The School Lunchroom: Where Good Manners Come To Die
Dear Mouthy Housewives,
Ever since my son was a toddler, my husband and I have worked hard to teach him good table manners. He was doing really well and we were proud of him, but then he started Kindergarten and picked up bad habits from the other kids. The other night we were in a restaurant and he actually stabbed a dinner roll with his fork and blew bubbles with his straw! He says that's how all of his friends do it and won't listen to us. How can I get back my well-mannered boy?
Nice Manners, Babe
Dear Nice Manners, Babe:
First of all, thank you so much for trying to teach your child good table manners. As someone who regularly dines in Texas BBQ restaurants and hamburger shacks, I certainly appreciate your efforts. I mean, I can't tell you how many times I've watched a 400-lb. Bubba spear a 10-pound rack of greasy ribs using the wrong fork. And don't even get me started on what those crazy Texans do to the fingerbowls. (shudder)
Anyway, I think the key word in your question here is "Kindergarten" because that means your son has finally left the nest and is now interacting with the world at large. The big, trashy, burps-at-the-table and tucks-their-napkin-into-their-shirt-collar world at large. And it can be a pretty tough adjustment for diligent parents like you and me. You know that book, All I Really Need To Know I Learned in Kindergarten? It should only include two words: Armpit farts.
What I'm trying to say in my amazingly amusing way is that non-polite table manners are just the first of many, many bad habits, words and behavior that your son is going to learn from his peers. What you need to do as his mother is quash it immediately as well as consistently reinforce what you've taught him at home. The next time he shows bad manners, correct him and remind him that that's not what you do in your family. Even if his feral friends in the lunchroom think it's awesome.
You're unfortunately fighting an uphill battle because kids learn at a young age that there's really no clearer path to grade school popularity than being able to fit two cheesesticks up their nose. (I don't want to name names, but sources tell me that's how Ashton Kutcher launched his career.) That's why you need to remain firm with your son on your rules. And then, when he's the best mannered boy in law school, you can toast your hard work with a celebratory glass of champagne.
Just don't blow bubbles in it.
Milk bubbles photo via Shutterstock.