One of my favorite plays, THE MIRACLE WORKER, also made into an Oscar winning 1962 motion picture and a 1979 made-for-television movie, each featuring the wonderful actress, the late Patty Duke, has one of the most incredible scenes in which Annie Sullivan literally fights and rolls all over the dining room floor, trying to teach her blind and death pupil, Helen Keller, to use her fork.
Exiting the dining room to the porch, Annie is approached by Mrs. Keller. Annie’s brief account concludes with a very satisfied, even proud, “She folded her napkin.”
My newest son, at 17, is brilliant, possesses a tremendous personality, and freely shares a tender, loving heart. Still, there are a lot of loose ends.
One of the loose ends: table manners.
All previous adopted and foster sons arrived with a deplorable understanding of table manners, and G is no different.
Mother and I discussed my favorite mantra of knowing “which hill to die on,” and I explained it just didn’t seem to be as crucial with G as it has been with the previous boys. Mother agreed, supported the other items on which I’ve chosen to focus, and cheerfully added that the table manners “will come.”
I did touch upon chewing with the mouth closed, and how to use a napkin properly; however, it was more of an introduction.
Several times, I’ve noticed G observing, and following my lead when we’ve been out to eat with others. Otherwise, it is wadding up the paper napkin after wiping his mouth, and tossing it onto his plate.
While I remain patiently hopeful with this particular skill set, I’ve been successful in setting the stage that meals are for relaxing, and discussing a plethora of interesting topics. G now seems to look forward to these chatter sessions at the table. While I insist the day’s closing meal to be eaten together, I also insist on laughter, chatter, and sharing.
This morning, after an early appointment, we went to breakfast at First Watch. It was like a complete transformation!
The silverware was removed from the napkin, and separated to the appropriate sides of where his plate would be placed; the chewing commenced, and continued with lips together; and the napkin was used properly, not wadded up, but folded, and left beside his plate.
Like Annie Sullivan, I rejoiced over the fact that his napkin was folded.
A little thing?
Not at all.
This was a small step, yet, a major one.
After we arrived home, I praised this accomplishment while he was composing music at the piano. The smile that wanted to curl the side of his mouth was subdued, but he nodded acknowledgement.
Tonight, we went out for dinner at his new favorite haunt, and the first words out of his mouth as we were seated, “Thank you for bringing me here, again.”
This is a really good kid!
And, he folded his napkin, again.