Social Graces: Of Manners, Civility and Courtesy

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Those of us with kids will attest to the fact that shopping for anything at a leisurely pace with an active toddler is almost impossible, and so we always try to squeeze in a supermarket dash when the boy takes his afternoon nap in his stroller.

Last Sunday, we went shopping for groceries and household necessities at a hypermart, as soon as BabyMoo fell asleep. In an unwelcome turn of events, he woke up barely 20 min later, and no amount of coaxing or carrying (my poor arms!) would make him go back to sleep.

So there we were, with a cranky, whiny kid, trying to grab everything as fast as we could, not helped by the fact that it was crowded and although all the cashier’s lanes were open, the queues snaked all the way in-store. I tried to distract him with all kinds of things, but the more I tried to entertain him, the more antsy he became, especially since he was strapped in.

While the hubs queued to pay, I decided to take the boy out of the store, because by that time, his whining was already threatening to escalate to a full blown meltdown. Just before he fell asleep, he was promised an arcade visit when he wakes up, and he was simply asking for what’s due to him. I explained repeatedly to him that we will go immediately after Daddy pays for the items, and that he has to wait while he does so.

Now, the thing about BabyMoo is that he responds much better when you have a conversation with him, rather than if an adult were to raise their voice or behaves in a threatening manner. He cuts a mean deal, and will always honour his end of the bargain because we have always made it a point to do what we have promised (this includes times when he has had his toys thrown away after 3 warnings, because he refuses to listen and was disobedient).

Perhaps it was the lack of sufficient sleep after water play that did it, or maybe he was just in a bad mood – but at that moment, he simply refused to listen to me, reason with me, or quieten down. He wanted to go to the arcade, and demanded to go there. Nothing I did or said could placate him.

He started screaming, then bawling, and then flailing his arms and legs (he was still strapped in). He had a full blown meltdown, the kind which I’ve never seen him do because he simply did not want to listen. Oh, I’ve seen him cry because he’s sad, or upset, or because he was in pain. But never because he wanted to do something, and wanted it there and then. No matter how stubborn he is, we could always still reason things out. I suspect that him being in the stroller also added on to his frustrations, and heightened his anger.

There I was, trying to calm him down at a corner, and there was this middle aged couple (with their son, who looks to be about 7 – 8 years of age) who was paying at one of the lanes, and would.not.stop.staring!! They didn’t even bother stealing glances at us, they simply stared.

What? Their son never had a public meltdown before? If so, I congratulate them for being able to keep him in check effectively. Why did I not take BabyMoo away from the situation, you ask. Simply because I was not used to him behaving in that manner (good times ahead), and I was still trying to calm him down, while trying not to lose it myself.

Mums would (hopefully) empathise with the situation, and perhaps some of you will also understand that once you become a Mum, you develop a rather ‘thick skin’, and you learn not to get too affected by things which may previously embarrass you. Furthermore, parenting is a process of trial and error, as we are constantly kept on our toes as the little ones try to outsmart us.

So I did the one thing which I would not condone, if I were not so pissed off by the fact that they were simply staring, and judging me.

I told BabyMoo, loudly: “Please calm down. You see, they are staring at you. The more you cry and scream, the more they will stare at us, ok? Darling, we will go once Daddy pays for the groceries. Now please stop, otherwise they will continue to stare!”

And they still stared! Unreal.

As though that’s not enough, there was a road show organised by one of the banks at the open space just outside the hypermart. While all this was happening (BabyMoo bawling, screaming, the couple staring and I was trying to calm him down while attempting to make the couple embarrassed to be caught staring) one of the credit card sales person, approached me, to ask if I was interested in applying for the *bleep* bank card.

I was so shocked beyond words, that I could do nothing but stare at the dude, while he goes on and on... extolling the benefits of signing up with him. I wonder if it once occurred to him that I could only see his lips move, since I had a kid screaming in my ear.

Ah well. I suppose he had quotas to meet, and flustered Mums trying to deal with a toddler having a meltdown was not one of the scenarios they were presented with during their training. Bulldoze on, dude. While I admire your dedication to your company, you have just succeeded in only making me form a not-so-wonderful impression of all that you represent.

***

The basic fundamental trait in social etiquette is to simply be polite in any given situation, especially when it involves social harmony and well-being. As much as I have tried to ignore individuals whom I have come across in all aspects of life that have made me truly question civility these days, I have found myself far too often in situations whereby the blatant disregard for social graces leaves me at a loss for words.

This has made me realise the importance of educating the boy on social graces, especially as we progress in a society whereby at times, its people have almost forgotten how to be civilized.

No amount of courtesy campaigns or community service messages will help, if people themselves don't understand that what they are doing is socially unacceptable. With the progress of 'social advancements', I suppose there is a significant price to pay. People forget how to interact in real life without the safety screen of cyberspace. The younger ones are simply unfamiliar with social etiquette because they may be used to social media dealings instead.

Will there come a time when social graces are deemed unnecessary because nobody bothers, anyway? If that day comes, it will probably signify the end of humanity. It seems such a perfect irony, that even as the emphasis now falls on business etiquette and international protocol, the skills used to interact in every day social situations have diminished over the years.


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20 comments :

  1. "Bulldoze on, dude"!! Lol.

    Man, what an outing. It's only just begun..... >:D

    But it'll pass. And one fine day, you'll laugh about it with him. And as for that couple? Pooh pooh to them!

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    1. It baffles me... they are parents, too. I totally can understand if they are young or teens, but adults?

      Interestingly, their sone turned to see what they were looking at - and then turned away.

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  2. eh... you gave enough hint that "people are watching" yet they still buay pai seh and continue to stare? Maybe they were thinking you are handling it really cool and are learning from you ley? hehehe!

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    1. WAH!! Maybe hor!

      If that's the case, they have a funny way of showing it. They clearly need lessons in not only civility, but on how to better manage their body language.

      Or... OR!!!

      They were wondering how I manage to have a seemingly uncontrollable kid, but still maintain the hair? Hahahaha!!

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  3. Can totally feel you, its not a good feeling when people are staring while you are trying to soothe a child. Some people just dunno how to be "zi dong". My youngest son always give me all theses unnecessary attention during meal times & some people also just stare at us for the longest time. Really dunno what they are thinking? Unbelievable...sigh!

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    1. I suppose it's the same as when there's an accident, what causes the jam is mostly people who slow down to see see look look?

      All kepochi!! duh!

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  4. Argh, why do bad days tend to get worse?! So hard to breathe even though we try. But I do agree that there is less privacy these days, space is being invaded everywhere we go.

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    1. That's true, Pei Shan. It's worse when the bigger the space, the more 'closed in' we feel yes? It's as though we're constantly scrutinised in everything we do.

      I really don't envy public figures. I wonder how they deal with such things.

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  5. Haha yeah that bulldoze dude made me lol, how is it possible and what was he even thinking? As for the stares, we get it a lot too and I have learnt to just close one eyes, or both, for that matter. Public meltdowns, my girl has had plenty and it can take up to an hour because she refuses to calm down, compromise or listen to us. You will be surprised but the hubby and I have mastered the art of continue eating while she makes a fuss. It works for us because she will finally quieten down and then reflect on her tantrums just now and amazingly, she will even eat her food by herself after that. Stares come and go, I don't really care now!

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    1. I think I will get used to it :D I ignored the screams for awhile back there, and it wasn't as tough as I thought it's be. After awhile the ears just tune out unnecessary sounds, yes? Hahahaha!

      The thing which made me dunno whether to smack the boy or hug him, is that the moment he knows we were heading to the arcade (because we turned to head in that direction, it was just next to the supermarket, one floor up) he stopped all tears, and actually waved at the bulldozer dude!! "Byeeeeee!!" he went with a huge grin.

      AYOH!! Can die leh.

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  6. Whenever Blake had a meltdown in public (every trip out guarantees at least 1-2 meltdowns, to the point I'm scared of bringing him out), and people stare, I'll stare back at them. If they don't stop, I'll go to them with 'Blake the Meltdown' in tow. I mean, don't stand so far and stare. Experience it full blown with me. They tend to run off before I get too close. Haha.

    As for the credit card dude.. Man! I met one crazy dude too. I was heading home with Nakayla (strapped onto me) after grocery shopping, both hands carrying a lot of things in plastic bags, and my backpack filled with even more things... The guy came up to me (so crowded but must pick me) and asked, "Mdm, are you holding any credit cards?" My answer was simple, "Do I look like I'm holding any credit cards?" then raised my bags at him before walking away. Haha!

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    1. Hahahahahhaha!!!

      He was asking for it leh. I would have said the same thing!

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  7. Not to frighten you my dear, but could be an indication of 'interesting days' to come. :/ YES, been stared at many times. Worst experience ever was over a box of pokey and she refused to get up at Meidi-ya when the hawt Jap mums looked on.

    I like that you said out loud that PEOPLE ARE STARING but unfortunately, they are too dense to take on that hint (which is not even one to begin with) :p

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    1. I think I'm going to deploy Mabel's method the next time round. If the people are staring mantra doesnt work, Imma walk up to them and give them killer tai tai look.

      That look has been stored away for too long already.

      (we are supposed to be nice Mummies, remember?!)

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    2. lol, am definitely no where near nice. :p I will usuall feign ignorance when Dumpling has her mad cries and will sit down at one corner, look on, and well, basically bo chup. :p

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    3. Hehe, Regina, when we go up to them, meltdown kids in tow, they run faster than when they see ghosts. LOL! i totally gave up on the mantra method already. it NEVER works.

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  8. Buahahaha..that credit card sales person is a douche bag!! I am sorry you had 'interesting' day Regina. I can totally relate to it and I hate those strangers who stare like that. Ignorants!

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  9. Stared, tsk-ed, heads shook at me, frowned, you name it, I probably get it. You know how loud I am but they suddenly turned deaf or I suddenly speak in tongues even if I tell them off directly.

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  10. Tell me all about it. On days I get this kind of treatment, I feel like shouing at them see what see, in hokkien for greater impact. But an auntie of mine, told me that we should never allow these people to get udner our skin as they don't know the facts of what happened and thus are silly to pass judgment. I tell you from then on, I've become a littl more zen about it.
    And yes that sales guy gets zero, no negative score for his EQ. CMI!

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  11. I always get stared at, especially at eating places, because at least one kid will act up at meal times. Otherwise, it's cos they are restless while waiting for the adults to finish their food. And people will always stare. Almost always, I'd wished they would break into a smile. Even a sympathetic one will do. But do they? Nooooo. They just stare. As if to say, Alamak. So badly behaved still bring out to eat. I want to tap their shoulders sometimes and go, "Ooi you take over la, see u can manage three or not."

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