I’ve been reading Rachel Hollis’s Girl Wash Your Face, and honestly, I have mixed feelings about it.
For starters, I completely respect this woman as a writer. In fact, I admire any writer who has the nerve to show up. As a freelancer myself, I know how difficult it can be to put yourself out there and be vulnerable.
I also think a lot of what she says is magnificent. Take this quote below:
“I don’t believe in one best way to parent. In fact, I think it could be pretty damaging to our children if we try to impost the ideas of someone else on how we should function as a family…”
Love it! Agree with it! Thank you!
But there are also some parts of her book that I don’t entirely agree with. In all truth, the story about how she and her now ex-husband came to be is one of them. And, personally, I thought she spoke about drinking wine too much, but that’s just me.
It’s not worth going into details because the point is: I don’t have all the details.
And who am I to judge this woman being brave enough to put her guts out there? As a writer myself, I recognize that her written words only present recollections of a story and pieces of a complete picture.
So sure, there are a few places in her book where I disagree.
Have I stopped reading it? Absolutely not. Because a lot of what she says I do agree with. And some of what she says is inspiring and will stick with me for years to come.
In fact, the following quote about family table manners inspired this article.
“I am incredibly strict with manners. I want yes ma’ams and no sirs. I demand pleases and thank yous. And if someone says inappropriate or rude remarks at my dinner table, they will be asked to leave. But maybe in your house, that seems over the top. Maybe at your table, you burp the alphabet after every meal and then laugh like maniacs together. If so, awesome. Mama, there is no one way to be a mother. There’s also no one way to be a family.” Rachel Hollis
Now, I understand parents bring their own experiences to the table, haha, pun intended. But when I read that above quote, I thought of how intricate a topic like table manners can be.
Rachel Hollis Got Me Ranting About Kids’ and Table Manners. Here’s Why.
For starters, I, personally, don’t expect yes sirs and yes ma’ams. But I also don’t believe in burping the alphabet.
Honestly, since my husband works late hours, I’m on my own most nights, so I do my best to get dinner on the table by 5:30 on the dot.
And, I admit, my 3-year-old tends to stand up a bit in his chair, and I tell him to sit down on more than one occasion.
And there’s no denying my 5-year-old is a picky eater. We’ve tried veggie smoothies, smiley faces on potatoes, you name it. He’s picky.
We even sought advice from two nutritionists, who both gave us different answers.
One said to offer him tiny amounts of an assortment of foods. If he refuses, put it in the fridge and let him know he can have it later.
Another one said to offer him one alternate choice that remains the same, for example, a peanut butter sandwich that he makes, in addition to the meal we serve.
We’ve even read countless articles on the topic (one of my favorites here).
Our 5-year-old is getting better, but my point is dinner has been an evolving process. It’s not a black and white situation by any means.
I tell this story because there are often details outsiders don’t know. We tend to make assumptions about parents and families based on pieces of a picture and categorize people’s actions based on our personal experiences and beliefs.
But according to zerotothree.org, “The problem is that judging and criticizing parents only causes them more stress and makes it less likely they will handle these challenging moments in ways that are sensitive, appropriate and effective for their child.”
The article also explains that 43 percent of parents agree that they discipline their child differently in public than they do at home.
I get it.
At restaurants, I’ve always been super strict on not allowing screens at the table. Just like Hollis prefers yes ma’ams and no sirs at the dinner table, my children have never held a tablet while eating or ordering their French fries.
However, I have many friends who hand over their phones or tablets at restaurants and let their kids go at them.
Do I think these parents are terrible? That they have a lot to work on?
Heck no. I couldn’t care less. I’m not them, and their children aren’t mine.
When it comes to table manners or lack thereof, it’s also essential to consider the environment where your children eat.
For my family, if we change up our everyday dinner routine, chaos could follow.
At home, the three of us sit together at the table; my 5-year-old sings Johnny Appleseed — yes, he’s a fan — and then we eat.
Most nights, it goes as expected. My oldest tries everything, but sometimes he doesn’t eat much.
We ask him to stay at the table and wait for us to finish.
My youngest eats almost everything you put in front of him. Unlike his brother, you have to regulate his portions. (Kids are different, go figure).
After dinner, the boys clear their plates then help clean up.
But it’s not always a smooth ride, and once a week, I do vouch for a laid-back picnic on the floor while we watch Toy Story. (Call the police!)
Sometimes my 3-year-old stands a little more on his chair than he should, but he’s sitting down more and more as I continue to prompt him.
Sometimes, my oldest leaves the table early, but his meal is then put in the fridge for later.
And when the kids were younger, we’re talking 1 and 2 years old; they sometimes threw food on the floor . . the audacity (this is my sarcastic voice, come on man, they were BABIES).
These days, at 3 and 5, if they throw food on the floor, they clean it up, but honestly, I can’t even remember the last time that happened, but I’m sure it will again.
Table manners may be challenging to enforce in a chaotic environment:
Visualize holidays with 15 plus people, giant turkeys, loud laughing uncles, then factor in exhaustion, nonroutine days, family tension, etc., and let’s be blunt: dinner might be a shit show.
Parents deal with these instances in different ways. Our family takes our misbehaving kid to another space to regroup and calm down. Once he’s calm and had a chance to regroup, we allow him to come back and eat.
This works for us but may not for you — No worries.
I am not stating all of this because I am saying this is the tell-all and end-all.
I am merely stating how family meals work for us.
- Are they perfect? Heck no.
- Are some better than others? Heck yes.
- Are there factors that influence how the meal will go? Definitely.
- Would you do it differently? Probably.
No matter who you are, we might agree on some dinnertime behaviors, but I guarantee we probably don’t agree on them all.
And that’s okay.
Getting back to Rachel Hollis’s quote.
“Maybe at your table, you burp the alphabet after every meal and then laugh like maniacs together. If so, awesome. Mama, there is no one way to be a mother. There’s also no one way to be a family.”
Recap: “There’s no one way to be a family.”
My family isn’t really into burping, but we aren’t highly rigid either.
Although we’re working on saying, “May I be excused please?” before leaving the table, a trait I picked up from my own parents, there might be a 3-year-old standing in his chair for a few minutes while I try to encourage my 5-year-old to eat his peas.
Do I feel that this makes me a bad mom? Nope.
What I am getting at is I honestly don’t care if you hand your kid a tablet while you play Candy Crush on your phone.
I don’t care if you make your kid fold their hands and sit up straight while you dish out the baked ziti casserole made from scratch.
I don’t care if you throw Chinese takeout on a blanket on the floor and tell your hooligans to go at it.
I don’t care.
Why? It’s simple. They are not my babies.
Shame researcher and motivational speaker, Brene Brown was on to something when she said:
“The deal is you have to be very specific about whose opinions of you matter. […] Solicit feedback from the people that do give you good feedback […] the people who love you, not despite your imperfection and vulnerability, but because your imperfection and vulnerability. Their feedback matters.”
Now, hold up.
- If you are my kid’s teacher who sees him five days a week, and there’s something you need to chat with me about his development, I’m game.
- If you’re his pediatrician and you have a recommendation for his diet. I’m game.
- If you’re a trusted fellow mom who needs to tell me about something inappropriate my kid just said, I’m game.
But Jiminy Crickets, if you are just trying to impose your ways on my family, and I didn’t specifically ask for your opinion, and you lack sufficient details, please back off.
I would never in a million years go up to a parent in a restaurant occupying their child with Daniel Tiger, take the tablet away, and say, “Hey there, you’ve got it all wrong. Parents need to limit screen time, and tablets are not supposed to be at the table.”
Honestly, if I ever did that, I would give that parent permission to slap me upside the head.
Because again, that child is not my child.
Is that parent taking care of their kid? Yes? Do they look safe? Yes.
Do I have all the details? Nope.
You get the point.
Our views are constructs, and my truth may not be your truth.
There, I said it.
We are all individuals with perspectives based on our own experiences and upbringings.
This is what makes us unique.
The way I see it, if you are not infringing on yours, your child’s, or my safety/wellbeing and you’re giving it your all, constantly evolving, and not pushing your views on others, “you’ve got a friend in me” (thank you, Toy Story).
But if you’re going to list off what you think I’m doing wrong, not respect my family values, and infringe on my wellbeing or safety, I don’t care if you’re Mother Theresa; I’m going to stand up for my family and limit your interaction until you sort that out.
It’s all pretty straightforward in my book, whether it be about table manners, bedtime routines, insert a million other “controversial” parenting topics here.
Who’s with me?
(Even though we have different views on some things, I betchya Rachel Hollis is!)
This post was previously published on medium.com.
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