Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Manners = Awareness

Memorizing with two little boys who sometimes (okay, most times) think more of their own stomachs than the other precious people at the table...

Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others. If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter what fork you use!
-
Emily Post-

It is a refreshing take on meal time in a world that pummels us with magazine pictures of the perfectly set table, the proper placement of dishes, silverware and glasses, touting the line "Simple", yet so extraordinarily...not.

Little boy’s feet may not reach the floor, so turning sideways to ease the aches in their knees most certainly does not keep the crumbs from bouncing on the ground. Plastic cups from restaurants line the children's plates, so the nightly ritual of "spilt milk" plays itself out safely, albeit messily. The almost-eight-year-old can serve himself fairly well, but the five-year-old’s plate ends up next to mine, along with the toddler's, as I cut and spread their food for them. Many nights, those plates are paper, to keep the pile down as Corban learns to wash dishes by himself.

But we practice. We look at each other, anticipating needs, passing a bowl before it is asked for. Observing the level of milk in the cups several times during the meal, watching for the need of a refill. It becomes a dance, a smooth flowing of conversation and awareness. No one goes hungry.

And as my sons giggle when I tease them by saying they only have to worry about one fork tonight, but tomorrow we shall use three, we come up with the Hooper Family’s "Top Four Guiding Principles to Observe at the Table":

• God is present. Act like it.

• Daddy is served first. Guests are served first if they are present. So, chill.

• If your tummy is rumbling, most likely brother's is as well (or the guest's), so offer him the serving bowl before you fill your plate.

• If you see something you are really excited about eating, rest assured that Mama made plenty. You will get some. Be patient.

Do you recognize a theme? Yes, patience. To attain patience with my children, I believe awareness must be cultivated. Awareness of the existence of others outside of themselves. Hands and hearts to serve, eyes that see, ears that hear. And how I hope to learn, along with my children, to take my awareness outside of the dinner table! To anticipate others needs before they are voiced. To take the extraordinary into the world - Jesus - until no one goes hungry.

So our table is simple. Truly. It is inexpensive, non-gourmet fare. No tablecloth; deep scratches clearly evident. A highchair that pulls up to the end so, happily, Eliana can join us. Lantern-lit, paper-plated, plastic-cupped and utterly delightful.

No matter what fork we use.

17 fellow travelers shared:

Andrea said...

Elise,
I like that you call all this "a dance". Learning the "moves" is not easy, but it is a dance, in specific rhythm and syncopation. I'm trying to remember that as I get frustrated at meal times often: I am tired, it is not a dance, it is sometimes a mad rush to get everyone served and cut the toddler's food. I try to make everything as simple as I can, but I know I should not expect "perfect".
Great post. I like your Principles,especially the first. And taking that outside of the dinner table...well, what a concept. Never underestimate the power of the Family TAble, right?
Thank you for your words, they are an encouragement!

Wendy said...

I had to laugh about what the magazines calling a table simple when it is clearly not, so true!

I like how you describe your dinners. The most important thing is that there is love there.

Beverly said...

This was wonderful, as we are trying to establish mealtime even though Selena is still young. I really like the idea of serving Daddy first as I always tell Selena that Daddy has been working so hard to take care of us.

Your guiding principles for the table are good, solid ones. And your tables sounds MORE beautiful then those "perfect" ones from the magazines!

Joel and Jaime said...

Yep, I have to agree with you---dinner time is a beautiful time of day for us too--everybody's there, we're just sitting eating, and enjoying each other's company. (And anticipating the cleaning up of the floor around Eli's chair) Your 'guiding principles' made me smile :)

EEEEMommy said...

Excellent thoughts!
We'll have to use that quote for copywork this week. It goes along nicely with George Washington's 1st Rule of Civility which we worked on last week, "Every action done in company, ought to be with some sign of respect to those that are present." Both are very Biblically based. Have this same attitude as Christ (Phil 2), think of others before yourself!

Stacy said...

Ah.. sounds delightful! :) I love your principles, Elise. We serve daddy and guests first in our home, too... but I'm not sure I've ever expressed it out loud to the kids. I'll do this! :)

Love to you!
Stacy

Theresa ♥ said...

What a beautiful post. I love number one and number two. Most often times we dish the children up first and then serve ourselves.

Blessings,
Theresa ♥

Maxine said...

Ohhh, I like it, I like it. This is GREAT. It's so wonderful that you are teaching these important things NOW. You'll never regret teaching these lessons, my dear. Thinking of others first--thanks so much for helping them with that. It makes my heart glad that there are still those who value these things. Keep it up! I'll try to remember to say a prayer for your little family in this regard!

Amydeanne said...

wonderful post! I need to copy that out for my own table!!

bluemountainmama said...

very wise....very wise....

i really loved this, especially how you focused on awareness. i like that emily post quote a lot. it really does come down to awareness, doesn't it? i've never thought of it that way...but what a great place to teach from. it's all about the heart and perspective, not the routine or going through the motions of manners......

Free In Christ said...

Wonderful posts. Great "rules" to live by.

emilyhope said...

Souund like your table setting is most lovely. My favorite time of day...my family around the table.

Sarah said...

It's so nice to know that I'm not the only one who uses a hodge podge of restaurant cups for my toddler! I love the dinner table as a plateform to teach our children what it looks like to put others first. Daddy likes to dish up his own plate, eating is an art to him, he's fun to cook for:), but I loved your priciples. Thanks, once again, for an insightful post!
Sarah

Munchkin Land said...

You know, we don't have any table rules yet but this is a great reminder that maybe we should. =) I, too, especially love number 1 and 2. It says something when Daddy is served first, huh? Elise, I think you and your husband are doing an amazing job!

Christine said...

I love, love, love your table rules. They are wonderful. And setting an example by not focusing on their performance but on their character will make a lasting impression on your little ones. Love this post!

Beka said...

Your mealtimes sound so beautiful. Truly, you are teaching your little ones about what is most important. I love your "principles"!!

dani-hermit-be-gone said...

Thank you for sharing your intimate family moments Elise. They mean so much to me..

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