In George Washington’s day, children copied the Rules of Civility as an exercise in penmanship and as a tutorial in good manners. They covered everything from the importance of table manners to admonitions not to spit into a fire and to sit with both feet flat on the floor.
Spitting into fires isn’t an issue much anymore, but other matters bear revisiting. I hereby offer Grandma’s Rules of Civility.
Say please and thank you at the table as it makes meals more pleasant for everyone. Plus, tell Grandma she is a good cook and your chances of ice cream for dessert rise dramatically.
Keep all objects, animate and inanimate, in your pockets and do not frighten others with them at the table.
Do not claim you washed your hands when dirt is still visible under your fingernails.
Refrain from commenting on what your brother, sister or cousin did wrong and how you could do it better. Make sure you are doing the best you can and you will not have time for criticism.
Grandma can clean the big blobs of toothpaste out of the bathroom sink, but Grandma didn’t put them there. You clean them.
Tell Grandma if you forgot your toothbrush on Day One of your visit, not Day Three.
Do not whistle incessantly through the gap in your missing teeth unless you are the only one in the room or outside and far from the house.
The clothes you sleep in are just that, your night clothes. Do not try to wear them the next day claiming they are a 2-in-1. Grandma’s not buying it.
There is no need to ask Grandma why she told you to do something. Do not argue with the woman who would throw herself between you and a speeding train any day of the week.
Stay clear of Grandma’s Bermuda Triangle in the kitchen, the space between the stove, the refrigerator and the sink.
Do not belly laugh, guffaw and snicker when Grandma yells, "Hot dish!" Everyone knows she is talking about a dish she has pulled from a 400-degree oven and not herself.
Do not comment on Grandma’s wrinkles. She changed your stinky diapers when you were a baby and cowards fled the room.
Grandma is correct when she says the first will be last and the last will be first, but that is not an invitation to start fighting over who gets to be last.
Limit your questions to 30 per minute.
Listen as much or more than you talk. That’s how you learn things.
If you dismantle an appliance, piece of furniture, tricycle, scooter or yard tool, please reassemble it before you leave.
Speak respectfully. We can’t keep the world from being ugly, but we can keep our home beautiful by the words spoken within it.
Say I love you often.
Always kiss Grandma and Grandpa goodbye and wave until you can no longer see them.
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