A Wisdom Story about Table Manners

Do you remember setting the dinner table when you were a kid?

Table Manners was a high priority in our household.  Setting the table, just so.  Forks, spoons, knives and napkins all in their right place. 

Sitting at our dinner table, I can still hear my Dad's remarks bark across the table:

  • Get your elbows off the table
  • Your fork isn't a spoon
  • Sit up straight at the dinner table
  • Get the hair out of your eyes
  • Did you ask to be excused?

We didn't get dessert until everyone finished the main course.  Sometimes I fidgeted at the table as each person finished their meal, just ACHING to jump from the table to continue playing with my Matchbox cars! 

Ah, but I found a twist!  As the youngest of four children I discovered I could use that rule to exert my power over the entire family.  I learned how to eat REAL slow, all three of my siblings glaring at me.  Yes, 16 chews on this spoonful of peas is about right.  Chew.  Chew.  Chew.  Chew.  Chew…..

But all-in-all, learning table manners was painful. 

For a host of reasons, I couldn't WAIT to get out of the house.  Go away to college.  Get away from everything that reminded me of growing up with that stifling discipline. 

Decades later, my Dad and I sat at the kitchen table.  We chatted about how the neighborhood wasn’t what it was and how he needed to rake the backyard.  His breath was labored by the emphysema that slowly squeezed the life out of his lungs.  The ever-present plastic oxygen line squirreling around the house, creating that kShhh sound. 

I asked him.  "Dad, why were you so hard on us with table manners.  It made some meals nearly unbearable."  I choke up every time I think about his response.  "Well, when you HAVE table manners, you can choose to use them or not.  If you DON'T have them, you don’t have a choice.  I was giving you kids the choice." 

WOW!  My Dad's constricting discipline gave us FREEDOM! 

I carried on that tradition, that family value, by teaching my daughters table manners -- hopefully with a little less angst but with the same high-quality standards.

What tough lessons from your childhood are important to pass along to the next generation? 

Preserving the Ways gives FREEDOM.


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