I must admit that I have been a failure at many, many things. The list is long and stretches across a wide range of subjects all the way from mastering a roundoff-back handspring-back tuck in my teenage years to cleaning out the basement of my present day home. One of the many things on that sad yet impressive list is this blog. Two posts in just over two years is completely pitiful for someone who claims to love writing. There’s no excuse so I won’t make one. However, I AM making a new commitment. On my honor, I pledge that I will do my best to post something to this blog at least once each month, for at least one year. There–I wrote it and you read it. Or at least my Mother read it. I’m still convinced she is the only person who has ever read this blog and is one of the very few who are remotely interested in anything I have to say. More importantly I have made a writing pledge to a close friend (who happens to be an attorney) and I promise she WILL hold me to it. I originally promised to post something on the 7th day of each month so as today happens to be May 9th, 2015 and I am already two days late; I better get going.
I have decided to follow the lead of many great pastors I have known and begin a series of blogs. Don’t you just love when they do that? They know good and well you have no choice but to come back next week to find out how it all ends. They can be sneaky that way. Hopefully, that will work for me too and will not only give me more time to hold up my end of the writing deal but will also keep you coming back for more. That’s the goal anyway.
Since I am debuting this just in time for Mother’s Day weekend; the series will be appropriately titled-
“Where is your Mother?”
It will cover all sorts of subjects one would hope you learned about from your Mother when you were growing up. More importantly, they will be subjects I hope you are currently teaching to your own children. (Can I have a small “Mother’s Day” aside here please? I know I’m just getting started but I really need to get this off my chest before I go any further. I LOVE my Mother. She is an amazing, loving, thoughtful, caring, graceful, elegant Southern Lady and her undying love for me is clearly the only plausible reason she didn’t throw me in the river years ago. Again, I LOVE my Mother but— I LOATHE and DESPISE made up, hokey-pokey Hallmark holidays-like Mother’s Day. I also despise store bought cards–except for those really funny, sometimes inappropriate ones with vintage photos on them. Now those are a different story. I simply feel that if someone wants to thank me or express a feeling of love and devotion they shouldn’t look to an anonymous card writer to do that for them. I would much prefer to read their very own words from their very own mind written on paper with their very own pen. Even if they only wrote “I love you” or “Thank you” it would be so much better than some rhyming, syrupy, sugary sweet paragraph of nonsense. However, If you want to wish me happy birthday by showing me a black and white photo of women from the 1950’s drinking martinis and smoking cigarettes inside a station wagon filled with rambunctious children, carry on. I can’t get enough of cards like that! Rant over, let’s continue.) I always loved reading the Dr. Seuss/P.D. Eastman book “Are You My Mother?” to my children. It is so sweet and funny and clever like all Dr. Seuss books tend to be. It follows the adventures of a little bird as he travels around town searching for his Mother. He stops to visit a dog, a cat, a cow, even a huge back hoe or “Snort” and asks them all “Are you my Mother?”. Of course, none of them are his Mother but in the end he finds the proper “Mother bird” and everything ends quite happily. Sadly, I am convinced now more than ever that we have an entire generation of children who are desperately looking for someone to “Mother” them. The weird thing is, most of them have actual Mothers. Unfortunately the desired effect of maternal parenting is becoming more and more of a lost art and I am convinced some of these children would be better off with the Snort. In recent years, and even more so in recent months, I have become incredibly concerned about the lack of home training in the youth of America. Honestly, it extends well past the youth to several of the adults and it is starting to develop a form of rage inside me that I struggle with daily. Keep in mind that good manners and social graces are not intended to make others feel ill at ease and should never be used in negative ways. Some misguided people will try to use their knowledge in these areas to make those around them feel inferior. Those people don’t know as much as they think they do. Manners and social graces are designed to make everyone around you feel comfortable. People should remember that and lead by gracious example.
It makes me shudder to think of the direction our county is heading in for many reasons but overall; the absence of basic manners, perceived entitlement and the general inability to properly behave regardless of one’s surroundings is becoming more and more common. From the lack of table manners to the notion that you can talk on a cell phone anywhere, anytime about anything to the inability to write a proper thank you note, to horribly inappropriate clothing choices, to generally poor social etiquette–I can’t help but believe we are all going to hell in a hand basket. Even worse, we are going without an invitation while we wear tacky clothes, talk on speaker phones and chomp on bubblegum. And don’t even think about getting me started on the need for discipline! Good gracious, that is a big ‘ol can of worms that deserves its own three volume novel. Wow! This is shaping up to be quite a series if I do say so myself!
Before I move on, please let me be clear about one thing: FATHERS have just as much responsibility to set examples of good manners to their children and are just as capable as Mothers of doing so.
And now, without further adieu, the first subject we will cover in this series is………
Judith Martin once said “The dinner table is the center for the teaching and practicing not just of table manners but of conversation, consideration, tolerance, family feeling, and just about all the other accomplishments of polite society except the minuet.”. Now I am the first to admit that Judy could come across a bit bossy and sometimes fell into that group of misguided people I was mentioning earlier. However, she is right about the supper table’s importance to a family. (Yes, I say “supper”— I’m from ALABAMA.) The fact that we seem to be raising a generation of children who don’t know how to properly set a table much less eat properly when seated at one is a direct result of eating in cars from paper sacks as we ferry our children to and from one perilous activity to the next. The family table is declining and it is taking table manners and civilized society with it. It is one of many slippery slopes that we are sliding down at an alarming rate.
You don’t have to be at Downton Abbey or dining with The Queen to care about table manners. Basic human decency requires that anyone over the age of 5 should at the very least know how to chew with their mouth closed and place a napkin in their lap. Is it really that much to ask that you take just a few minutes to learn where the silverware belongs? Surely not. You may or may not wonder why I care but I am telling you anyway. It’s not just about me, it’s about you too. You may not think that poor table manners could affect you in a bad way but you, My Dear, are wrong. Allow me to explain myself. Not too very long ago my husband and I were at a lovely gala event. There was a seated dinner served and we were sharing a table with a handful of people we had never met before. A very beautiful young lady sat next to me and although she was quite attractive, she had on a very inappropriate dress. I’ll get to the clothing portion of this series at a later time but for now, I’ll stick to table manners. This lovely young lady with her perfectly coiffed hair, Oscar worthy makeup and freshly manicured nails performed at the table as if she had been raised in the woods by Earnest T. Bass. She held her fork and knife like she was trying to carve wood. She chomped and chewed with her mouth open, gulped and sloshed her drink and never even touched her napkin. It stayed on the table all evening. You would have thought she hadn’t eaten in weeks. Once when she noticed she had something on her hands she used the tablecloth to wipe them. Thankfully she never felt the need to wipe her mouth. I think that would have put me UNDER the table. YOU do not want to be like this young lady and I know you don’t want you children to be like her. All through the evening I kept thinking–where is your Mother? Did ANYONE ever teach you how to behave? She was smart, otherwise polite and truly delightful to talk with. It just didn’t make any sense. Her presentation was atrocious and I just sat there hoping she never had a job interview that included a meal. I have seen a lot of poor table manners in my day but this was just show stopping. She wasn’t the worst I have ever seen though. That honor goes to a fellow I had a few dates with many, many, MANY years ago. He was a super nice fellow who was polite, came from a nice family and was actually pretty fun to be around. He had perfectly reasonable walking around sense so it came as somewhat of a surprise the first time I sat across the table from him for a meal. All of a sudden this otherwise gentlemanly fellow morphed into Jethro Clampett right before my eyes. His table manners were beyond atrocious. It made me physically ill to sit across from him while he ate. I tried everything short of flat out telling him he ate like a starving monkey but none of my hints hit the mark. While there was no real love connection and no real loss for either of us, for me the table manners were a deal breaker. I’m sure he probably ended up married to some sweet girl and I am so very hopeful that she was able to polish him up enough to take him out in public. Where ever you are today Mr. Monkey Manners, I wish you well…..and P.S. Just incase your wife hasn’t told you yet, when dining out, if bread is delivered to the table, it is not acceptable to place the entire loaf on your own personal dinner plate, carve it with your steak knife, butter each slice and pass it around to the other guests.
All that to say, table manners are important. They reflect on you and your children whether you realize it, or like it, or not. So even if you find you have no other choice than to eat in the car, or in “shifts” as we sometimes do at our house, or even standing over the kitchen sink; make an effort to sit down together at least once a week. Teach your children how to properly set a table. Teach them to wait for everyone to be seated and to be served before they begin to eat. I would also actually prefer that you teach them to say the blessing before eating as well. I can’t eat if I don’t pray–but that part is up to you. You should also teach them how to behave when seated at a table that has been properly set before them. And by all means; whether you are driving, dancing, sitting, standing or swinging from a trapeze, teach them to have an awareness for the feelings of others. That is the foundation for good manners in all areas of life.
I hope you’ll come back next time, when the second part of the series will cover Cell Phone Etiquitte. Get ready.
In the meantime:
In my opinion…….there’s a lot more than eating going on at the supper table.
~This post first appeared at my old blog on May 9, 2015.~
~ It was reposted here at a later date.~