posted by Lisa

As we sat one night to dinner, not long after I started this blog, at home in California, the usual insanity erupted.

My normally saint-like children, who of course can do no ill at the table (please see all earlier, idyllic, vacation-posts where gastronomic peace and harmony reigned supreme, and manners were observed with dignity but oh, dear reader, do stay tuned!)…had turned positively feral.

You can not imagine.

Or perhaps, if you have one child in the range of 6 and one in the range of nearly 4 you can.

Perhaps, if you have a boy and a girl, or 2 boys or 2 girls, one or both of whom are active, one or both of whom like to talk; one or both of whom do not especially like to sit still; one or both of whom like to sing and yell and play act; one or both of whom need friends or guardians or simply toys at the table; one or both of whom do not mind a mess, well then maybe you can imagine my particular purgatory on this night.

We do not have childrens’ meals at our home.  We do not have separate food for them, nor a separate table, nor a separate set of dishes.  Ella and Finn eat what we eat.  At dinner, though on weeknights they eat earlier, together, I sit down with them so it’s still a family affair.  I set the table with placemats, cloth napkins (unless there are no clean ones), a full set of flatware, a full size dinner plate, an appropriately sized glass. In other words, it’s not a slap-dash affair. I plate their food carefully.  It’s fresh. I cook daily. It’s not foie gras, but it’s not frozen pizza either.

So, on this particular night, the mayhem included: falling out of chairs, spilled water, spaghetti eaten by the handful by my 6-year old, rocking on knees, green beans dunked in water, hands dipped in water, wet and olive-oily slick hands wiped on clean shirts, dirty faces wiped on shirts, spaghetti and green beans on the floor, warning, warning, warning, after warning.  Bread crumbs on the table. Bread crumbs on shirts. Bread crusts in the water. The table was a mess. Shouting, yellling, laughing, singing. It was joyful all right. My children were a gleeful mess. Oh, sure, they loved the meal.  I did not love how they were eating it.

Finally I looked up and said very sternly, “Ella and Finn, if you do not pick up your forks and start eating properly, the way I know you know how, I will write about your bad manners on the blog.”

And they grew wided eyed and horrified. “No, no, NO!” they laughed and scrambled to sit right down on their bottoms. But they actually picked up their napkins, wiped their faces, retrieved their forks and used them properly for the rest of the meal.

And in the true spirit of discipline I have kept my promise.

And now, some months later, Finn is learning to use a knife, but that is a story for another day.