­ence. Even with small chil­dren. Even­tu­ally. Be pa­tient – another mark of ci­vil­ity.

All of our grand­chil­dren, ex­cept for the ones that can’t yet talk, ask to be ex­cused be­fore leav­ing the ta­ble. It is a sign of re­spect to oth­ers at the ta­ble and for the meal it­self. It’s also more pleas­ant than push­ing one’s chair back and bolt­ing for the back­yard.

Those tall enough, and even those not tall enough, also take their dishes to the sink. Sur­pris­ingly, we’re only out one small plate and a drink­ing glass, a small price to pay for teach­ing man­ners.

Man­ners are what civilise us – around our ta­bles, in our fam­i­lies and our com­mu­ni­ties. Man­ners are what al­low the many di­verse parts to func­tion as a whole.

So when a lit­tle boy has the courage to apol­o­gise to a grandma who is scream­ing and jump­ing up and down, let it be noted that in one cor­ner of the world we are still inch­ing to­wards ci­vil­ity – one worm at a time.

‘I asked my six-year-old GRAND­SON, lover of all things creepy and crawly, to re­move a WORM. De­lighted at the re­quest, he picked up the worm, stud­ied it briefly and then GLEE­FULLY threw it into the AIR.

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