Thursday, September 10, 2009

On Motherhood: Mastering chopsticks and manners

Editor's Note: this blog was originally posted on December 4, 2008, but it says a lot about the little Dude, who will turn 4 on Sept. 19. He's come a long way, baby.

The plan was to go grocery shopping.

As with most things in my life, that plan was discarded when I drove past the Wasabi Hibachi Grill on the way to pick up Draper from the sitter's house last night after work. Keeping one eye on the road and feeling around for a discarded purse in the floorboard of the passenger seat for my wallet (long ago abandoned for the less efficient but cuter and less bulky pouch I'm using now - don't ask, I don't know why, had something to do with the book festival, I think), I tugged out a gift card for Wasabi given to me the last time I took Draper there and he vomited all over me and we made a hasty exit.

I loaded Draper into the car and asked in a super excited tone, "Are you hungry? Do you want to go eat JAPANESE?"

"YES!" He yelled, as predicted. Use the right tone and that kid'll do damn near anything I want, like anything I want. Sooo gullible.

He was more than a little apprehensive about "that fire."

"Mommy, look, I'm scared of that fire," he said uncertainly, watching the leaping flames of a hibachi show a few tables away.

"It'll be fine," I muttered, studying the menu. "Won't touch you."

He squirmed in his seat and announced that he had to go to the bathroom. Once there he again voiced his concern about the fire, and this time there were tears standing in his eyes. In the hallway outside the bathroom I squatted to his level and explained, step by step, about the fire and why it's necessary and how it would not touch him, get near him, or hurt him in any way or Mommy would not have even come here.

What distracted him were the chopsticks.

"I want some chopsticks, too," he said loudly as the waiter handed mine over and I began rubbing them together. I made a motion with my hand and Draper had chopsticks, the kind that are held together at one end with a rubber band.

And to my surprise, my child was an agile whiz with them, and even wanted to take the rubber band off so they'd be more like my traditional ones. I plucked up his spoon and nudged it onto the side of his plate.

"Here, honey, you can use the spoon for your rice."

He looked from the spoon to me and back, then used his free hand to remove the spoon from his plate before plucking up a clump of fried rice and dropping it into his mouth. He barely gave me time to cut the rather large shrimp in halves before plucking them up, too, and devouring them.

He ate nearly all the shrimp that came with the dinner he and I shared, as well as most of his filet (medium rare) and all his veggies. I was so proud.

He also garnered compliments from the other adults at our table, all of whom were in town on business - a fact-finding trip for something, I probably should have paid more attention but hell, I was off duty as a reporter. Draper kept his voice down, was polite and concentrated on his food. There were two kids his age at the next table, and while he kept a wary eye on them as he ate, I watched them openly for signs of rising rebellion. They were loud, clamoring and climbing over the adults who appeared to only vaguely notice their existence.

All in all, Draper was so good, and I was so proud, that I went ahead and bought him the Spiderman pajamas at Target he's been asking for for Christmas. He was ecstatic, which was reason enough, but I told him it was because he acted so well and ate so much at the restaurant.

"Well Momma I'll just tell you," he said on the way home, streetlight skimming over his face as he watched the sliver of moon following us home, "if I'mma gone to get Spiderman pajamas every time I'll always be good. Cause that Spiderman? He's one cool guy."

I laughed and said, "So are you, honey. So are you."


I'm happy to say that his manners have only gotten better over time (with a lot of help from the new private preschool, I must admit). We were at a very nice, very intimate steakhouse in Myrtle Beach while on vacation two weeks ago and Dude was complimented on his manners, politeness and conduct.

"I just have to say something," remarked the lady at the next table, just an arm's reach from me in the dark little bistro. "I was just telling my husband what a polite young man you have there. Everything I've been able to hear has been yes ma'am and no ma'am and please and thank you."

Draper had excused himself from his seat, and only because he had been so good and was tired from a day at the beach I allowed him to curl up in my lap as I finished the last of my glass of cabernet. I kissed the top of his head.

"Thank you," I said.

"Thank you, ma'am," Draper echoed, shifting a little in my lap, squirming in smarm, I suppose.

I smiled. "Sometimes I think he must think I'm the meanest mom in the world, cause I stay on him so much about those things, but I think it's important. I'm a little hard on him, but I just want him to be a little gentleman and a decent man when he grows up."

The woman cocked her head, considered the sleepy, sun-tanned, literally sandy-haired little lump of a boy warm in my lap. "Well, whatever you're doing, it's working."

As a reward, he got to pick out a toy at Walgreens on the way back to the hotel.

Yes, even on vacation, in Myrtle Beach, I had to hit up a Walgreens. You never know, they may have something different.

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