Tuesday, 15 May 2007

Feeding Time at the Zoo

This afternoon, I managed a nagfest of epic proportions. Starting with the school pick-up, I nagged my kids at considerable length about such diverse topics as lost items of school uniform, wrestling on the kitchen floor (them, not me), lolling on the sofa instead of doing homework, and the inappropriate use of the word ‘gay.’

By the time it came to putting their meal on the table, I was all nagged out.

As they moaned about the food, then picked bits up with their fingers, slurped, belched and generally mucked about, I wondered whether or not I could summon up the inclination to tackle the exhaustive topic of ‘table manners.’ Maybe just getting them to use cutlery properly would be a start, and to stop slurping their drink, which in turn might prevent the gaseous emissions.

In the end, I settled on merely trying to get them to eat with their mouths closed, so we wouldn’t all have to watch that washing machine effect of food swirling around in their jaws. Even this proved difficult, as they are all at the stage where their mouths can barely contain their emergent second teeth.

After about forty minutes of meal time, I didn’t really care how bad their table manners were, just as long as they ate the damn food, and then I could clear up the mess and get on with doing the bath and putting them to bed.

I do think that good manners which are based on kindness and consideration for others are important, and I think that is a battle worth fighting with my kids. Table manners though, are very close to the domain of etiquette, and that is something for which I have very little patience. It appears to me that etiquette exists in order to provide snobbish divisions between people, on the basis of whether or not they know some small piece of irrelevant information.

I really don’t care whether people eat asparagus with their fingers or their fork – I am more interested in whether they would like sauvignon blanc or pinot grigio with it.

So much that falls within the realm of table manners seems trivial or misguided. Reading at the table is bad form, but boring people senseless with conversations about property prices or good schools is considered acceptable.

Why is placing your elbows on the table so impolite? I have been to dinner parties where I would gladly have placed my forehead on the table to alleviate the utter tedium, but I could appreciate how bad-mannered that would have appeared. But elbows on the table? Sometimes my elbows have been the only thing stopping me from sliding gently under the tablecloth.

Having barked at the kids through bath time and bed time, I am now sitting here with something to revive my jaded spirits. It’s a glass of Saint-VĂ©ran Blason de Bourgogne Chardonnay (£8.99 Ocado). It has a fresh melon taste, and it's hitting the spot perfectly.

I know that I’ve got to put some effort into improving the kids’ table manners, otherwise they will continue to eat like cavemen. This point was rammed home a few weeks ago, when my daughter had a friend over for tea. This very polite, civilised little girl asked if she could have a fork to eat her piece of cake. As I handed it over, and she delicately manoeuvred a bite-sized piece into her mouth, I looked across at my three. They looked like pigs hunting for truffles.

Another glass of this chardonnay, I think.


dulwichmum said...

Dear Drunk Mummy,

You always make me laugh. I have this image of you sliding under the table or resting your forehead on your plate because you are so bored at random dinner parties and I just can't stop laughing.


mutterings and meanderings said...

I always considered using a fork to eat your cake to be the height of good mannes ...

Seriously though, good on you for making the effort - they will appreciate it in later life.

Good manners cost nowt!

beta mum said...

My god!
I have been having just this battle with my two this week. Along the lines of -
"Keep your mouth closed when you're eating, so bits of broccoli won't fall onto your lap, then the floor, necessitating much sweeping up after tea."
"Use your knife and fork and you'll be less likely to get worms."
"Only put one elbow on the table, after you've finished eating" - this to a boy who's busy shovelling raw carrot sticks into his mouth with both elbows on the table, mouth open, slouching as if he's about to slide onto the floor.
I'm not a manners nazi, but after years of trying to get them to eat the food, I'm now trying to coax them into behaving in a way that won't get them banned from restaurants that serve their food on plates rather than in plastic containers.
More plonk from Super-U tonight. We did buy a lot.

Stay at home dad said...

Good grief Beta Mum!

DM, we must have been at the same dinner parties... and it's odd but people always spot melon in wine but I can't stand the stuff and I've never noticed it in all my years of drinking...

Omega Mum said...

Me, I like Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc with my asparagus - meths at a pinch. Free any time.

rilly super said...

drunkmummy, you poor darling, should you wish to puruse a refund from the swiss finishing school to which you sent your children my husband knows some very good lawyers

debio said...

dear Drunk Mummy - you sound like my echo - I was laughting when reading your blog but I rarely laugh when reminding my daughter (again) re table manners.
I have vowed, henceforth, to lighten up - manners are for others and, as I'm sure all our children care about others, what does a little chomping matter?

Pig in the Kitchen said...

oh the manners thing, it brings me out in hives. My mother was such a stickler, and apparently with no effort I have turned into her horrid, nagging self. Once in a bid to stop myself being such a witch I made pictorial 'table manners' cards, laminated them (really should get out more)and resolved that we would only ever focus on one table manner per meal. The kids loved the idea, but I just couldn't stick to the rules...I'm so crap. And they've never eaten meat so how will they ever know how to cut a steak? I am failing them on so many levels....!

Mopsa said...

No kids to worry about re: table manners, but I do worry about mine - the cake/pig at truffles scenario has made me think I should put a mirror on the table for a few days to develop greater sophistication at table. However, I do have cake forks - handed down from my Mother - and when you have a table of farmers digging into your baked goodies, it may look funny but they are pleased not to have to use their hands - they know where they've been!

Lucy Diamond said...

This made me laugh so much I sounded like a truffle-hunting pig too.
I'm sure every parent who read this post will be nodding and saying, oh yes, in our house, too! (Except perhaps the parents of the polite cake-eating-with-fork little girl - they are clearly a family of FREAKS!)

Rob said...

Our Scrap's only three and, therefore untroubled by such bourgeois concepts as manners. He'd rather jam boiled egg into his mouth or eat peas individually with his fingers. I can't imagine ever being bothered by table manners - everyone gets ground down into being "polite" eventually, no? - but, like I say, he's only three. So ask me again in four years...
BTW - I'm still laughing about putting weight "on your fanny".

Drunk Mummy said...

Dear Dulwich Mum - it is an image of uncomfortable frequency.

M&M - your mum must have brought you up very well!

Beta Mum - Its never-ending isn't it (I like the bit about avoiding worms!) Get that Super-U plonk down your neck!

SAHD - if we had both been at the same dinner parties, we might have had a chance to talk about something interesting!
I know what you mean about the 'melon' thing. I am the same with 'chocolate' in red wines. Tastes nice, but nothing like chocolate!

Omega Mum - the meths works for me too - in an emergency.

Rilly -the finishing school must have finished them off.

debio - a little chomping never did anyone any harm!

Pig - sadly, we all seem to turn into our mothers in the end. I think you might have a business idea with your laminated manners cards!

Mopsa - I am impressed with all the farmers using cake forks (but as you say, they have very good reason to).

Lucy - we all seem to be suffering the same problem. I didn't even know you could buy cake forks any more!

Rob - I think Scrap has the right idea - leave him in blissful ignorance for as long as possible!