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I Worry About My Kid’s Awful (But Funny) Table Manners

  • 5 min read

Parenting Humor

Every damn time we have guests, my boy turns into a hot mess at the dinner table

Our Ben, three and a half years old, has a new hobby: burping.

Thanks to his constant training, he’s now a master of the burp concert.

His performances take place in a variety of venues: at the dining table, in restaurants, at grandma and grandpa’s, and especially when we have guests, like our landlady.

Me: “Ben, my darling, could you please stop burping? It’s a bit inappropriate, especially in company.”

Ben, ever the entertainer, answers with a burp.

My husband: “Well Ben, that’s not exactly the height of politeness. How about a ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ instead of a burp?”

Ben, unimpressed, continues his concert.

My husband and I also have a hobby: reading parenting guides (much to the dismay of my monster-in-law who believes that parenting should come naturally, but that’s a different story). So, we read in a parenting guide that it might help to ask a child to continue doing what they’re doing, like throwing sand, as it might encourage them to stop. In other words, do the exact opposite.

In a burst of educational creativity, my husband says, “You know, Ben, we love your burps! They are music to our ears. Please, give us more of them!”

Ben, after a short pause, accepts the challenge, looks at our landlady, and delivers an even louder burp.

It’s so loud that we feel the dining table shake.

Our landlady, a mother of three and grandmother of eight, just smiles knowingly.

We parents, among ourselves and to our guest: “Ignoring is the best tactic, right? It’s just a phase. After all, he’s only become a big brother three months ago. Surely it’s part of the dethroning phase.”

We all try to ignore the burping.

Ben keeps burping.

I start to worry and ask our landlady thoughtfully: “Should we take him to a pediatrician? Maybe he has digestive problems?”

Our landlady, who is also a teacher, says, “No, no, everything is normal. He’s just creative in his communication. I’ve seen this with hundreds of kids.”

Ben burps again.

My husband, a bit desperate: “Maybe we’re expecting too much from you. You’re only three and a half. But it really bothers me! We have a guest, after all, Ben.”

Ben, undeterred, keeps burping.

My patience is wearing thin. I raise my voice and say firmly: “Ben, that’s enough! If you don’t stop, you’re going upstairs to your room!”

Ben, the little rebel, burps in response.

Ben ends up in his room — amidst tears and protest. The door slams, complaints echo down the stairwell, and finally, he falls crying onto the cushions of his teepee. His hands are clenched into fists, and he pounds the floor.

I hear my husband say sympathetically upstairs: “When you stop burping, you can come back downstairs.”

Ben returns and sits at the table with a serious face. We eat in silence. Our landlady chuckles and praises the food and the homemade gingerbread house.

homemade gingerbread house
photo credit: Kristina God; Ben’s cute homemade gingerbread house with fireman Sam

Ben smiles proudly. Then there is quiet at the table.

That’s when I think of a mother friend from Japan. She recently told me that she finds it funny that in Germany a loud burp is against good manners. In Japan, burping is part of the polite gestures. When a child burps after eating, it signals that they enjoyed the meal.

Then I think again of my monster-in-law… who is coming to visit next week. The dragon considers burping crude and uncivilized behavior. I hear her say: “We are in Germany, after all, not Japan!”

The table is still quiet.

The conversation meanders. Ben occasionally joins in. The compliment from our landlady seems to have pleased him. He’s also left-handed. A little artist… as if my husband could read minds, he says ironically, “Burping is surely also a sign of creativity and self-expression. Ben, you could be the next great artist!”

Everyone chuckles, relieved at the momentary peace.

Then, quite suddenly, out of nowhere, Ben burps again.

I wink across the table at my husband: “See, he’s already practicing for his next performance.” My husband jokingly: “He definitely has talent. Maybe we should get him a microphone for his birthday instead of a digger.”

Everyone laughs.

Ben, proud and satisfied, smiles mischievously at everyone.

Then he burps again.



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