Just call me Maam!

Now I thought I was a fairly independent woman. I’m not afraid to lift the odd heavy box, I am pretty good at DIY, I’m not afraid to voice my opinion in the strongest of male company and can hold my own.

So when this weekend in Cadiz, a 15 year old boy jumped up from the table where I was about to sit and pulled my chair out for me, I stopped before I sat. I have to admit I was skeptical, was he about to whip it away as I sat, some form of practical  joke leaving me sprawling on the floor? Quite the reverse, he took the plate I was carrying and waited until I had sat and was comfortable, before placing it gently before me, turned, resat and carried on with his meal with all the charm of an Edwardian Gentleman. I was left with a huge grin on my face and it felt good!

I should explain. I am a youth leader here in Spain and had agreed to take my Girl guides along to Scout camp. A rare treat, but as scouting is now for boys and girls we now take part in a lot of events together. We were joining the male-only American Scouts camping at the American Naval Base in Rota and I had agreed to cook at the event. This is often hard work with lots of heavy pots to carry, a lot of wood smoke and very rural “kitchen” design!

The American boys were as rough and loud as any others. They were naughty, cheeky and fun but their manners were a world apart from those taught to our children. Always a “Please Maam” and a “thankyou Maam”. Offers of “How can I help you maam?” were constant and unprovoked. I was impressed and in turn I found I was happy to do the hard work involved in cooking for the 60 kids.

It stemmed of course, from the boys parents and their Scout leaders who were all Military families where discipline and manners are just part of life. They thought little of it, but it made such a difference to me!

So often volunteers are left unrewarded. Every week we rush from work to run a meeting or give up yet another weekend to attend an event or give the kids another adventurous experience they would never have otherwise. We do it with grace and humour and often the reward is just the smile on the kids faces and the knowledge that you are delivering a safe and rewarding opportunity they will always remember. And actually, I don’t expect more.  

But when the child responds with manners as beautiful as those of the young American Scout I have to admit to being flattered and yes it did make my weekend! 

So the message of this blog? Parents work hard to teach manners – they really do count. We take so much for granted in today’s society. A polite child is worth all the effort you put in to make them so and can only further their chances in life. In our own lives, how many times as members of a club or society do we take the time to deliver a personal word of thanks to the organiser or the secretary? Yes they do it because they want to, but we all like to be remembered now and again.


As for being called “Maam”.. Well I can take it from a Yank but maybe I’ll let my kids off, you can only take so much of a good thing.

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