I think kids need more education than reading, writing and 'rithmatic. I think they need to know about the world around them. I think they need to be exposed to music and history and art. And I think they should know how to behave in restaurants, from fast food to white tablecloth.
Jeff and I love to eat out. So we decided when Biscuit arrived, that although some parts of our lives would have to change (bye-bye all movies not rated G or PG!), we were not going to quit going to restaurants. Instead, we started training Biscuit in the manners and etiquette he would need to behave himself properly.
We started with diners (remember the panacake rest-a-raunt?), then we worked our way up to multiple forks with cloth napkins. Biscuit does a good job. Well, most of the time. He has his moments. If we have to wait for a table or if the food gets delayed for some reason, he gets antsy. As much as I hate to admit it, I'm not at all above whipping out my phone to keep him amused with some kid games.
But lately, he hasn't been just taking my word for how things should be. He's starting to ask questions about why things are done a certain way, and sometimes, the answers I have are either really antiquated or because-that's-the-way-it-is.
Biscuit has noticed that Jeff and I put our napkins in our laps, but I always leave his folded up on the table. He asked recently why he couldn't put his napkin in his lap.
"You can," I said, "but when we first started teaching you these manners, your lap wasn't big enough to hold a napkin."
He got a kick out of that. And promptly put his napkin in his lap.
Biscuit and I went out to eat one night recently when Jeff had an evening assignment. The restaurant has the silverware (two forks, knife and spoon) wrapped in cloth napkins. So we unwrapped our silverware, and Biscuit followed my lead: two forks on the left side of the plate and knife and spoon on the right side. But Biscuit's knife was facing the wrong way. The knife blade should face the plate, not the person sitting beside you.
"Your knife blade needs to face the plate," I said.
"I know you've told me before, Mom," Biscuit said. "But why?"
"Well, back in the day, if you turned your knife blade out, it was seen as a threat because you could easily use it to stab the person sitting next to you," I told him.
"Whoa!" Biscuit said. "I'll make sure nobody thinks I'm going to stab them." And then he flipped over his knife.
The server brought our food, and Biscuit reached over to get his fork. Just as he picked it up, he put it right back down.
"I don't get it," Biscuit said.
"What?" I asked.
"Well, you're left-handed, and your forks are on the left," Biscuit said. "They're easy for you to reach. But I'm right-handed, and I have to reach all the way across to get my fork."
"Well, technically," I told him, "you're supposed to hold your fork in your left hand and your knife in your right hand. You use your knife to cut your food and use your fork to scoop it up and eat it."
"Well ... would it be okay if I just put my forks on the right side of my plate?" Biscuit asked. "It's so I can reach them better."
"Of course," I said. "The only time you shouldn't move the silverware is if the table is already set when you sit down. Then, you should just start with the outside silverware and work your way in toward the plate. Rules and manners are nice, but the most important thing is to enjoy the people you're with and the food you're eating."
"Well, Mom," Biscuit said, "this food is really, really good, and I love hanging out with you."
Talking like that, he could have the worst manners in the world, and I'd still want to have dinner with him!