We Are Both Right

An Apology to Emily Post on Behalf of My Children

I can assure you (although sometimes I don’t believe it myself), that my children were not raised in a barn.

You’d never know it, sitting at the dinner table with them. I don’t understand. I don’t chew with my mouth open. My husband doesn’t put his feet on the table. We sit straight in our chairs and say “please” and “thank you.” We don’t kick the person who is sitting across from us under the table. We don’t slurp our spaghetti, nor does half of our meal wind up on our plates. We don’t reach across one another to get to the dish that we need.

If the best way to teach children is by setting an example, I’d like to know exactly who it is that sneaking into my house every day and eating in the most unmannerly way possible in front of my kids.

 © mwookie/stock.xchng

© mwookie/stock.xchng

I don’t get it. No matter how much begging and pleading and whining and screaming we do, they still eat as if they’ve been handed a plate of lime jello and a trowel.

And certainly, we try our hardest to instill manners in them. We go over the rules, correct them if they make a mistake and then “punish” when appropriate. A.’s biggest offense is that she always sits improperly in her chair. After two warnings, we make her stand for the rest of the meal. C.? He often has to be reminded of how a knife works. And to stop kicking his mother under the table.

What worries me is not what happens so much when they are home, but when they go to other houses and I’m not there to keep them in line. C. has a friend J. who not only puts his napkin in his lap, but he asks to be excused. The first time J. came for dinner and said that, C. looked at him as if he had asked if  he could wash our windows for us. I want my kids to go to someone’s home and ask to be excused! I want someone to tell me how polite they are!

Luckily, S. seems to be on the right path. Sure, he makes a mess and he throws his food but at least he has good reason — he’s 18 months old. At least he always says “thank you” before he hurls his carton of yogurt across the room.

Look, I know they are kids, but at seven and 10 years old, I don’t think we are asking too much of them. I’m not giving them seven forks and asking for their proper usage, I just want them to remember to bring their plate to the sink when they are finished.

Manners are important. They need to be instilled now, before they go to their first White House dinner!

When did you expect your children to display table manners?

Originally published November, 2010

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