DEAR MISS MANNERS: My 11-year-old does all things slowly. The beat of his drum is something like one-quarter the speed of most people’s. Normally this is fine, and he can take his own sweet time, but mealtimes are a conundrum.
At dinner, polite behavior requires that diners wait for all to finish before moving on to dessert or other activities. However, this either requires the entire family to sit at the table an extra 30-45 minutes every night (and yes, we’re a typical, busy family with activities and homework to get to), or we leave him alone at the table to finish eating while we get on without him.
Sometimes we compromise by leaving one parent to sit with him. Sometimes we beg him to eat faster, but that seems unhealthy, as well as impolite. How would you address this nightly issue?
GENTLE READER: By encouraging the other family members to stay for a reasonable length of time -- say, 30 minutes -- in the name of togetherness and family loyalty. And when that does not work, tell them that you are supplementing their education with valuable conversation skills -- ones that can help with college and job interviews later on.
Doing otherwise, Miss Manners cautions, will set a precedent that others can leave the table when they have eaten. But if your son is still not finished after the time allotted, move him to the kitchen, where you can still be with him, but also clean and do other household chores. Or increase those job skills by making his siblings do them instead.