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Monday Minute: Love Is Like A Mustard Seed, Or In Some Cases A Whole Spoonful Of Mustard

Some of you who know me think I’m too hard on James regarding his table manners. One day, I might concede this battle but for now I continue to feel strongly that table manners are one of the social skills James must have a handle on in order to be somewhat successful and independent in society later in life, and I’m not willing to let it go without a fight. I’ve said it before that I’d rather people, including James, think I’m a little bit mean now than have strangers actually be mean to him down the road or for him to miss social opportunities because he doesn’t know to chew with his mouth closed, burp loudly without laughing or resist wiping his plate clean with his fingers. Some of you “softies” are probably thinking to yourself, awww, give the kid a break – that doesn’t sound so bad. He’s 11 years old – lots of boys his age have terrible table manners. Yet I think even you’ll agree that if you witnessed this evening’s Monday Minute at your dining room table you might scoot a few feet away from the offender.

James is in italics, my responses are in bold.

Mom this is a great dinner (I was trying a new recipe that hides a lot of spinach into a cheesy casserole).

Thanks, your sister helped me make it. It’s kind of like mac and cheese, right? (feeling fairly pleased with myself).

No, I meant the ham, cheese and crackers part. This ham is delicious!

Oh, well I’m glad you like it so much.

Can you please pass the mustard?

You need more mustard? I just gave you a ton of it.

But I want to squirt it directly onto my crackers to make little sandwiches.

Okay, but don’t use too much, be careful.

M: Mom, can I have some more water?

What do you say?

M: please?

(I walk to the kitchen to fill her glass, and on my return)

AAAHHHHH! What are you doing James? Stop it! Stop it right now!

(James stops sucking, mustard nozzle wedged tightly in his mouth, and glances in my direction)

What are you doing?

What?

What?! Get the mustard out of your mouth. Ugh, give it to me. That is so gross!

Stop looking at me!

Then get it out of your mouth!

Stop looking (covers eyes with hands). Don’t look!

(I move the mustard bottle far, far down the table)

Look at me right now. I never, ever want to see you put any condiment bottle into your mouth ever again. Do you understand me?

Yeeesssss.

I mean it – that is disgusting and very rude.

Okkkkaaaaaayy.

(Dinner resumes as usual, whatever that means)

Mom, may I please have a spoon?

Sure, James. Thank you for using your manners.

Could you please pass me the mustard?

James. Look at me. Remember what I said?

Yes!

Small, small amounts.

Okay.

This is your last chance.

Okaaaay.

(I cautiously pass the mustard to James)

Thanks, mom! (James carefully squirts a small amount of mustard onto his spoon and eats it.)

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This battle might have been lost, but the war rages on.

Monday Minute: From Breakfast to Blast Off!

November 7, 2011 Leave a comment

Today marks the passing of my favorite weekend of the year, the one where we get a whole extra hour for nothing. Unfortunately, the extra hour this weekend allowed my husband to be at work a little longer and the kids to be up a little earlier, and the resulting hangover is still lingering this morning.

As usual, my responses to James in the following conversation are in bold.

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Scene – sitting at dining room table putting James’s homework folder together while James inhales his breakfast

James, chew with your mouth shut. Excuse me. Chew with your mouth shut. But I said excuse me. (continues to frantically eat egg with his hand, pieces falling from his mouth back onto the plate) Saying excuse me doesn’t count for bad table manners. Slow down and take Charlie Bucket bites. Eat slowly or I will take your egg away for five minutes. Gaaaaaahhhhhhh. Chewing slow is a bummer! What? Chewing is a bummer. 

Are you excited for music tonight? Who, me? Yes, are you excited for Daniel’s music this evening? Yeah, uh-huh. (continues to eat with mouth gaping open) James. Slow. down. eating. Now. Who’s taking me to school? Dad. Again? what are you doing? I’m picking you up later. oh, okay. So, homework? What? Homework and stuff? What are you talking about? (No answer, unless James has learned to smack his lips in Morse code)

James your mouth is still open. James. James – look at my eyes! (nothing) James. What? Your mouth is wide open – there is food falling out onto your plate. And the table. So, mom, what do you think of my art? What art? My square 1 art in my homework folder. Oh, it’s very nice. Please stop sucking on your fingers. what does it look like? Gross.  what does my art look like? a car (it is obviously a car made of ripped up paper).

So the rocket goes up into orbit. what rocket? that one (pointing to his square 1 art). That’s a rocket? 5-4-3-2-1 blast off into the night sky! But the sky is blue (and the rocket has wheels). But next time I’m going to change the sky to black. (imitating rocket noises) 5-4-3-2-1 blast off into the night skyyyyyy! blast off to schooooollllll! James, let’s go brush teeth and get ready. ffsssssssshhhhhhhhhhhhh. James get up and go to the bathroom. okay, mom. fffffsssssssshhhhhh. James, blast off to the bathroom so you don’t get in trouble. 3……..2…….    okay mom!

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Blasting off into another busy week – hope yours is off to a great start!

I have been known to toss chicken legs across the table (Uncomfortable Subjects, Part 3)

September 26, 2011 Leave a comment

At home I rip pieces of chicken off of the bone, sandwiches into chunks, and cold cuts and pizza into bite-size morsels with my fingers and feed the babies that way (quicker than a knife). I’ve held a steak in one hand while feeding a baby with the other and eaten it like a sandwich. I’ve been known (among others in my family) to attend meals (including dinner) in pajamas. I often floss my teeth on the couch. If nothing else is handy I will wipe kids’ faces on the insides of their shirts (or mine if it is already a lost cause).

And yes, I have been known to toss chicken legs across the table onto my kids’ plates when I’m home alone and the thought of getting up from the dinner table for the umpteenth time is just too much.

Why am I telling you this? Let me answer this question with another question. Why do James’s manners, or lack thereof, drive me crazy?

James chews with his mouth wide open, lips smacking, food falling out, in a trance-like state, practically drooling in extreme cases.  Despite years of constant reminders, practice, even heated arguments – “I am chewing with my mouth closed!” “No, you’re not – you’re still talking!” “Look, it’s closed now.” “No it’s really not – cover it with your hand if you have to.” – we have seen very little progress on this front.

James picks his nose, and though he is gaining the common sense not to do it in public the new alternative is to use his hand, sleeve, or fingers to smear his snot all over the place. Even if he has a tissue in his pocket.

James never closes the bathroom door. I can not even begin to tell you how many guests have been surprised by the open door policy James employs in our house (how many people are nodding right now?). Or out of the house (some of you know where I’m going with this). Last year James finally learned how to pee standing up. On the way home from a walk in Riverside Park he had to go, badly. My brother offered to take him behind a tree since James could now stand and pee. About 30 seconds later I turned toward the shouts of surprise to see James with his pants around his ankles, peeing on the tree. We all stood there as pedestrian traffic passed us by, frozen for a second by the sheer absurdity of the situation, and then sprung into action to shift James to the other side of the tree, to shield him with our bodies, whatever it took to get the job done. Kind of funny in a group of family and friends, but horrifying to think of James out on his own.

James constantly picks at himself. I’ll spare you the details and hope that you never have to witness this one.

“Manner issues” that were understandable and even humorous as a toddler and small child are becoming quite the opposite as James approaches puberty. To be perfectly frank, many of his regular daily habits are as uncomfortable as they are disgusting, even to his own mother, and I fear that he will repulse people well into adulthood and be friendless except for the saintly souls who love him for who he is, aka his family.

So how can I throw stones when my house is so glassy? Perhaps the biggest difference between James and the typical population (such as myself) with regards to manners is his complete lack of discretion. I would not dare throw a piece of meat at my child in front of anyone other than my immediate family, whereas James doesn’t care who sees his chewed up food, his boogers or his bare a**.

You may be thinking that I am unduly harsh and perhaps even cruel in my commentary – how could I possibly think this way about my own child? But before you judge be honest with yourself – what would your reaction be if you sat down near a young man in a restaurant or outside and witnessed a chewed up piece of turkey sandwich fall out of their mouth, watched them pick their nose and wipe it on the grass, or were lucky enough to observe a Riverside Park incident?

I also want to point out that I’m not being critical about “manner tasks” that James cannot actually do – washing himself, wiping himself, zipping and buttoning his fly, etc. I am specifically referring to the everyday considerations that I want James to give some thought to and that he is physically capable of doing (or not doing).

Because James lacks discretion so completely, we feel that it is important for him to use good manners all of the time, even when he is home in his comfort zone with his family. It is because I love James so very much and want for him to have a happy life where people gravitate toward his sunny disposition and don’t run screaming from his just-sneezed-on-handshake that I will continue to nag, argue, even be a little mean to him about his hygiene and etiquette.