Diary of A Lagos Dad – Etiquette
Sluuuuuuurp! I turned around to see a very ecstatic four year old slurping beverage from his spoon. The sound seemed to make him very happy. He did it again, which caused a chain reaction around the picnic table. The children started slurping their beverage, or blowing bubbles with their straws or gargling. Kids are amazing. I remembered when I was that age, how every single act turned into a competition and we all strived to outdo each other in bad manners!
“Knock it off guys! Stop playing with your food. You could choke on something”. The noise at the table ceased instantly. Then I heard a loud burp. I could not believe that enormous sound had come out of a little person. The culprit cupped his mouth with both hands and giggled. The other children laughed. I walked toward the children with a plate of grilled chicken, fresh from the fire and asked the little boy who still had his hands cupped over his mouth; “what do you say when you do that?”; he seemed to think about it for a second and then whispered as if in fear; “ excuse me?”.
I shook my head. “Ok you guys, sit up”. I proceeded to distribute the meat to my young guests. This picnic was a bonding session organized by residents of our community. Every quarter a family would host, but the residents all chipped in to provide the refreshments. It was a time of fun, games, a lot of informal discussion about various issues bordering on parenting styles, education and other socio-political topics.
A couple would supervise the children, while the other adults took a break from their little ones to enjoy the company of other adults. It was our turn. I took a seat at the picnic table with the children, waited for my wife to bring more fruit juice, then asked the children to bow their heads so we could say grace. I did not close my eyes, I had learned from my experience and childhood memories that thirty seconds was enough time for a naughty one to do mischief, and I did not want any wailing during this meal. The kids chorused – “AMEN”, and as if by instruction, all their elbows were on the table. “Ok, kids, elbows off the table”. I also reminded the children that there would be no chatting during meals. I wondered why the rules were different for kids; adults seemed to do all the talking while they ate. Anyway, no chatting during the meal, chew with your mouths closed, and no kicking of anyone under the table. After the meal I asked the children what they should say to the hostess and they all chorused; “Thank you for the meal”. After having their hands washed and mouths wiped, they went off to play while we cleaned up. My wife and I shared how valuable this bonding time was not just for us as neighbours, but it also helped the children to learn certain etiquettes and manners.
Etiquette and manners! I reflected on some of the traits and habits some of my colleagues displayed at the office. Some people do not even know how to speak on the telephone, yelling so all and sundry were part of their conversation. Some did not even wash their hands after using the convenience, and expected to give a handshake and receive one at meetings. I shuddered. It is important we do what we can as parents and a community to instill these basic manners and etiquettes in our children. Lord knows we do not want to raise a president who would think picking his nose in public is an admirable act.
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