Children and Fine Furniture, by Mike Danial, Stickley Furniture Co.

A finely made, beautifully finished dining table might be one of the best things to happen to your kids.

The following is not a lecture, it’s just an observation.

I have been here at Stickley for 35 years and will likely hit 50 years with more to spare.  I have seen it all.  One of the reoccurring comments I hear from parents is, “We do not want to buy nice furniture until the kids are grown up because they’ll ruin it”.

I think they are trying to avoid parental responsibility.  That comment can be translated to “We do want to take the time and effort to train our kids to behave.”

A child needs to be taught table manners in addition to all other types of social behavior skills.

Think about this; children do not know the difference between furniture that is expensive or inexpensive.  Sure there are differences in finish durability but they do not know the difference between those either.  Only the parent really knows this information.

We parents should teach our children that ALL the objects in the home are valuable.  Having a room when the children are allowed to run roughshod over the contents is not a good idea

In reality, furniture accidents are going to happen.  So, in regard to a table, the best lesson we can bring to our children is that it is good manners to respect and protect things that are valuable to us.  Mom and Dad are going to protect the table with a pad or a tablecloth for the times when we are eating at it.  If something spills, the table is not damaged.  In this way we teach our children a lesson on how parents protect what is valuable to them.  This lesson has some pretty obvious correlations.  In time, you teach them that just as objects need protection, people do too.

Let them watch you polishing the table to bring out the beauty. Let them grow up to remember the smells of paste wax or the scene of Dad working to make the table look beautiful.  Let them see their Mother take pleasure in the beauty of the wood.

Practically speaking, there are some really pretty tablecloths out there in the market.  And they can perk up a room too so you should use them when the kids are eating.  And get a colorful and pretty tablecloth…and the kids will learn to enjoy that too. Be seasonal with tablecloths to teach that good design can be part of everyday living.

But…here’s the neat part.  At times when you and your spouse are sitting at the table with a cup or coffee, let the kids see you using only coasters without the cloth.  Let them see that you can enjoy the beauty of the wood because you are grown ups and have good table skills.  Let them know that as their table manners grow, they too can sit at the nice table without the need for protection.

And when the real damage should happen, there are lessons there too.

When people buy fine, new furniture the tendency is to live in fear of the first dent.  I can attest to living my entire life with Stickley furniture. My great-uncle Jim, who worked here for 30 years too, often gave pieces to my Mom. One day I tried to break a coconut on the tabletop and I made some very nasty dents. My dad punished me and the dents remain to this day. As time went on he never let me touch them up, even as I became the restoration expert as Stickley!  He laughed saying he wanted the dents to be there when I had my own kids so he could show them what I did!

Now my Dad is over 80 and cannot often remember my name or even who I am but when we sit at the table and as his hand rubs the dents, he looks up at me and with a knowing smile says, “You did this”.  And then I know he remembers who I am.

Don’t feel too bad when the dents come because someday they will be very dear to you.

Our kids are grown and gone and I still choke up when I write this.  I cherish those dents and nicks the kid’s made on our Stickley.  They are memories of family life.