Whilst Michael Savage storms into the spotlight to write off our children, the rest of us bimble along in the twilight shadows, busy and better than any microdot in his imagination.
I begin to type:-
'In principle, all children should be seen but not heard during dinner so that the other participants are to enjoy their meal. It's a very simple rule, one that I adhered to vigourously when I was but a wee young thing. It is essential that parents maintain scrupulously high expectations and standards, nay, tis their moral obligation to the rest of civilized society.' I pause in my piece for 'Ban Brats Daily' and gather the family for lunch.
In the 80 degree heat in the shade, we collect Al Fresco, as part of the ongoing ‘de-sensitization to outside’ campaign. These days, the underlying principle remains the same, behave in a kindly manner and hopefully you won't offend other people. For me, the unpublicized secret of good manners, is the skill to put other people at their ease.
We model 'sitting.' They approximate in return. We eat with knives and forks, their fingers work just as hard. Although there is a great deal of detritus over a three foot scatter radius, no-one purposefully throws food. During the meal we discuss a narrow range of subjects in depth, such as 'whether Chaotic cards are more desirable than Pokemon cards?'
During a pause my youngest shoots off like Billy the Whizz for no apparent reason, “hey! Where are you going Sunny Jim?” He stops, mid-fly, frozen, “er…..I'm done.”
“No you are not done! There's something you haven't done yet.” His whole body sags as he takes heavy steps back to his chair to take up the flop position, the nearest he's been to actually sitting in the last seven and a half minutes. “Please……..may I leaf dah table?”
“Beautifully said. Yes you may dear.” He scoots off on rewind back into the safety of the house.
My other son staggers off in his brother's wake, “hey! Where are you going Sunny Jim?” It takes a few more staggers before the message is processed. He turns, “wot?” he splutters, spewing crumbs. “Sit back down, you have a face full of food.” His hands fly to his face, whole hands on whole face, as they flutter for evidence.
“I mean……….your mouth is still full of food dear!” He stands rigid, stretches his neck, head back and gulps. A little shiver engulfs him before he opens his maw wider than a lion to demonstrate emptiness. “Very good dear, now come and sit down, you've still forgotten something.”
He returns to the table to perch on the very rim of the chair. He opens his mouth to speak, notices a discarded Ritz cracker and stuffs it in without thought, “pls…..ma…lif..table?” he sprays. He droops back into the chair, resigned to full munching, without a further word.
“Ooo, where's your Dad gone?” I say to no-one in particular. This is just as well since half my potential audience is hard of hearing and the other half finds it hard to hear. I scan the garden. Not a trace.
“Pleaz……may I lif dah table now?”
“Yes dear, well done indeed.”
Nonna's chair scrapes back as she heads off to dead head a rose or two. I sit at the table for six with the debris, in silence, apart from the sickly globuling sound of the fountain.
I swivel to see my son as he hovers around the strawberry pot and the algae covered fountain in the blistering heat. I watch his fingers travel to the one semi ripe bauble. He makes a valiant attempt at a pincher grip but it's more like a strawberry daiquiri. Little pick pocket!
I say nothing, as he hates strawberries.
“Look………what I…… found.”
“Yes……first this year.”
Same every year, same spot, same fruit, same familiarity although he never seemed to notice them before.
“Yup!” he reaches over and uncurls his fingers from his palm. I take the red splat and pop it in my mouth.