I’ve noticed that my manners are evolving into something a little more bare-boned than what Miss Manners, Judith Martin, would recommend. Motherhood teaches a lot of lessons. One of them seems to be how to navigate meal times as quickly as possible, without creating much extra work. I call this evolution Mommy Manners. Mommy Manners are designed to let Mommies enjoy their family time, without worrying about appearances. I try to remember that this time with my kids is short, so I need to enjoy it, and not worry about the dessert spoon. Some of the rules that govern Mommy Manners include:
- The time available to eat a meal is extremely limited.
Let me explain how meal time happens around our house. We only have two kids old enough to serve themselves, as yet. So, after the prayer, Dad and I dish out food for all five kids. Then we serve each other. While we are busy serving the children and ourselves, the children are busy eating. So, when it gets to being my turn to eat, I already have children asking for seconds. I spend most of the meal refilling cups and plates, and scooping food on to forks and into mouths. Oddly, though, I’m usually the second person to finish the meal. My husband is usually the first. To accomplish this, I find myself taking huge bites and barely chewing.
Even if I was eating Filet Mignon and lobster tail, prepared by Chef Gordon Ramsey, I don’t think I’d taste it. My body knows it has about five minutes to eat my food before I need to move on to the next adventure. Even if I try to eat slowly, with small bites, and chew my food completely, I feel pressured to get the food swallowed – and at this point in my life, kids being, or not being, at the table doesn’t change the response.
- Don’t set the table with unnecessary utensils.
When we set our dinner table, there’s usually a plate, a cup, and a fork. On rare occasions, we’ll add a spoon and/or bowl, too. This stems from an overriding desire to not spend the entire night doing dishes. Yes, I know a bread plate is proper for when rolls are served, but why wash the extra dish. And really, who needs a salad fork and a dinner fork. One can work for both courses. We don’t ever set knives for the children. They make poor choices with them – like trying to dissect the kitchen table.
And don’t even get me started on napkins . . . let’s just say they don’t get used how they should be used.
- Are plates always needed?
This rule is linked somewhat to the previous rule of not wanting to be doing dishes all day or night, but extends to not getting the kitchen table dirty as well. Sometimes, we just have a picnic on the floor. All the food we’re going to eat is on a platter, and we all just pick from it.
Usually, we have what I call a cold plate special with sliced raw veggies and fruit, cheese and ham slices, and crackers. It’s great for a hot day, and there are only three dishes to clean up – a knife used to cut things up, a cutting board, and a plate.
Mommy Manners are not meant for public use. They are for being home with the family. They are for enjoying the antics of children, and for making life a little easier on the Mommy. No, these manners are not for perfectionists, and yes, they need to be followed up with proper etiquette training, but sometimes it’s nice to just relax.