And it’s not even late December back in ’63…
Normally the Boys read at every meal, and while it’s certainly a bit antisocial, breakfasts and dinners are peaceful enough, if punctuated only by grunts in reply to adult questions.
It’s worried me for a while that these silent reading meals are pretty much on par with the kids being lined up along the sofa staring glazedly over their TV trays in terms of the supposed vaccinatory effect of mealtime interaction against family dysfunction. Accordingly, I’ve gently tried to suggest to the Lovely Man that some of each week’s evening meals could be “conversation dinners”.
Anyway, we served up spag bol to the Boys for dinner tonight, and for reasons of sheer messiness, I asked the Lovely Man whether tonight was going to be a comic-reading extravaganza or not. He said not.
Immediately it became evident that he wasn’t going to be allowed to slurp spaghetti while staring fixedly at his current Simpsons comic, Boy A went on the warpath.
He put on the Ritz in terms of dramatically bad table manners, derailed every attempt at normal conversation and deliberately worked Boys B and C up into higher and ever higher fever pitches of hysteric silliness, culminating in attempting to bodily carry a protesting Boy C from the kitchen to the dining table, despite that Boy C was trying to balance a full bottle of juice and a glass.
One of Boy A’s special talents is to conjure up the most annoying combination of high-pitched whines, clicks, drum rolls, fart noises and stupid voices imaginable; I sat stoically ignoring him for the most part, although at one point I turned to him and calmly said:
Boy A, it seems to me that you are stirring everyone up on purpose because you didn’t get your way about reading comics at the table.
(Naturally, he disagreed heartily, but then he disagrees if I say that the carpet needs vacuuming, or leaves grow on trees, so that was hardly unexpected.)
Boy A was relishing using his Super Older Sibling powers for evil instead of good, the younger boys quickly lost all control of themselves in an impressively swift race to the bottom for poor dinnertime behaviour, and after several well-spaced warnings the Lovely Man ended up taxing everyone’s pocket-money and banning books at the table for at least two nights, during which period the Boys need to display good table behaviour or the ban will be extended.
Of course, fury and upset resulted; the Lovely Man is grumpy, Boys B and C have gone to bed angry and crying, I’ve bunkered down in the bedroom feeling that somehow it’s all become my fault and dreading the repeat broadcasts tomorrow and the next night, and everyone is utterly miserable.
Except Boy A, who is singing away, apparently as happy as a clam.
(I know he’s actually not, but Lordy, he does a fine impression….)