Friday, February 17, 2006


Mealtime, and an opportunity for a lesson in dining etiquette. It starts off easily enough. I remove my own elbow from the table, so as not to model a bad habit of my own for my impressionable daughter. She's off to a good start, having organized the blessing of our food, down to mandating the hand-holding around the table.

"Bella, you should keep your elbows off the table when you eat, like Daddy does."

Alex: "Here. Put one hand in your lap, and use the other one to eat with."

Bella: "Oh! Okay. Like this?"

Bof'us: "Yes! Good girl!" A couple of minutes go by.

Alex: "And always chew with your mouth closed."

Bella: "Not like this?" (illustration below from another recent dining experience; click it to go there)

Bof'us: "NO, not like that!" A little more time passes.

Me: "You are learning good manners!"

Bella: "Yes. Like when Daddy toots?" (makes grossed-out face) "Yucky." (Alex is laughing proudly)

Me: "When Daddy toots, that is NOT GOOD MANNERS."

Bella: (matter-of-factly) "It's not good for ME, either."

Having recovered from that exchange and finished our meal, there was time for one more lesson.

Me: "Bella, do you know what to say when you're finished eating and you want to leave the table?"

Bella: "Ever'body get outta my way?"

Me: (after pausing to consider how effective that might actually be) "No, you say, 'May I please be excused?' and then Mommy or Daddy will say, 'Yes, you may.' "

Bella: "And then ever'body will get outta my way?"

This all caused a bit of pondering on my part--what are manners, after all, but a way to get people to do what we want, while being nice? And while we were at it:

Me: "Bella, what do you say if you burp?"

Bella: (grinning madly) "I BURP-ED!" (My mistake here; I was too literal)

Me: "What should you say?"

Bella: "Excuse me?"

Me: "Yes."

Bella: "Like when you are in front of my way, and I want you to move."

Me: "Well, yes."

That's it. I'm ghost-writing "Emily Post for Toddlers" for her.


  1. how old is she?

    i'm madly in love with her and her world view :)

  2. Out of the mouths of babes... It reminds me of our own dinner table conversations. My son, having had plenty of experience now with how other households function, recently said, "We're different, aren't we?" He has come to realize that life is a whole lot more serious outside our front door. You guys are different, too. It's a good different.

  3. If I were to have a child, mine would surely be the worst-mannered one around. I tend to encourage the chewed up food showing...I can't help but do it myself.

    Never invite me to dinner. Your child would either learn very bad things or would spend the entire meal trying to correct me.