Dignified conversation

Kiddo4 has always listened to everything, but it’s more obvious lately. Driving with the radio on a couple of weeks ago, I heard him say, “Mom? What’s ‘dignified’?”

The word had just appeared in a song. How do you explain dignity to a kindergartener? So I said, “Someone who’s dignified uses restaurant manners all the time, and always wears church clothes.”

K4 is very, very proud — inordinately proud — of his restaurant manners. Like all the kiddos so far, he’s practiced them and works hard whenever we’re in a restaurant. Waiters love these kids, although I suspect it’s more by comparison to other kids than to adult diners. I have at times taken all the kids out solo at young ages to fine dining establishments like Dunkin Donuts and practiced our restaurant manners. For some reason, they really liked practicing them and wanted to do it a lot.

And as for church clothes, this is the boy who wanted to wear a suit and tie to church so he’d look like the Beatles.

He processes conversations a long time, though, so you get interactions like this:

Kiddo4, gravely: I use the sink.

Me: What?

Kiddo4, speaking very deliberately: I heard you saying to Dad, ‘I don’t know what he’s using to wash his hands.’ I use the sink.

Me: I said that to your father {note: weeks earlier} because there was no soap in this bathroom.

Kiddo4: Oh, I just ran the water on my hands.

Me: Yeah, that’s not really good enough. That’s just taking your hands for a swim.

A couple days later, I related this conversation to my Patient Husband, who said, “Oh! That explains why he pulled me aside and said, ‘Dad, those times I washed my hands when there was no soap in the bathroom, I didn’t just use water. I used shampoo.'”

So apparently not only does he think I’m too stupid to know we use a sink to wash our hands, but he also cares that we think he was walking around unwashed.

Rules are important to Kiddo4. We went out to dinner, and I ordered a margarita. Kiddo2 said, “Mom? Don’t you have to drive home.”

I said, “The rule is one drink per hour. We’ll be here longer than an hour.”

Kiddo4 looked up, his eyes bright. In an awestruck voice, he said, “Will you tell me when it’s an hour?”

I hadn’t parsed it out yet when my Patient Husband said, “You don’t get another chocolate milk.”

Ah, you see: one drink per hour. He knew we always told them to ration their chocolate milk in a restaurant because they’re not getting another one. But this time, this time for some reason, the rule was one drink per hour.

Anyhow, two days ago, we were sitting at lunch when he looked up  at me. “When I outgrow all my clothes, you can just buy me church clothes, and then I’ll always use restaurant manners, and then I’ll be….what was the word?”

“Dignified,” I said. But I think he’s getting there just fine in his regular wardrobe.