I was sitting by myself on a quiet (read: all boys out of the house) Sunday afternoon catching up on my blog reading when I came across a guest post on a peek inside the fishbowl about table manners. There were several comments about proper utensil use and the difference between European and North American customs but I got hung up on the thought ‘you’re so lucky your kids use forks!’
Now I realize her daughters are much older than my boys and that one day we’ll reach civility at meal time but right now that day seems so very, very far away. Instead of fork grip and utensil placement I’m left distracted by merely surviving meal time with my sanity intact. Meal time with a 4 year old boy, a 6 year old boy, and an infant means a whole different set of rules:
1. Use your utensils. At this point I don’t care if you brandish them like weapons. Just stop eating everything, yogurt included, with your fingers.
2. Please let the dishwasher do it’s job. I appreciate your efforts to keep our eating area clean but please refrain from licking the table, bowls, and plates. We paid good money for that dishwasher and I want it to earn it’s keep.
3. Do not spit food. There are too many fruits that are small and round, which makes them perfect projectiles. Do not spit grapes or peas or any food at your brother. Yes I see you didn’t spit it this time (onto rule #4)…
4. Don’t throw food. Don’t throw it on the table because you don’t like it, at your brother because it’s funny, at the cat (hoping she’ll eat it). Please just keep your food on your plate.
5. No science at the dinner table. I don’t want to see what happens when you mix potatoes with milk nor am I curious to know how many peas you can mash onto the table cloth in 30 seconds.
6. Milk is not a condiment. Don’t dip food in it.
7. No screaming. I realize you don’t like it, I realize it’s not your favourite, I realize you would rather eat cookies. Please don’t scream as I’m 2 feet away. Also, see rule #8
8. You don’t have to like it to eat it. I don’t like putting away laundry, cooking, cleaning toilets, and a host of other things but I still do them. You eat as many bites as your years of life and I will appreciate that you tried it. You will not die. Chicken will not kill you.
9. Meal time is not a game. I realize that seeing just how many times you can get mom and dad out of their chairs and back to the kitchen may seem fun but there’s no trophy to be had.
10. Meal time is not a contact sport. Do not kick your brother under the table, my laser vision can see right through the melamine table surface. Do not kick the cat; you know she’ll bite your toes and it’ll hurt.
11. Clothing and linens are two separate things. Please use a napkin or paper towel or Kleenex or a wash cloth or anything other than your shirt and pants to wipe your fingers. I’d also really prefer that you not use my pants (or the cat) to wipe your hands.
I grew up in a house where meal time was quiet. There were placemats. Quiet communication. Food wasn’t thrown. I was also an only child.
My expectations for meal time are based on my childhood but my experience as a mom to three boys is quickly teaching me that my meal time reality is very different.
12. Meal time is family time. When mommy looks like she is about to burst a blood vessel, stomp her feet, or shout, lean in and tell her you love her. And if you’re feeling particularly charitable put your fork down quietly and wipe your hands on a napkin before hugging her. She probably needs a reminder that you’ll remember this meal time silliness for the rest of your life.