Lori Curley: They come to visit every summer, and I unconsciously make a list of what they should be doing. This past week, I worked on getting them to use plates and sit on a chair facing the table when they eat. You may think I'm describing a battle with toddlers, but these kids are 8 and 9.
It makes me wonder how my brother and I managed to grow up in the same home but exit with such different values. I am certain my mother tried to instill in us -- at the very least -- a sense of decorum. We often had candlelit dinners and linen tablecloths. We were congratulated for properly holding forks and knives; we got in trouble for burping. We knew which was the bread plate and what to do with the butter knife. Mother did her best to make us "country club" kids. But my brother's kids are pure McDonald's Playland.
I never let my kids walk around while they ate -- not when they were in diapers, not when they were in preschool and not today, when they're in middle school. But my brother and his wife don't seem to care if their kids roam around dripping yogurt or busting crumbs. Our dog is thrilled, but it is making me do one of those internal screams.
The other thing my brother's kids seem not to notice is how often they interrupt an adult conversation. I don't remember teaching my kids this very adult skill of patience (maybe they are inherently more shy), but my kids rarely butt in. They especially don't butt in when they enter a room where adults are speaking. They step in, listen to the topic and then wait for a break -- or try to catch my eye. My brother's kids seem to hail from another planet. They always have something to say, and they say it on top of -- intentionally getting louder and running over -- adult voices. My husband has corrected them several times over the past week, but I have not noticed any change.
Next spring, I will be sending my daughter to spend a week with them in Washington. I wonder what sorts of habits she will come home with ...? I am already gritting my teeth!