Slice of Life Story Day 17 A Matter of Table Manners

So often the things we choose to write about are sparked by a comment or a line we overhear. Today I heard a teacher talking about ‘manners’ and asking a group of students, ‘Are good manners important?’  ‘Yes, of course one boy immediately replied. ‘Why?’ asked the teacher, wanting to take the discussion deeper. A discussion followed, notes were taken and eventually this group of students set about writing their own opinion pieces. Other groups discussed issues they had identified as important to them.  As I listened in on the ensuing discussion, I began to consciously connect to my own experience with matters surrounding manners.

As a parent I have always understood the importance of modelling good table manners. I don’t burp or fart at the table, I am conscious of my elbows not becoming aeroplane wings and over time I have learnt to eat more slowly and savour my meals. I still recall the constant reminders from my parents during my childhood to maintain acceptable manners. Parent tapes that still play in my head include:
‘Keep your elbows off the table. ‘
‘don’t speak with your mouth full.’
‘Don’t wave your knife and fork about’ 
and the classic, ‘Eat it all up, there are starving children in China who would give anything to eat this broccoli. ‘
I used to think, Well they can have mine. I never said it out loud. I was too afraid of the consequences of such a comment. Condemned to a month of broccoli eating maybe ?

My sister little sister was often accused by my father of playing with her food.
She would create such a mess with her food when she was learning to eat that my father would suggest to my mother that consideration should be given to feeding the tiny food flinger in the bath. That way,  at the end of the meal it would be easy to clean up.

I often upset my father by playing with the contents of the sugar bowl. The table was always set in the same way, with a table cloth, sugar bowl in the centre and bread and butter at the side. Knives forks and spoons were set out, as we often had ‘sweets.’ or dessert. The sugar was always there because my parents religiously drank a cup of tea at the conclusion of a meal and they both drank their tea with two spoonfuls of sugar. I would go excavating in the sugar bowl with the spoon whilst I listening to the evening meal conversation. On one occasion my father reached out to curtail my sugar mining, flicked the end of the spoon, and it suddenly spiralled through the air before landing on my plate. Sugar was scattered everywhere. My father told me it was my fault there was such a mess. He made it clear to me that the whole scene would not have happened if I hadn’t been playing with the sugar. I crunched over to the sink and began the gritty cleanup job. I never played with the sugar bowl again.


  1. Alan,
    In your last paragraph you beautifully share the rather objective observations of a small child. There is a lack of emotion, leaving the reader to infer the child's feelings. A powerful story. Thank you for sharing this insight into your own relationship with manners.

  2. I love the flow of this piece, beginning with a comment heard to memories of the past and ending with a reflection. My mind begin to flow to past memories as you shared yours. Thanks. :)MaryHelen

  3. I love how you moved from the classroom through general personal anecdotes to that very vivid story at the end. Great slice, though a hard lesson!

    (Like your new design!)


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