It’s not that my own kids are models of behaviour – particularly the oldest during her punk phase – but at least I can intervene when it’s my own darling scarfing up the shrimp puffs I spent hours preparing for my guests. And no, I don’t find it precious that your four-year-old prefers the Scottish smoked salmon to the chicken fingers I’ve laid out in the kids’ room. At $24.99 a pound, you can buy it for him.
There’s always one kid who wants to hang out with the adults, probably because he’s so annoying his peers have rejected him too. You don’t do your kids any favours by indulging every whim. Some friends of mine have become so kid-centric they’ve forgotten other people exist.
As my friend Rebecca says, it’s all about manners. Or the lack of them. She invited friends with children to a dinner party recently that dissolved into daycare while the hors d’oeuvres were still being passed. The nine-year-old son of one friend (old enough to know better) discovered chocolate cake in the refrigerator and demanded it NOW. Incredibly, the parents said nothing. Rebecca slammed the fridge door shut and announced in her best mommy voice that the cake was the evening’s dessert and he had to wait – just like everyone else. By the time they left, Rebecca was so stressed she was ready to call an end to all parties involving anyone not old enough to quaff a martini.
I understand her sentiment, but it’s no guarantee of success. My attempts to hold adult-only parties have failed miserably because there’s always someone who thinks it doesn’t apply to them. I recall my own failed dinner party when a friend arrived with her five-year-old, armed with the boy’s pjs, snacks and entertainment. Some might call her prepared, but when she popped Nemo into my DVD player and shushed guests for talking over it, I was speechless. Call me spineless, but I allowed my evening to be sabotaged because I didn’t want to upset the child, a very sweet little boy.
The biggest issue for me is respecting the boundaries for both kids and adults. The friends my children bring home come under fire as well. The fridge once again looms large as does hide n’ seek in my bedroom or rifling through my husband’s prized comic book collection. (I know, but you can’t always take the boy out of the man. At least it’s not miniature choo-choos.)
While it’s true that each generation laments the manners of the next, children with even an inkling of etiquette enjoy a huge advantage in life. Knowing how to eat with a knife and fork will not only impress the hell out of friends’ parents, but your child’s future boss as well. Some parents, like my neighbour David, see overly mannered kids as insincere – the Eddie Haskell syndrome – but at least Eddie would talk. I hate when my seemingly affable request to pass the potatoes is answered by unintelligible grunts or silence. Perhaps my kids are at fault for not picking better friends, and heaven knows what they do without my being there to prompt them, but ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ belong in everyone’s vocabulary.
Manners aren’t an elitist thing. Everybody, including parents, wants to be treated politely. So figure on eating what’s on your plate and keep your grimy little paws off mine. You got a problem with that? PC