Table Manners

My kids are 8,6, and 4 years old. It is an even year. They are bright, distinct, and varied in talents, often kind and sometimes not. I get compliments on what good kids they are at church, in Target, and at school. That’s great, really, really great, but these kind strangers have never sat at dinner with my three diminutive savages.

Look at the Dowager Countess' face. She must be seated across from my children.

Look at the Dowager Countess’ face. She must be seated across from my children.

            I don’t know how any other family operates at table, (please, leave a comment so I can either be jealous or feel solidarity in this struggle,) but the following phrases pass my lips multiple times per week/meal.

Did you wash my hands? With soap? Go wash them.

We haven’t prayed yet; please stop eating.

 Put some clothes on. You can’t come to dinner without pants. (Really, I say this at least twice a week.)

 Don’t drive with your dinner plate.

*Notice, we haven’t started eating yet. When I serve the food, things get ugly.

Use your fork. Use a knife (and all it’s variations.)

Fingers are for noses; spoons are for soup.

Sit down…in your chair.

Don’t lick your plate (or fingers, or the outside of your glass.)

Elbows off the table

Smacking. (This one is so frequent, it is shortened to one word and now has a sign- a “close your mouth” snapping shut of the hand.)

Don’t talk with your mouth full.

Napkin! (Usually when saucy hands are being wiped on a pink shirt.)

Ask for something to be passed; don’t reach.

Don’t interrupt.

Why? It’s just my family here. There is no one to impress. Why put everyone through this? It’s so much work, all this nagging. Does it really matter?

YES, of course it matters! And it’s not because it shows good breeding, or anything so lofty. It’s because other diners have to eat with them. I have to eat with them every day. It’s about making these children acceptable dinner companions and not onerous appetite suppressants. Maybe, at some glorious point in the future, they will even be enjoyable to eat with. This, indeed, is the essence of all good manners- making ourselves pleasant to be around.

So, I correct and remind them all the way through dinner, (God help me,) from the moment they sit, until they are excused. If I did not, dinner would look like primate feeding time at the zoo, and I do them no favors by letting them keep their course ways. Still, I wonder when I will be able to serve a meal without a big steaming dish of nag.

8 comments on “Table Manners

  1. Abbey (not even close to Downton) says:

    Have you ever seen a grown man who can’t hold his fork properly? My mom insisted we hold our heavy pewter flatware properly from toddlerhood, and to this day, I am glad of it. On the rare occasions that I am able to convince my offspring to actually use cutlery at all, I force them to use proper positioning, because I will be damned if they’re going to look incompetent at a public meal! That said, we usually eat at the coffee table, and at least one small person is usually naked.

    • Yes. It makes me sad when I see capable grown-ups using caveman holds on flatware, because I don’t think they are aware of the impression that it gives. I also like it when grown men (never seen a woman do it in public) push food onto their forks with their fingers. Hold on, sir, I’ll get you a wet nap.

      Lest you think me an insufferable snob, I will tell you that I accept American and Continental styles of eating. Although, I always use the Continental style for “I’m finished.” 😉

  2. Lynn says:

    You are not alone! I often wonder where they get these ideas that they should do these things at the table. It is not as if my husband and I are reaching into the bowl of cantaloup with out hands instead of using the serving spoon all the time. Kids learn from example right? I guess example and a lot of nagging! The naked thing happens here too – both genders!

  3. Nude dining seems to be a common occurrence. It would save the laundry, if the kids ate naked, but at what age to you say, “Honey, your nudity is no longer acceptable at table. Please tell the kids to put pants on as well.”

  4. You’re not alone. My kids are 11, 5 & 4mos. We’ve gotta remind the older 2 of proper manners all the time.

  5. So what you’re saying is that 3 years from now, I’ll still be nagging. Sigh. lol

  6. Peggy says:

    Thanks to all of you brave parents for continuing the struggle. Good manners are always in fashion. Knowing the basics of proper etiquette will ease your child’s anxiety in all the new situations they encounter.

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