Sunday, November 05, 2006

Two things i maybe should have taught my daughter

1.) To clean her room. When i was growing up, my mother would send me to my room and tell me not to come out until it was clean. Hence i spent many hours filled with bitter resentment locked in my room. (Time that i could have spent cleaning, but the enormity of the task facing me felt too overwhelming, plus it was more fun to pout than to clean.) I swore that i would never force any child of mine to clean her room. And i pretty much haven’t. I just tell her to keep the door shut and bring down the dirty dishes once a week or so. But how she can live like that is beyond me.

Last week a plumber came to our house to fix something in Em’s shower that was leaking. I warned him that the room would be hideous before we went upstairs. When he saw the mess he said “How many girls live in here?”

2.) Table manners. The fight over table manner when i was a child made meals a battleground. There were constant criticisms. “Get your elbows off the table. Sit up straight. Don’t butter your bread in the air." (wtf?) "Chew with your mouth closed. Put your knife down before you take a bite.” Plus the occasional jab in the back with a fork if we were caught slouching. The end result is that i know how to have nice table manners if needed, but that meals were not relaxing or enjoyable. Family time my ass! So i chose the easy way out and didn't make a big deal out of it.

As a result, Em sometimes eats as if she were raised by wolves. (Yes, i realize what that says about me, Arooooo.) I worry that she will be criticized for it. I try and correct her now, but my manners are ingrained, for her they take an act of will to remember. Plus you all know how much fun it is to correct a teenager.

Are table manners out of fashion? Am i just a fussy old crank? (The second question is rhetorical, i already know the answer to that one.)


Mother of Invention said...

I'm not so sure that all parents teach them, based on some of the kids I see, but they are always in fashion. Half the families I know don't even sit down to a meal together much so when are the parents going to teach them? It is probably not a priority in many homes of the kids I know.
As kids, we were taught many, and we sat down every night at 6:00 to eat together and share our days.

Mother of Invention said...

I'm not so sure that all parents teach them, based on some of the kids I see, but they are always in fashion. Half the families I know don't even sit down to a meal together much so when are the parents going to teach them? It is probably not a priority in many homes of the kids I know.
As kids, we were taught many, and we sat down every night at 6:00 to eat together and share our days.

thailandchani said...

My brother and I were definitely taught ~ and I'm glad we were! It makes life a lot easier. Of course, being an old divorced chick, I don't have to use them very often. I plop in front of the TV with Lean Cuisine. Still, it is useful to at least have the ability to choose. To the best of my knowledge, I don't embarrass anyone in a restaurant. My personal standards might be low. As long as my eating companion isn't noisy, I don't care how they transport the food from Point A to Point B. (g)

Your daughter will improve hers for herself when she discovers she wants to impress someone.



sari said...

I think table manners and how to write thank you notes are things that everyone should know.

Then again, I'm the one saying "don't talk with your mouth full!" with food in my own mouth, so I'm in the school of know the rules, but they're not always enforced (at home anyway). Except the thank you note part, I try to enforce that one.

Mignon said...

My table manners were the worst when I was at home, and at a friends house, when I needed to kick it up a notch, it was just a matter of common sense. Em's a smart chick, and like TG said, if she needs to be fancy, she'll learn to be fancy.

Take her out to a nice restaurant for a mom/daughter date and see if she improves - that'll at least tell you whether you need to crack the whip a little more at home.

(I'm suffering the same room-cleaning dilemma now and I appreciate your 10-years-ahead-of-me parenting perspective.)

Anonymous said...

I believe in manners. As a means of being respectful towards the people with whom I am eating and to honor the mere fact that I am eating. We tend to forget that in our culture.

Anonymous said...

Thailand Gal knows.

She wrote: "Still, it is useful to at least have the ability to choose."

And that's so. We all should have access to etiquette, whether we use it or not.

Anonymous said...

Hi Meno!
L√Ęchez pas mes amis = Keep up the good work guys.

urban-urchin said...

I was taught manners and in turn am teaching my kids. I think it's the little things- saying please and thank you and excuse me, acknowledging a gift through a thank you note, etc, etc. We have a friend whose kid does NONE of those things and it royally pisses me off.

I also hate hate hate it when people don't rsvp. It's just showing respect for someone else- that their time, company, present is valuable and you appreciate it.

I had the same thing with my room as a kid. The way I get around it is to show her how to clean her room and break it down into managable steps. I think that can work for a teenager- but having never had a teenager- I could be wrong.

Anonymous said...

My room was always a disaster area. After the boys were born, I became a neat freak. Wait til she goes to collage and has to share space with a roommate.

I agree with some of the other folks -- the best manners you can teach involve thank-you cards.

Carolie said...

(Qualifiers: Love your blog, and think you are a wonderful parent! Just sharing my experiences...)

I remember some eye-rolling during meals, and sighing at being told AGAIN to sit up straight, put my napkin in my lap, etc. But I also remember laughter-filled meals, and great conversation.

I was nominated for a full 4-year scholarship to college based on the dean of the college being impressed by my manners on the phone, and at the dinner I attended as a prospective student. Got the scholarship, too.

I once got a job over another candidate (we were equally matched to this point) when the other candidate smacked and slobbered his way through lunch, grossing out the VP doing the hiring.

I'm VERY grateful my parents insisted on manners. My mother once said "People may not notice your good manners, but they'll certainly notice your bad manners."

As others have said, it's good to have the choice.

Karen Jacobs said...

Remembering my faux pas learning experience in the highschool cafeteria when my table mates (6 or 8 at least) all stared at me while I stirred the gravy into my mashed potatoes (remember how it puddled like a lake in the cavity made by the gravy ladle?) "WHAT are you doing?" they all asked, with facial expression if not voice. The embarassment cured me and I never stirred gravy again. AND... became more accutely aware of what passed for good table manners. In a HS cafeteria, that wasn't saying much.

karmic said...

Table manners are not passe me thinks. Was brought up in a diff time and place which means unkempt appearances and rooms were frowned upon, but no that does nto make me cranky about some of these things. :)

Anonymous said...

Just weighing in with everyone else in favor of the clean room and table manners (except I think I might stir my gravy into my mashed potatoes and not have a clue what was wrong with that).

I was grumbling to my mother-in-law about feeling like life as a parent was one constant NAG. She just laughed and said, "it's never over." Although she's pretty good and my mother is the prodder.

Bob said...

Ms. Manners (I think) once said that ettiquette is merely the ability to make others feel comfortable in each others presence - or something to that effect. (she went on to say that it is bad manners to correct other people's bad manners!) I wasn't taught, nor did we teach our children, which fork or which spoon is proper for which course. But they did learn how not to embarrass themselves at the table. Table manners as exhibited 30 years ago certainly aren't the ones accepted today, but there certainly is a place for good table manners - if only to provide a comfortable environment for everyone at the table to enjoy their meal.

Our kids were also taught to say please and thank you and to respect others. The only thing I regret not teaching our kids are (at least what were considered common here in the south) the saying of yes sir, yes ma'am, no sir and no-ma'am. My wife grew up in the mid-west and was not raised to do so. She won! It is (to me) somewhat ironic that we settled here in the south and my wife has since seen how much those phrases are a part of this culture. But I do have to admit that it is much less so than when I was growing up around here. So maybe it isn't the worst thing in the world.

Marshamlow said...

I got jabbed by the fork many a times at the daily family dinner. Spent many a weekend stewing in my hostility in my room too. Totally get where you are coming from on this one. I think there is a way to teach these things without being cruel. For the room, you have a week to clean your room on your own, if not we will do it together. When we do it together, I try to make it fun and then enforce upkeep. For the table manners, I got lucky my daughter took an etiquette class in school and taught me a thing or two. I don't think it is ever too late to change a habit, just takes the right motivation and a little practice.

Lynnea said...

I think table manners and manners in general are important. But, I had similar experiences as you and I believe that family dinner should be relaxing and fun. So my thought so far has been to teach the table manners with a more gentle approach. We'll see if it works. I do think like others have said, common sense kicks in when at restaurants and other people's houses. But I have the worst habit of sitting on my feet at the table - it keeps them warm.

Josephine said...

Maybe Em could take a professional etiquette class for the times when she is out at dinner with bosses or colleagues or peers.

Other than that, I don't think they are that important socially anymore...

meno said...

MOI, yes, our family life was much more rigid than it is now. Although we still eat dinner together frequently.

thailand gal, it IS nice to have the choice. And i think she has better manners when she's not at home.

sari, we write thank you notes too. I very much believe in those.

mignon, a good excuse to go out to dinner. I like it!

caro, no one likes to eat with a slurping, burping, hash-slinging person. Em does get up after every meal and thank me for it. We do forget how lucky we are to HAVE food.

hi holly, TG is a pretty smart lady.

caro, that's a little different than the web site translation. Thanks for the real meaning.

urban-urchin, Em knows all those other things, thank you notes and please/thank you. It's the actual eating that is sloppy. I get a bit crazy myself when people don't RSVP. It's just plain rude.

nancy, so Em just needs to have kids to be cured? Hmm, hopefully it will be a while before that happens.

carolie, i have had people comment on my manners. When i first met the Mister, he noticed them and was impressed, he told me later. I would have given you the job over the slob any day. I like what you mother said too. Something to think about.

kj, nothing like peer pressure to drive home something like table manners. (I stir my gravy in too, but a bit at a time.)

sanjay, i really don't think they are passe either. I should have (and will) found a more loving way to teach them that my parents did.

de, i think i'm going to work on the eating and leave the room for another day. Another mashed potato stirrer!

mombat, always with the helpful comments from the mom. Thanks for your comment.

bob, i love Ms. Manners! The ma'am usage always surprises me when i hear it, but it's kind of cute.

marsha, that's what i should have done, found a nicer way to teach these things. I just so hated how i was treated that it fogged the actual reason for these things.

maggie, i sit on my feet too! I know it's bad for my circulation, or posture, but it feels odd to not do it.

josephine, that is a great idea. I'll look up classes at our local community college. Maybe we could do it together.

Anonymous said...

I think you need enough table manners to be able to get through a business meal or meet the boyfriend's parents without completely embarassing the coworkers or boyfriend. You're nervous enough in those situations. About the room, my room was a disgusting pit that my Mom made me clean once a week--it took most of the day and caused many tears and fights(I still cannot believe I lived like that!). I make my kids put away dirty clothes and toys in closet every night, we don't have big fights on weekends. I don't allow any food in rooms (I had an ant and mouse infestation from this before). Once or twice a year we eleminate broken toys and outgrown clothes. I occasionally warn them that if they don't pick up it means they have too many things and I take whatever is left out to Goodwill. If you follow through they only do it once or twice.

Carolie said...

Meno, thank you--you are always so good about replying to each of us!

Bob, I adore Miss Manners! My favorite:

"Dear Miss Manners: What is the proper way for a lady to walk in high heeled shoes?"

"Dear Gentle Reader: Left, right, left, right."

Maya's Granny said...

Do you remember that wonderful cheese commercial about all the people leaving the last bite of chesse from the tray because their mothers were sitting on their shoulders saying, "You weren't raised by wolves" and then the guy with the mother wolf on his shoulder takes it?

I loved that. That mother wolf taught her child to take care of himself, always a good skill.

meno said...

maya's granny, i never saw that commercial. There have been large voids in my TV watching years. But i like the sentiment.