Teaching my kids table manners is akin to a badger teaching her babies to fly. I’m not saying I have no manners; I’m saying I like to not use my manners. I enjoy licking my plate, my fingers and whatever else might contain a smidgen of A-1 sauce. I enjoy robust belching. I talk with my mouth full, and I might even chew with my mouth slightly open. I see little harm in these things when practiced in the privacy of my own home.
Of course as an adult, doing adulty things, I can be super polite, like Country Club polite; I’m not some bumpkin. But when I’m at home, with my husband and two kids, I like to loosen the manners requirements. What could go wrong?
Burps and Farts and Butts, OH MY!
My girls are now 5 and 6, and getting invited over to friends’ houses for play dates and over nights and dinners. I’m terrified that they’ll burp at the table, or worse yet, let loose a fart. Or what if they don’t burp or fart, but just start talking about them? What if they talk about butts or vaginas or poop? What does that say about our family?
By no means is it a free for all barnyard brawl at our dinner table, but I’ve not been very good about enforcing or modeling proper manners. I let them eat with their fingers if they want, if they belch or fart, I make them say ‘excuse me’ and I don’t give two shits if they lick their plates.
That said, I’m not sure what the other families out there find acceptable. For sure, the bodily functions have to go. Nose-picking, flatulence and belching must be outlawed from here out. Participation in such activities shall result in a two minute expulsion from the dinner table.
Talk of matters disgusting or vulgar must go as well. This includes, but is not limited to: vaginas, penises, poop, vomit, issues relating to any bathroom related news and of course, discussion of burps and farts (those are big ticket items in my house). Again, a two minute time out shall be enforced should anyone venture into outlawed conversational territory. Adults included.
While I’m at it, I might just try and get them to stay in their seats for the duration of dinner. “Get back here, finish your dinner! Put the dog down!” seems to be the dinner time mantra. Herding cats, people–it’s herding cats.
While all of this seems like and simple and straight forward endeavor, I’ll remind you that I’m just as undisciplined as they are, and I might find myself in time out on the stairs. I can just see myself watching them eat the warm and deli-shus food without me, peeking back at me, wondering if they should laugh or be silent.
Shoulda, Coulda, Woulda
Parenting is tricky, and I wish someone had told me when they were little that if you set a standard at an early age, it will be much easier when they’re older. Of course, I probably would have told that person to fuck off and mind their own biz-nass, but that’s ok–I can’t be held responsible for my past hypothetical actions.
I’d like to leave a love note to the moms and dads of little ones: don’t follow in my footsteps. Think about the standard you want to set, and set that bitch! Hold fast and stay strong–your kids will try to wear you down and they will gang up on you, driven by the instinct to win. They will scream, bite, tantrum and sulk but stick to your guns like you’re making your last stand and one day, maybe when they’re five or six, you’ll be proud and amazed at what fine little creatures you’ve made.
The present pain will all be worth it when you can trust that your kids won’t bring shame on your family in social situations, nor will they blow your cover. After all, isn’t showing well half the battle? If no one knows that we burp and fart, do our burps and farts actually matter?