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.
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.
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.