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Civilization and Digestion

August 6, 2017 | (280 words)

Once our children reach the age of reason, a good deal of their subsequent development into civilized human beings occurs at the dinner table. There is the mastery of basic cutlery, of course, along with the keeping of elbows off the table, and the chewing with mouths closed. But it is in observing how their parents interact with each over the mundane, practical aspects of everyday life that proves so telling. Also of special import is how the parents interact with their offspring while doing nothing more important than passing the potatoes. These simple exchanges speak volumes and form minds.

The youthful tendency toward self-absorption does not prevent the inculcation, as it occurs almost by osmosis. They are sponges, and instinctively register any open display of manners, decency, and fair play. It’s as if the moral order of the universe is first made known to our kids as they sit there and chew their cud. We don’t always appreciate what is transpiring, since as parents we struggle mightily with the day-to-day frustration of getting anything through what we are convinced is their thick skull.

It is only later, as our children start to make their way in the world as young adults, that we find ourselves unexpectedly impressed with certain aspects of their behavior, and rather in awe of the level of maturity, common sense, and consideration for others they are prone to display.

If children are lucky enough to have the opportunity of seeing their parents interact with even one set of grandparents, on an everyday basis, over the evening meal, the positive impact on their development into civilized human beings increases exponentially.

Robert J. Cavanaugh, Jr
August 6, 2017

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