Table Manners: Forked Again?


Why do kids think that it is acceptable to take food off of other people’s plates? Tonight at the dinner table my 4-year-old, Paige, decided that she needed to ‘take’ the chicken nuggets off of her older brother Tucker’s plate. Since Tucker had just been told to give her two of the chicken nuggets (he thought they were all for him I guess?) I can see why she felt it was her right to grab ‘her’ food from ‘his’ plate. Immediately Tucker howled because he thought these were his nuggets and she was taking them. Given the amount of food that he devours at each meal, it is no surprise that he was upset and angry to be missing out on two more chicken nuggets. Oh well, he had to survive by eating a half a jar of peaches instead.

As Paige was grabbing the food, my brain fast-forwarded to seeing her as a teenager, out on a date with a guy, and her grabbing food off of his plate without asking. I can’t imagine some boy getting angry with her about food grabbing, simply because she is so sweet and endearing (she tilts her head down to her shoulder when we get angry with her.) Also, she is a tiny little thing and weighs next to nothing (although I don’t see ‘next to nothing’ on the bathroom scale – I wish!) A boy might think she is totally rude and not house-trained and drop her back at the front door immediately. (Something tells me her Daddy would think this was NOT a problem.)

Maybe there is something to be said for teaching good table manners. I mean it is one thing to share food by politely asking for a taste or bite from someone at your table, but to just stab your fork at another person’s plate seems a bit brash. Wouldn’t you think that was rude? Or shocking? If someone did that to me, I think my mouth would hang open and I would wonder, “Why me?”, “Why my plate?”. Why should my plate be the target of this ‘forking’ ambush. I order vegetarian most of the time, so does my food really look that much better?

Could it be my New England upbringing that resulted in my feelings around politeness or merely the result of me wanting to protect my food like a squirrel in winter. Something inside me just tells me that if you don’t ask for permission, then it is like stealing. Don’t you agree? Then again, if you are out to dinner with your spouse/mate, would you really be upset if they jabbed their fork at your plate and ate what they pleased? It is plausible to think this scenario may be acceptable, because I would have said, “Yes”, when queried “Can I have a bite?”. However, they are still making an assumption that this is acceptable behavior. I guess it would be nice to avoid having my hand be the target and potentially punctured by the tines of a fork in a food stealing incident.

Funny how some silly children’s behavior can trigger analysis of human feeding habits. I admit that I am fine with sharing and more than willing to share what I have. However, if someone wants a morsel of food off my plate, it would be nice if they asked first. Wouldn’t you agree?

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