Not quite to the ta­ble man­ners born

Mt Druitt - St Mary's Standard (East) - - NEWS - Mi­randa Mur­phy is a mother of three and a jour­nal­ist at The Aus­tralian. Fol­low her on Twit­ter @mur­phymi­randa

I CAME across this let­ter writ­ten by the kids to the Queen.

“Dear Her Majesty, please could we come to your palace for a tea party.”

Ha! - I snorted to my­self - not with your ta­ble man­ners, you can’t.

I then re­alised with some sur­prise that I had turned into my grand­mother.

Like most English grans, she was fierce on the sub­ject of ta­ble man­ners and the line she al­ways used on us was: “Would you use your fork like that/put your el­bows on the ta­ble/lick your knife if you were hav­ing din­ner with the Queen?”

As a child this wor­ried me im­mensely. What if I did get the call-up to Buck­ing­ham Palace and made the trea­sonous faux pas of eat­ing peas with a dessert spoon? Off with my head!

Con­se­quently I possess the din­ing eti­quette of a mi­nor Euro­pean royal, just to be safe.

My chil­dren, how­ever … not so much. Our meal­times are like be­ing in the mid­dle of a ninja skir­mish, there’s that much sil­ver­ware fly­ing around.

Teach­ing your kids proper ta­ble man­ners is one of the more tire­some tasks in the life skills depart­ment.

It’s es­sen­tial but bor­ing, with much po­ten­tial for con­flict as you try to drum into them some of­ten in­com­pre­hen­si­ble prac­tices.

Sure, it’s easy to ex­plain the rea­son­ing be­hind eat­ing with your mouth closed, spar­ing ev­ery­one else an eye­ful of your food be­ing ce­ment-mix­ered around your gob.

And not talk­ing with your trap full - that’s pretty sim­ple to en­force.

But that el­bows-on-thetable rule? The cross­ing over of rest­ing cut­lery? Some of th­ese cus­toms seem pretty ar­cane when you’re six. Or even 41.

Don’t even start me on ad­vanced con­cepts such as soup spoons or fish knives or nap­kin rings.

Who thought this stuff up? Back to ba­sics, though — this week we’re work­shop­ping “stay­ing seated in your chair at the ta­ble”. It’s not go­ing well.

Th­ese kids are like cat burglars with jet packs; turn your back for a sec­ond and they’ve stealth­ily taken off.

To be fair, it’s hard to stay still at the ta­ble un­til ev­ery­one’s fin­ished when it takes an ag­o­nis­ing hour for some­one to force down a smat­ter­ing of peas, in a vague nod to to­day’s veg­etable quota.

But we must keep plug­ging away at the ta­ble man­ners. Who knows when our off­spring might get a guernsey for din­ner with King Wil­liam and Queen Kate?

In that case, I just hope our son re­mem­bers the cru­cial eti­quette cor­rec­tion I had to give him at age three: “Mate, don’t put your willy in your drink.”

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