Wednesday 28 Sep 2016

Manners
Jennifer Flaten

This weekend we partook in that great summer activity, a barbecue. For some reason, gathering around a flaming grill and watching meat char is the epitome of summer.

Needless to say, I jumped at the chance to pack up the three small people, a dish to pass and some lawn chairs. As far as I was concerned, this event meant two things: 1- free entertainment for the kids, as the host of the party had three little ones of their own and 2-a meal that I didn't have to cook.

Even better, was the possibility that while our three small children rampaged around with the hosts three small children I might, just might be able to carry on an entire conversation-uninterrupted.

Imagine a whole conversation where I could get my thoughts out from start to finish! This does not happened very often at our house.

At our house, conversations are carried in a special shorthand, it is a lot like Tweeting...only with more pressure. Can I get all the words associated with the thought out before I am interrupted? Once interrupted, that thought is gone forever-never to return.

Most of my conversations sound like this 'milk please,' which means stop at the store and pick up a gallon of milk or 'Tuesday dinner out' which means we are having dinner on Tuesday at a friends house.

The price for uninterrupted conversation was a dessert. As it was, I would have happily paid up to but not more then $50 for the chance to finish a sentence without being hearing the words "mommy I____________" fill in the blanks with need, want, broke and so forth.

I went the homemade dessert route, which meant that I had three tiny little critics judging whether my dish was good enough to take to a party.

I test drove two separate recipes to see which turned out best for the party. Feeling a lot like a contestant in a bake off, I watched as the kids circled my entries, judged them on taste and appearance and finally chose one the thought was fit to present to our charming hosts.

The BBQ was fun, the kids managed to remain unhurt nor did they hurt someone else.

In fact, the only problem was the weather.

Ah, yes the beautiful fall weather, low 60's cloudy gray sky, only problem this is July. Consequently, we were dressed as if we were going apple picking rather then grilling out.

We all sat outside bundled up like mummies for as long as we could, but finally the freezing cold weather and intermittent drizzle forced everyone inside.

The little kids didn't let the change in plans stop them. They went into their little hosts' room and began playing with every toy they could get their hands on.

The kids found the dress up box, treating us to an endless parade of clowns, pirates, tigers, and Cinderella dressed as a chef.

By the time it was ready to leave the room was in a total shambles, it looked like a toy factory blew.

In preparation for our departure, we instructed our little kids to help the other little kids clean up and they did.

Now, I'm not bragging (okay maybe just a little) but later the hosts told me that our kids were the first guests (under 18) to help pick up.

I was flat out amazed at that, how is it possible that you would let your children make a huge mess at someone else's home (or your own home for that matter) and not insist they pick it up.

Yes, its true our kids helped pick up, because we told them to, but we told them to do it because it's the polite thing to do.

Why didn't the other guests' parents instruct their children to do the same?

In my opinion it wasn't the children who were at fault, it was the parents. Children are just that-children; they rely on their parents to tell them to do the right thing.

Just because they are kids doesn't mean they shouldn't have the good manners.

Don't get me wrong our kids are far from perfect. Sometimes they act as if wolves (big mean tempered slovenly wolves) raised them and when they do, we give them hell for it.

Even at home, we expect good manners. The rule is you may be at the table with your family but that doesn't make it okay to burp the ABC's.

And yes, while it is enormous fun to pick up every individual pea and put it in your mouth, it just isn't done...that is what spoons/forks were made for.

I agree it seems silly, but there it is, you have to use your manners everyday, even with your family. It is essential to keep hammering the manners in when we are together, that's how kids learn.

Since, in our house, most meals last about oh, mmm I don't know 10.5 minutes, it actually takes more time to carry the food to the table then it does for them to eat it. I try to work on manners every meal.

It can be hard, the kids sit down, they inhale the food, ask about dessert, and then they scamper away.

I have to work to get them to use napkins, forks and to make conversation.

Most of the time I am successful, mildly successful with my lessons in manners, but I keep trying.

Moreover, a good show of manners at Monday's meal doesn't ensure that on Tuesday there won't be musical farting at the table-which I might add appears to be the most-favorite game for the children. At least they say excuse me!

Jennifer Flaten lives where the local delicacy is fried cheese, Wisconsin. She writes about family life, its amusing or not so amusing moments. "At least it's not another article on global warming," she says. Jennifer bakes a mean banana bread and admits an unusual attraction to balloon animals and cup cakes. Busy preparing for the zombie apocalypse, she stills finds time to write "As I See It," her witty, too often true column. "My urge to write," says Jennifer, "is driven by my love of cupcakes, with sprinkles on top. Who wouldn't write for cupcakes, with sprinkles," she wonders.

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