Little Spouse On The Prairie: Teach Your Children Well

Apr 14, 2018

Welcome to Little Spouse on the Prairie.  Last week, we donated one dollar to HPPR for every new follower on the Facebook and Twitter pages. We’ve extended the promotion because I still haven’t searched the cushions on the basement furniture for loose change.  I’m very externally motivated when it comes to keeping house.  So, if you didn’t follow last week, be sure to go to one or both of those social media sites and pick it up this week so I can get started on the basement.

We’ve been working on teaching my children good table manners.  My teenager has them down for the most part, although she still tries to sneak her phone during a meal from time to time.  My middle school son is getting the hang of things, at least when his mother is at the table, which really only amounts to about 15 seconds, broken into segments of five seconds each, of the actual mealtime experience anyway. 

But my five-year-old is just now learning how to behave at dinner.   As long as I put her pickle on the correct side of the plate, refrain from using the green cup with the elephant unless it’s Tuesday, and fold her napkin into a triangle with the point side up, she is really showing progress. 

At lunch the other day, I saw that Clementine’s hands were really covered in spaghetti sauce.  I also noticed, during the first five-second segment of my total 15 seconds at the table that she was just about to wipe those sticky hands on her pants.  Of course, I said in a, shall we say, “convincing” tone, “No! No! No!  Don’t wipe your hands on your pants, sweetie!”

At that point, Joel thought he would join in the manners training and said (and I am telling the absolute truth), “Here Clem, you can wipe them on my pants.  They are already dirty.” 

Our family has a special skill when it comes to dining.  We currently hold the land speed record for food consumption.  Sometimes I don’t even have to put the food on the table.  It’s gone before it leaves the kitchen.  The only signs that dinner has been consumed are a pile of dirty dishes and some telltale sauce streaks on Joel’s pants. 

When we eat at restaurants, we calculate our tip based on coverage.  For example, if we can still see 20 percent of the floor around our table when we have finished, we give the standard 20 percent tip.  If we can only see 10 percent of the floor around our table, we add an additional 10 percent to the standard.  When, as often happens, the floor is 100 percent obscured by food debris, we add an apology note, pay with cash, and slip out.  Writing the apology note gives me something to do during that last five-second segment I’m at the table. 

I keep a running list of restaurants at which we can no longer eat.  It’s much easier now that there are so many handy list apps for my phone.  On some, I can even load the date and rate the experience on a scale of one to ten, with ten being the most excruciating.  That way, if we haven’t been at a particular restaurant for several years, we might be able to venture there again, especially if we’ve added a child or two since our last visit.  If waiters are on the lookout for a family of four, it takes them longer to figure out who we are if we have five.  Occasionally, we’ll ask one of the kids’ friends to accompany us, for purposes of obfuscation. 

I honestly do make an attempt to train up my children in the way that they should go.  However, Joel is living proof that when they are old, they do depart from it. I came out of the restroom the other day and asked him, “Why are there tortilla chip crumbs scattered around the toilet?” His response was that he was killing two birds with one stone.  Hey, at least he saved his poor manners for the bathroom, which is something I encourage all of my family members to do. 

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