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February 15, 2013

Philosophical musings.

I have had two deep thoughts lately that I would like to share here.  One is about why I one day looked at the girls and thought they were truly two of the best things that ever happened to me and the other thought is about the connection between table manners and socialism.

First the political thought, which actually is inspired by family issues.  I was raised with old fashioned table manners and there are a few things that are just non-negotiable at the table, in my mind.  We were taught to use our knife and fork with our fingers as folcrums, rather than holding the fork like a vertical spear while cutting around it.  Cutting that way garnered a firm, "Jessica, don't eat like a Barbarian!" from my dad.  We were admonished for bringing our faces too close to our plate or ever chewing with our mouths open.  (When I was too little to chew with my mouth closed gracefully my sister called me "Cow Chewer".)  It wasn't even a question that you were sitting while you ate or your dirty napkin stayed on your lap until you were done.  And we were scolded for starting before everyone was seated... Or did we in fact wait until everyone was served?  Anyway, my children know the Barbarian phrase and are routinely scolded for their own loud, obnoxious chewing sounds.  But all this table manners training sparked me to think about why these things are important anyway.

Table manners are important because they demonstrate an ability to restrain oneself.  Rather than glomming your food as soon as it is before you a civilized human can wait a moment for his companions to sit down, too.  Rather than chewing without regard for the yucky sound or sight of your squashed up food you consider the others at the table and keep your bites small enough to manage with your mouth closed.  It's self control.  It's the ability to hold back for the sake of the others around you.  I snarf my cereal as fast and loud as I want in private (or often when just Ben is nearby.  Sorry, Ben) but it broader company I slow it down.  

In a civilized society you consider the experience other people will have because of your actions and often you sacrifice a bit so they will not suffer.  That's why I skew liberal.  Socialist, even.  Ok, that was political thought.

The Netta and Bailey thought came to me as I was buckling the girls in their seat for a trip to the Y.  Bailey had a scarf pulled up past her nose and a hood down to her eyes.  I could still see she was smiling and said, "You girls are one of the best things that ever happened to me."  So I thought about why their entrance into our family might be so profoundly positive in my mind and I came another turn on the sacrifice tip.  

Before I found out I was pregnant for the third time I had decided not to have any more kids.  I saw that we were moving forward as a family, leaving the diapers behind and the strollers and the high chairs... We were getting to a new place of mobility and ease as parents (so I thought) and I could see us downsizing our house, moving into our dream neighborhood near the co-op and saving for international travel.  I saw me one day having the tiny Scion car I wanted and working full time at something.  But then I was going to have twins and those hopes were dashed.  And I had to continue practicing the self-sacrifice that is necessary when you have FOUR children under six.  I had to come to peace with not having the flashier lifestyle, the jet-setting or the cool neighborhood.  I had to learn how to give  to myself in the most pure and humble of ways, like cooking food I like to eat or taking meditation classes or singing in a choir.  And to top off all those simple pleasures I have these lovely children!  Including two beautiful and curious - and FUNNY! - girls who are a total trip.  We all love them!  The best societies really seem to value simple rewards and reasonable self-sacrifice.  I don't know.  Six people counts as a society, doesn't it?

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