In our house, manners are a way of life, you don’t deviate, you constantly practice good manners. Ok, fine, this may just be in my Dream House, but we at least strive, I, at the very east enforce good manners. Reality, I ride the manners nag horse and the boys just let me ride on by sometimes noticing, sometimes not, depending on the moment. Some days they are on their manners game, mostly not.
I will not be defeated. If I accomplish one thing as a mother, it will be to instill good manners into my children, whether they damn well like it or not. My husband is indifferent. Who cares if they chew with their mouth open or say can I? I remind him of this article I read in the LA Times about a mother who didn’t stress manners while raising her son. The mother didn’t realize her error until she went to dinner with her son and his girlfriend, who later became his wife. During this dinner, the girlfriend subtly reminded her son to use table manners, motioning to put his napkin on his lap, tapping which utensil to use, tapping her lips so he would chew with his mouth closed. The mother was horrified but didn’t say anything at the time, realizing her error. In the comfort of our home, I agree with my husband, who cares. Our house, however, is the training ground for our children to go out into the world and successfully and independently thrive. Over and over and over we train.
The picture I paint is not so frightening. They are good boys, they do mind their manners most days, and they have even wow’d me to tears with perfect manners once when out with their grandmother (yes, I threatened their lives before hand, but still, wow’d to tears); however, they outnumber me 3 to 1 and in no time flat will a perfectly good situation go awry once one of the boys gets another giggling or instigates horseplay. They can not help themselves, rough and tumble puppy play comes naturally, manners do not.
Just so you have an idea of my life, Dale, our 14-year-old black giant beast of a black lab, recently joined in the shenanigans. While walking through the dining room during dinner with his nylabone in his mouth, saw something outside and barked without dropping his bone. I reprimanded his manners as I would any of the boys, “Dale, don’t talk with your mouth full.” The boys laughed and continued the play, barking with their mouths full, at the dinner table, which also got Dale to continue barking with his mouth full. I’m not always the nag.
The other day, the boys and I were out running errands. Surrounded by boys, I refuse to open a door, believing that they need to learn to open, and hold the door open (note this is a 2-part task), for women, elderly and others in general. I have a tendency to walk fast and lead the way, usually because they’re dawdling or messing around, which causes me to wait at the door until they show up. Patience is not my strongest suit, I’m typically growling by the time they show up. While we were out, such occurred and I arrived at the door first. The boys caught up and then lined up behind me, in age order, as if we were in school. “Really?” I turned and said to my twelve-year-old. “What?” he replied, completely clueless. “The door,” I said as I motioned to the closed door. “Oh,” he exclaimed before opening the door and held it, not only for us, but for the three other people who lined up behind us, because why, I have no idea.
This week, though, we hit a new high. We were out to lunch at an upscale restaurant. The boys were appropriately reminded (read threatened) to exercise their good manners. We started off well. The door was opened and held for us and two elderly ladies departing. Good job. We sat down, they thanked the hostess for their menus and napkins went immediately onto their laps. Wow. They ordered with “May I have” not “Gimme” or “Can I”. While waiting for our food, no fights or bickering ensued, only pleasant, calm conversation. Shocker. Lunch arrived and they politely asked for things they needed and ate their meal without someone going for a long pass for bread or something spilled or feet are on the table or some ungodly behavior that would put me over the edge. No, none of it.
Then it happened. My nine-year-old dropped a burp snart and then calmly, innocently said, “Excuse me.”
A burp snart is when you consecutively or simultaneously burp, sneeze and fart.
My nine-year-old burped like a boat’s fog horn (think Homer Simpson), sneezed that sounded as though we were all slimed (we were not, thankfully) and farted so powerfully that he could have been rocket launched through the roof. The room was silenced and heads turned our way. I reacted and said “Niko!” He, continuing to enjoy his lunch while his brothers were hysterically, whooping with laughter, looked at me, oblivious and said, “What? I said excuse me.”
Burp Snart 1, Me 0