Lord knows blending two parenting styles when you have kids is hard. And you aren’t just blending your own styles, you are blending your parents’ too – since for good or for bad, many of their ways became your ways (I am buying stock in Post-Its now).
Thankfully my husband and I tend to agree on the majority of major parenting decisions. One area we have been tackling in the past year is teaching our 4 year-old about manners. Neither of us wants to raise a disgusting creature who talks with her mouth full or sasses her elders.
But there are a few subtle distinctions in the manners our parents instilled in us, which have become a constant source of
conflict conversation between us.
I will openly admit that my husband grew up in a household with a more stringent sense of dinner table etiquette. One of the biggest offenses a person could commit in his home was to put their elbows on the table. To this day, the sight of elbows on the dinner table drives him crazy.
This rule was not enforced in my home. It’s not like we ate in a barn or anything, but we are a more casual folk when it comes to dining. We converse, we laugh, we relax – and in so doing, we end up with our filthy wenis* on the table now and again.
*Holy shit – did you know that ‘wenis’ is slang for the skin on your elbows?? In researching another word for ‘elbow’ I came across this discovery and now I’m not sure I can complete this post because I can’t. stop. laughing.
I think it’s important to look at manners in the broader context. While my family may have unruly elbows, we are overall a respectful and polite crew. We also care deeply about maintaining a clean home. My father’s garage is cleaner than most people’s bathroom.
My husband’s family, on the other hand, may have obedient elbows, but let’s just say they leave something to be desired in the cleanliness department. I’m gonna guess if you had to choose where you’d want to dine for an evening, you’d pick my family’s casa (in part cuz we could talk about our WENIS all night) over his.
However, as much as I have mocked my husband for caring so deeply about this issue, over the years I have worked to correct my crude behavior and keep by elbows in check – at least until the meal is finished. After that, when I’m crippled over in pain from eating one too many bratwurst, all bets are off. Mama needs to lean on something while she unbuttons her pants.
But my family, particularly my father, still violates this sacred rule frequently. I usually don’t care or notice, but now that my husband has
brainwashed taught our child, she has taken it upon herself to be the Elbow Police at all meals and will forcefully berate offenders.
At a recent family dinner, she authoritatively scolded her grandfather by screaming loudly in his face, “NO ELBOWS ON THE TABLE!”
So while she has mastered the all-important elbow etiquette, it appears we’ve still got some work to do on the ‘sassing your elders’ thing.