Like most people getting on a bit, I’m a big believer in politeness.
I suspect most of the world’s problems could be solved if we all said “Please” and “Thank you” and took more of a pride in our table manners.
“Thank you?” I ask my son pointedly as he strolls away with the drink I’ve just given him. I’m not thanking him. I’m suggesting strongly that he should thank me. Astonishingly, he usually does.
His table manners are a whole other tin of worms, though. In fact, what he leaves smeared across the table is often less enticing than a tin of worms.
He doesn’t like baked beans. That fact alone makes me doubt our genetic connection. What kind of child doesn’t like baked beans? I refuse not to put them on his plate, so I suppose it’s only my fault when he uses them as an artistic medium.
“Why don’t you try one?” I ask the busy little baked bean Kandinsky. “Just one bean?”
“No.” He says with a slow shake of the head and a condescending frown, as if I were the child.
“They’re nice. Just try one bean.”
“No.” He insists firmly.
Mummy gets annoyed by my perseverance. She knows how futile it is. But I can’t help it. Finally I pressure him into accepting a bean. Entirely unexpectedly he pops it into his mouth. I gasp. Mummy gasps. We wait, watching his mouth work as if we’re expecting a butterfly to emerge when he opens it again. I ready myself to crow at my wife about how right I was and how wrong she was.
“Yummy, beans.” I nod at my son as he chews exaggeratedly. He sticks his tongue out and on the end of it is a now pale and de-juiced but completely intact bean. He offers it to me on a finger-tip.
Utterly defeated I accept the sucked bean, my wife laughing.
“Thank you?” my son suggests.
“Thank you, son.” I say. Politeness is important.