Ellen Nordberg, Author

Table Manners

Multiples Illuminated Book

*UPDATE* Now on Multiples Illuminated

Boulder Lifestyle, 5/14.

Pooping in a park in broad daylight? Refusing to get in the car until a hot Brazilian nanny kisses them goodbye?

Being inappropriately affectionate with their principal? These are just a few of the parenting challenges I’ve faced with my identical twin boys in their ten years so far, but dining etiquette tops the list.

Twin A chews loudly when he eats. Even noshing on a hard-boiled egg, he’s like a Clydesdale managing a mouthful of carrots, complete with slurping, snorting, and blowing fumes out his nose. His chewing noise levels can wake up his somewhat deaf grandfather in his house up the street, but at least Twin A keeps his food in his mouth. Twin B chews quietly, but the food ends up in creative locations.

Twin B came off the school bus from kindergarten, and I noticed something brown oozing out of his ear. Was it an ear infection? Had rough-housing in P.E. generated a nose bleed that leaked out his ear? I touched the sticky goo with my forefinger and we examined it in alarm.

Twin B sniffed it, then licked my finger like a friendly Labrador Retriever.

“Mmm,” he said. “Peanut Butter.”

I knew he had turkey and cheese for lunch, so this must have been from his toast……at breakfast.

I’ve found cheese in his hair, melted M&Ms in his pockets, and jam in his eyelashes–to which he is as oblivious as a raccoon in a dumpster.

The worst came one morning when they were four, as I was training them to be hikers. They straggled. They watched each of 397 ants cross the trail. After 90 minutes, we’d made it four hundred yards. I continued marching.

They caught up, and Twin B reached his fist out offering a dead ladybug. I looked down and saw a trail of dried blood across his cheek.

“What now?” I thought. How had he cut himself? Was it when he cried and I said, Man Up? Where was the entry wound? Could an ambulance make it onto the trail?

I was searching the backpack for a paper bag to breathe into when Twin A tugged on my shorts.

“Mommy?” he said. “Mommy? It’s his vitamin.”

Oh. The red chewable he had worked into a paste while in the car, and then smeared across his face.

Flash forward to fifth grade and little improvement on the messy eating front. Despite time-outs, Lego bans, and etiquette pep talks, I still end up leaving outrageous bus boy tips. Even at age ten, we have linen napkins on the floor, broccoli eaten by hand, and butter knives wielded as Ninja Turtle weapons.

My girlfriend is signing her twin girls up for Cotillion.

“What?” I asked. “Dancing and coming out balls?”

“Yes,” she said. “But table manners, and restaurant behavior too.” She raised her eyebrows. “I mean, have you seen my girls eat? They’re like animals!”

I know exactly what she means. My little Clydesdale and raccoon will be wearing ties and waltzing with girls in white gloves before they know it.

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