By: Mary Fran Bontempo

Eating UtensilsDave and I were sitting down to breakfast at one of our favorite Ocean City eateries when we noticed something shocking going on at the table next to us.

Not shocking as in horrifying, which I’ve also seen in restaurants–public restrooms anyone?–but shocking as in “Whaaaaat?!”

Seated next to us was a father and his two sons, who had just been served their pancakes. As we surreptitiously watched (it’s never polite to stare at complete strangers in a restaurant), the boys’ father got up from his seat and proceeded to lean over and cut his younger son’s pancakes into small pieces. The older boy sat waiting, patiently looking at his meal, until his dad was through with junior’s plate, whereupon he reached over and did the same thing to the older son’s food.

Now, I don’t know them, and it’s possible they’re just really, really big for their ages, but as a mother of three, I’d peg the younger boy at seven or eight and the elder at eleven or twelve.

Eight and twelve. With daddy still cutting their food.

Okay, I’ve been guilty of being overprotective and occasionally coddling when my kids were young, but come on. First of all, these were pancakes, not a slab of rawhide. They were cut with a butter knife, not a hatchet. In fact, they probably didn’t have to be cut at all–a mere creasing with the side of a fork would have done the job nicely.

The kids didn’t seem to be impaired in any way, other than perhaps by their well-meaning father, who seemed convinced that simple table skills were beyond his progeny. (I was just waiting for the dad to hold a tissue up to the twelve-year-old’s nose and command, “Blow!” Fortunately, that didn’t happen.) And these were well-behaved and probably very nice kids, as was their father, I’m sure. If the meal called for serrated edged steak knives, a little help may have been more than in order. But cutting their pancakes?

I swore this would never be me, but well, here goes…when we were kids, we were told to go outside and play, with no contact with our parents until we had to come in for dinner. We drank from the garden hose. We never wore seat belts. We put sugar on our Frosted Flakes. We sat too close to the TV. And we cut our own food. Heck, most of the time, my father wouldn’t even eat with us, so we had to cut our own food, or pick it up and gnaw on it whole, which we also did on occasion.

I know times have changed and the world is a more dangerous place. But the last time I checked, a butter knife was still a butter knife; I doubt junior would sever an artery while hacking away at his breakfast.

More important, though, kids need to know that their parents think they’re competent and trust-worthy. Letting them cut their own food seems like a relatively easy first step along the road to independence, which will eventually have them moving out and living on their own.

Believe me dad, you, too, will some day want that to happen. Do yourself a favor; hand over the cutlery.

What’s your take on too much parental “contributing?” Click “comments” below and share.