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Instilling Fear & Table Manners

Friday’s school lunch was cheese pizza. As I cut each child’s pizza in half I said, “You may eat this with your fingers.” One-by-one they looked at me hesitantly as they picked the pizza up and took their first bite — all of them except Kevin.

When I told Kevin he could pick his pizza up in his hands, he jammed his fingers into his arm pits and glanced around frantically for Ms. Alyce. Upon spotting her, her watched her very carefully. She was giving children extra napkins and telling them they could pick their pizza up with their fingers. Kevin brought his hands back down to the table, but he didn’t grab his pizza. He picked up his fork and continued to watch Ms. Alyce. Finally she sat down at the table in front of her own plate and she picked up her pizza in her bare hands.

Kevin’s eyes grew huge. He put his fork down and slowly, carefully picked up his pizza. He took a bite, never once looking away from Ms. Alyce. She looked up. Their eyes met. Kevin froze like a deer in headlights, his little teeth sink deep in the pizza. Ms. Alyce grabbed a napkin and shoved it toward him. “Be careful,” she scolded. “It’s hot.” Then she turned back to her own meal. Kevin devoured his lunch then licked his fingers.

Quilly is the pseudonym of Charlene L. Amsden, who lives on The Big Island in Hawaii. When she is not hanging out with Amoeba, she is likely teaching or sewing. Or she could be cooking, taking photographs, or even writing. But if she's not doing any of that, she's probably on Facebook or tinkering with her blog.


  1. It seems to me that Kevin isn’t just listening and doing what he’s told, but he’s also trying to understand it. *sigh* Poor kid… trying to find logic in culturally based etiquette. Noble but useless.

    I watched a European friend eat a hamburger with a knife and fork last week. I was so proud of myself for smiling but not actually laughing out loud.

  2. Oh my gosh! The poor child is scarred for life! LOL! It’s a MIGHTY confusing world we live in… and the rules change DAILY!

  3. Mumma — yes. He’s learning not to trust us!

    Brian – I don’t wonder why Kevin is confused. I wonder how any kid finally manages to sort all this silly stuff out!

    Morgan — he is always trying to figure out the rules. I am afraid learning English is going to drive him insane ….

    Melli — the rules change from food to food, place to place and moment to moment. For instance, one can shriek outside on the playground, but not in the classroom. Same with running. Snack is always eaten with fingers. Lunch is usually eaten with utensils. Ms. Charlene allows hugs. Ms. Jewls doesn’t. There is a bathroom for boys and a bathroom for girls. The girls may never use the boy’s bathroom, but the boys may use the girls bathroom once the girls are in the classroom (4 girls, 14 boys). And on it goes ….

  4. Pauline — glad to have painted the picture.

    Polona — shhh, he’ll figure out there is no figuring it all out soon enough.

    Theresa — don’t you always eat pizza with your fingers? Most everyone I know does.

    Doug — I think he’s got that one down pat.

    Dr. John — but we love pizza!

    Donna — Actually the kids like Alyce. She is the art director and the snack monitor (she has access to all the yummies). Kevin just took those fork lessons a bit more seriously than we realized.

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