November 16, 2009

Mind Your Manners

My kids and I were lucky enough to be invited out to dinner on Friday. It was a gracious and spur of the moment invitation from a family with as many folks in it as we have - more, actually - who thought nothing of adding places for four more to their table. They are lovely and wonderful and had just had all three of my kids over for a playdate. All three of 'em. Which makes this family not only gracious but brave.

So we joined them for dinner. Turkey, potatoes, corn, a little fruit and bread.

And I learned some things about my kids.

They don't know how to butter their own bread. They can't cut their own food. They can't peel a banana. Seriously. The peel had them totally stumped.

Blushing yet? 'Cause I was.

They did a great job with some things. They tried stuff - seriously, my very picky kids tried most everything, and were also well-mannered enough to say a simple, "No, thank you," if they didn't like something. And my diva was just lovely with the compliments and the please-and-thank-yous.

So I've done a few things well.

Other things? Not so much.

To make my life easy, I've settled into a routine with the kids. I make a few meals - mac & cheese, chicken tenders, quesadillas - on a rotation. We do a family dinner maybe once a week - pretty much always spaghetti. More often than not, though, I'm just feeding them something kid-friendly, and I grab a bite later. I figured the quality talking time, that was happening because I was there. And it was. That's a good thing.

What wasn't happening? My kids weren't learning to do stuff on their own. They weren't learning to use a knife or pour their own drinks. And they were learning only half their manners.

That changed tonight.

Today I bought a great big sole fillet. I breaded it and baked it. I made up a pot of brown jasmine rice (yum!) and mixed half of it with cheese. I steamed some broccoli and washed a few grapes, which I thoughtfully left on the stem. I cut up some Italian bread. And I put it all in serving dishes in the middle of the table. And then we sat down together to eat.

My kids put their napkins in their laps. They asked me to pass the butter. They learned to cut their fish. Even better - they ate their fish. And their rice. And their broccoli. And the temper-infused grouchfest that preceded dinner? It vanished in giggles and table games and gentle reminders to keep elbows off the table and mouths closed while chewing.

My Aspie, who'd heard me say I'd been embarrassed by their manners on Friday, said, "Why don't you give us manners lessons, Mom?"

I just did.

And I bought a whole chicken for roasting, and a large slab of ham, too. My kids and I, we're going to school. I can't wait!

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