Between a Fork and a Chopstick

October 5, 2012 heart defect, older child adoption, Sonia 21 Comments

That’s where I find myself.
Between a fork and a chopstick.
And that’s where I come to you today asking for some momma advice.

I love the way these boys eat.
ok in truth….I could do without the slurping…..gag
but other than that I have no problem with it.

But here’s where I am stuck…
will other people have a problem with it?
I’m starting to notice that that is becoming the case.

Kids are starting to make comments at school….Boo. Hiss. Not cool.

Will their future spouses mind?
Reason for divorce?
Well your honor, he won’t get his head out of his plate.


Should I enforce a when in Rome type of eating philosophy and allow only “western” style table manners?
Or let them be who they are and celebrate that.
Which frankly,
works for me.
There are bigger fish to fry if you ask me.

Nonetheless I can’t shake the feeling that perhaps not changing these habits to more fit in with the norm isn’t doing them any favors.

On the off chance you are totally unfamiliar with what the heck I am talking about,
Allow me to give you a quick overview of Eating in the East in 3 easy steps.

Step 1:

Always squat.
Don’t sit.
Even if you have a chair,
squat on the chair.

Step 2:
Do not bring your fork/chopstick to your mouth, bring your mouth to your plate.

Or over-correct the other direction.

Up to you.

When you do this,
this is the view the people eating with you will have of you at the table.

 So Joshua, how was your day? “mmphgoerioejohal”

Step 3:
Slurp loudly.
Cereal, soup, sandwich, doesn’t matter.
Just slurp.
Couple this with one cleft kiddo and all of the smacking and picking and work to get food removed from all of the hardware and crevices in your mouth every few bites and it’s a wonder we can have any conversation at dinner over all that noise.

This whole process intrigues me.
It downright fascinates me.

So what to do.
What to do.

Let em be, or “Americanize” them in the ways of us.
Bring it.

21 responses to “Between a Fork and a Chopstick”

  1. Allison says:

    Hm? I’ve got one with similar issues, adopted at age 6. We have taught (will continue to teach) her that noisy eating is not acceptable. Now, when she eats noodles slurping will occur, and frankly I am ok with slurping noodles. Smacking, not so good. Head down in the bowl, meh, I think that’s ok. Maybe over time they will see that most folks eat with their heads up and that will change. We don’t want them to talk with their mouths full anyway, so this way maybe they won’t talk to people. Teasing at school, not ok, mama bear comes raoring out. We don’t squat in public restaurant or on other people’s furniture, that’s it. All that being said, I wouldn’t focus on too mich correcting, I bet some of it will figure itself out!

  2. As for the squat, shouldn’t be an issue. Make it a challenge to those people making fun of it. G used to and sometimes still does squat to watch TV. As for the bringing either face to bowl or bowl to face, find a smaller bowl to serve that in and it won’t seem so offensive. Then he can safely bring bowl to mouth to eat as some Chinese people do in China with small rice bowls. over time that will stop. for slurping, no idea. Slurp back or take it as a compliment for wonderful flavors.

  3. Sandy says:

    We are trying to sort this out ourselves. Our daughter does the smacking, slurping, bringing mouth to food (rather than food to mouth). At 13, not attractive. Plus there are some oral motor issues and her OT is working with her. As part of her OT (and I admit, American manners training), we are starting to remind her to chew with her mouth closed. Hoping that will eventually limit the overstuffing and loud eating noises. Let’s face it, when she gets to the age of dating, her current eating style isn’t going to play well.

  4. Grace says:

    For #2, try serving the food in smaller, deeper bowls that can be picked up with one hand. e.g. a Chinese rice bowl. Or just tell them to use a spoon. Leaving over your bowl was considered bad manners in my (Chinese) family. Ditto with slurping. My father would have given me the look of death had I dared slurp my soup or noodles in front of him.

    Teaching them manners is not the same as “Americanizing” them. Sure, lots of people in China may eat in ways that are considered ill-mannered here, but then so do a lot of Americans. There are “non-American” ways to eat politely and quietly–yes, noodles, too! (Pick them up with your chopsticks and pile them onto a spoon. If you can’t manage this, twirl onto a fork like spaghetti.)

    Best wishes,

  5. Rebecca says:

    This is so funny. Our Chinese lovies aren’t home with us yet, but we’ve hosted Chinese students 3 different times and they ALL did the same slurping-with-their-face-in-the-plate deal. I think it’s best to teach them the “American” way since they will be mostly eating with Americans for the rest of their lives:) Table manners could definitely make it or break it during the dating years, and I’m guessing you’d eventually like for them to Find a spouse:) one of the private schools in our area offers etiquette camp in the summer. I enrolled our daughter a couple of years ago bc she wasn’t “getting the hint” from her siblings. It did the trick!

  6. Yvette says:

    Your so good, for letting them. I couldn’t handle it. I know I am such a total loser but this the one area that was like fingernails on a chalkboard. Heehee but we didn’t have squaters OR the highchair prevented it LOL!

  7. Lisa W. says:

    Okay, this is coming from someone (from Alabama) who MARRIED a 24 year old from Taiwan. You have to fix this. Drinking from the bowl is okay in our house, but like someone else said, you need the round, tall bowls. Slurping, no. Head in bowl, no. Eating and talking, no. Spitting things out onto your plate as you eat *shudders having flashbacks of ribs at the in-laws as my children stared open-mouthed in horror*, no. What’s funny, is after being together almost ten years, my husband only does this either when he’s at his mom’s house, or if we get Chinese take out. They can always eat like Chinese people if they go back to China someday. Right now, Western table manners will make things easier for them, their wives, and their future children.

  8. Leslie says:

    The squat is not big deal for me. Hubby though doesn’t care for it. One of our bio sons squats. Go figure. For him it is sensory-related. Alas, the squatting is definitely a negotiable for me.

    Ok, the slurping. Definitely allowed with Chinese food and noodles. With a casserole, notsomuch.

    Our 12YO son, adopted at 10, actually does OK on this. He is very conscious of it. He does tend to smack, but again, so does one of our bio sons.

    OK, where I struggle is not as much the noise as the SHOVELING of the food with the head in the plate. Ahhhhhhh! I don’t like this. At all. It is like nails on the chalkboard (to quote Yvette ;).

    Thing is that our 7YO son, adopted at 5, is the one who does this. EVERY SINGLE MEAL. DRIVES ME CRAZY. And the whole family. He isn’t noisy though, just head down in the plate. And when he first came home, he also had his elbows up and was ready to deliver a knock-out blow via the elbow to anyone who came within FEET of his plate/bowl/dish. I think the head in the bowl maneuver is more a trait of early life in an orphanage than being Chinese. Our older son never sticks his head down and his foster family didn’t either when we ate with them.

    These are my rambled thoughts. I could so be in your head on some of these posts Sonia. It is kind of scary come to think of it. Hey, we could do one of those shows where you trade places. But I guess it might be boring as there would be much of a shock factor LOL!

  9. Leslie says:

    “wouldn’t be” much of a shock factor … where is the edit button

  10. Kate Hall says:

    We have a squatter. He even squats over the toilet when he uses it. He was adopted at 2.5, was in diapers for over a year after adoption and is now 6.5. So, I’m not sure how he picked it up again. I guess he just prefers to squat. We were surprised to see so many people squatting in China. I can’t get back up when I squat. Gosh, it hurts my knees! I’ve done nothing to change this habit, but I make sure he isn’t wearing shoes when he squats in our chairs.

    We don’t have slurpers or face feeders, but all my kids were born with cl/p, so the dinner table is a very loud place – they can’t control the lip-smacking. One of my kids is a talker and he talks with food in his mouth all the time. And not only does food fly sometimes, but his speech is even harder to understand with food in it. I’m trying to get him to stop that. But, then I find myself doing the same thing sometimes. It’s futile.

  11. Traveller says:

    I don’t think there’s anything wrong with talking to your kids about the difference between polite eating in the US and polite eating in China. I’m not Asian, but I have an intercultural family and grew up with lots of friends from parts of Asia. Some of the things you described (some slurping, bringing the bowl to the mouth – but not that kind of bow!) sound cultural to me from my observations of friends and family but some don’t. Some of the pictures look like eating behaviour I’ve seen from very young kids (2, 3, 4). Even within a society, there are different standards of “polite” behaviour. Try taking your kids to the local Chinese restaurant and look to people eating there for models of polite behaviour and at the same time you can talk about cultural differences. Being bicultural and knowing how to switch between cultures is a valuable skill – embrace it. 🙂

  12. Christine says:

    This has me rolling with laughter here…. my loving husband is Chinese, although raised here in the US… 47y.o and about 6 ft tall….. he will still ‘relapse’ to this style of eating when he is super tired, super hungry, and of course eating Chinese food, and especially in Chinese restaurant…his 3 brothers will do the same……… I tell him that I don’t like eating looking at the top of his head while eating….IF I notice him doing it in mixed company he will get the foot tap under the table…. he really does not even realize he is doing it…. I would work on correcting the eating habits now… my son has started it… and thinks it is funny….but we talk about manners..etc… Our daughter. home from China 5 months…. is a squatter for sure….and will drink out of any type of bowl too….
    Good Luck!

  13. Donna O. says:

    Americanize. Tom did business with Asians and couldn’t concentrate on conversation for watching them place 1/2 of steak in their mouth at one time. He still talks about it 15 years later. The kids at school will be brutal to them. They’re overcoming enough without having to deal with that in the unloving environment of school.

    Hugs all around…

  14. julie says:

    This was so funny and interesting to me. I never thought about these possible issues. We have one on the way (probably early next year) from China – never realized we might deal with these issues – she’s been with a foster family always so we probably will see some of this. When our other daughters arrived home from Ethiopia they had some table manner issues that were cultural (dropping things on the floor they didn’t like, using their hands, open mouthed chewing, licking plates). We just taught them as we did our bio children as babies – they weren’t allowed to do those things. Slowly those things disappeared and they have very nice table manners now. They had lived with little food until in an orphanage and I am sure, that when they had food there they just devoured it quickly without anyone teaching them manners, I must say tho’, I love the squatting on the railing photo… 😉

  15. Judy says:

    This had me laughing out loud! Love the squatting picture! Oh how I can relate to this post! We have been home 5 months with our two 5 year olds from China. One eats just like you describe, the other was in foster care for 8mo. and is a very neat eater. The Messy one, eats with her head in the bowl, and her other hand as a back up shovel! I will confess……we have started using a robe belt to tie her UPright. Have you ever watched Princess Diaries?? Wouldn’t they croak if they knew that was an inspiration for table manners:)LOL It just keeps her from leaning forward too far “into” her bowl! We don’t tie her and leave her, but sit by her and praise her for taking smaller bites, and sitting up. Oh and closing her mouth when she is chewing. She is also deaf, so we aren’t sure she totally “gets” why her mouth has to be shut! She doesn’t hear a thing! I’m always afraid we are scarring them for life!

  16. Kim says:

    I love the Asian squat. Our son still does this often, and he’s been with us since before he could walk… hmmm… Love your style, Sonia. I followed the link to your personal blog and have been reading for quite a while. What an incredible story you have. Thank you for sharing it and allowing it to be an inspiration for others. Cheers.

  17. Lisa says:

    I have to say, after having lived in Korea for two years, that some of this sounds like it is not cultural. We have plenty of our own issues here at our house. Mason is a big-time smacker. Still working on that even though his breathing issues, which supposedly caused him to mouth breathe and smack, have been fixed for over a year. I would think that bowl to mouth would be ok, but not head to bowl. I say more power to the squatter at home, but not at the lunch table at school. As for slurping, I would think only things like noodles. (those things that really need to be slurped! :))

    Good luck and let us know how it goes!!

  18. Sherry says:

    I’m as western as they come, and I squatted as a kid. I had terrible table posture but alas as the 4th and arriving MUCH later in life for my parents kid, they just didn’t care. I can assure you that I have great table manners now FWIW.

  19. Jill says:

    I definitely had to lean to the Americanize. I just can’t take the face in the plate/bowl, licking them clean, shoving stuff in. I had to think about our son getting teased by others, too. He already has been teased for some differences he can’t help; this is certainly one area that can be, so we work on the slurping, shoving food, etc.

  20. kelleyn says:

    While I don’t have a child from China, I do have 3 boys and a little girl and I think they will eventully out grown these habits. They will become aware of the comments and want to fit in. I have a boys who would stand while he ate. He has sensory integration disorder. He is now 14 and while he is still pretty sloppy while he eats he sits down. I would gently encourage them to form good eating manners. When they do eat with good manners praise them for doing so. Good Luck!

  21. Sarah says:

    We live in China and are in the process of adopting a little boy from China. But since our 3 older (bio) children are in the culture, this is something we deal with across the board. Our 7-year-old kept saying that Chinese have bad table manners after we were correcting her. So, we adopted the rule that if you are eating Chinese food, you can use Chinese mannerisms at the table (slurping, drinking from the bowl, shoveling food in using your chopsticks with the bowl super-close to your mouth, all ok) but if we are eating Western food, then we use American manners. Because in China, it isn’t impolite to slurp your noodles from the bowl (and honestly, if you try to get them from the bowl using just chopsticks, there WILL be some slurping involved). This approach has worked for us.
    Though our children NEVER sit on the ground, and only squat. We were in the US this summer and were waiting at an amusement park for a train. All the other children were sitting on the ground, and there were our three . . . squatting. Can take the children out of China, but ….

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