No matter how many meals we have eaten together as a family, my children's table manners never cease to amaze me. Or lack of manners is more like it.
Truthfully, we have been caught being good a few times and people have come up to us in restaurants to say how well behaved our children are. It does happen. Those moments are sheer bliss, though completely shocking to me. But I do appreciate the feedback. It helps me relax a bit and realize that they are learning some decency.
On Fridays, when C and S drive an hour to her teen support group, I am with the youngest four kids -- which includes, all three boys. Time and time again, we've proven that three boys in one small space is really a lot. They are so competitive with one another. When Daddy's not there, they seem to up the ante, too, for some reason.
Tonight, I took the four kids to dinner at Village Inn. I've mentioned it before ... it's a glorified IHOP basically. Walking in went okay. Ordering went okay. Waiting for food to come out went okay. I was starting to relax and think that maybe things would be okay.
It was too soon.
Upon delivery of my salad, I gave my croutons to O, who loves them (I do not like croutons for whatever reason ... texture mostly). Z asked if he could have one. O didn't want to share and when I suggested it would be nice if he shared, he threw a crouton at his brother. It bounced off him and onto the floor.
I said, "Please pick that up and then give him two new croutons."
He picked the crouton up off the floor, paused for a second and then popped it in his mouth. Ew.
I'm not sure which portion of that whole interaction was most appalling: the not wanting to share, the throwing of the crouton or eating off the restaurant floor.
Z ordered a breakfast dinner. He put his bacon on the table next to his plate because heaven forbid it touch his pancakes.
"Z, please keep your bacon on your plate," I said.
He put it on the very edge where a knife might rest.
He still needs me to cut up his pancakes for him (though his 7-year-old sister offered to do it because she was making her way through her eggs with knife and fork, no problem), but had to smear butter everywhere -- even the sides of his plate -- before handing it all to me. Ug. We nearly lost the bacon to the table again.
Meanwhile, H ordered the kid's cheeseburger. It looked good! Sometimes kid's cheeseburgers are overcooked and minuscule, but this one was practically adult-sized, which made our growing 12-year-old son very happy. Then he ordered a side of mayonnaise for his burger. Okay, fine.
As he talked with his brother, Z, and spread mayonnaise on the bun, I watched him as he first, wiped his finger across the knife to clean the remaining mayonnaise off of it; then, licked the mayonnaise from his finger; and finally, wiped his tongue-wet finger on the underside of the table.
"H!" I snapped.
"What?" he said, looking puzzled.
I sat shaking my head, my eyes bulging out of my head with a "what the heck?!" look for a good ten seconds when I remembered that he doesn't get any of my nonverbal reactions. So I verbally repeated exactly what he'd done and he picked up his napkin, wiped his finger, and said, "Oh, sorry."
Then he put his knife on the table laying across his napkin.
I sighed heavily in disbelief and said, "H, please put your knife on your plate like this." I demonstrated with my own knife. But of course, I was across the table and when I laid my knife on the far side of my plate, Mr. Literal-Translation put his own knife on the far side of his plate -- from me. Yes, his still mayonnaise-y knife was across the bottom of his plate right by his chest.
It only took three tries for him to figure out where I meant for him to put his knife. Maybe I should have asked Z to demonstrate for him with the bacon.
A little while later, Z was waving his arms around like a lunatic and tipping back in his chair. I said, "Please don't wave your arms around wildly in a restaurant."
He stopped, but then H decided he'd attempt a similar motion. I'm not sure why. I can't even guess.
At some point, H found a piece of hard plastic in his burger. Lovely. Z suggested that maybe H would get a free piece of pie. I told the server about the plastic and she asked what she should do about it.
I said, "Well, mostly, I just wanted to make sure you let them know."
She said, "Sure, but our patties come packaged and frozen, so I don't know how that is even possible." (Never mind the fact that she just made what looked to be good burgers into something I now will never order.)
I said, "I don't know, but there's the plastic sitting on his plate."
She said, "Okay, I'll let them know. Do you need me to remake the burger?"
H said, "Nah, I'm fine." Then he took a big, juicy bite in front of the server as if to prove it.
Just as our server walked away, Z practically shouted, "Mom, you should of asked for some free pie!"
To which I responded in a very hushed voice, "We don't ask for free pie or they'll think we put that plastic in the burger to get something free. Now if they offered it, we'd consider accepting the gift. But we don't go around trying to get something for their mistake."
His reply showed no notice of my whisper as he yelled out, "Well! Free pie sure would help us forgive their mistakes!"
We quickly finished up and paid the bill to go. By then, I was quite anxious to get some kids to bed.