Not quite to the table manners born
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.”