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Dinnertime holds hearty helpings of family bonding

February 15, 2001

Dinnertime holds hearty helpings of family bonding

Teaching your child | By Lisa Tedrick Prejean


When guests come to our house for dinner, they don't just come for the food. They come for the experience.

My kids, ages 2 and 5, assure that visitors don't leave disappointed.

The oldest decides on a seating arrangement and makes decorations.

The youngest "helps" set the table.

So what if you get five spoons and three knives? The person sitting beside you probably has six forks. It's a great icebreaker.

Plus, there's always lots of laughter.

The meals we share with guests in our dining room are special, but most nights the four of us congregate around our kitchen table.

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It's a place where we listen, talk, teach, nurture.

It's also a place where my kids challenge the rules, push the envelope and try to gross us out.

They're successful most nights.

But we keep trying to train them. "One step forward, two steps back" certainly applies to their table manners.

One of our rules is: Don't start eating until we say grace.

Our kids interpret this as: Only eat soft things while Mommy and Daddy's eyes are shut. They won't hear you chew.

Here are others ....

Rule: Feet belong under the table.

Interpretation: Mommy and Daddy's legs make good footstools.

Rule: Don't snatch something off someone else's plate.

Interpretation: If your brother/sister is distracting Mom or Dad, the opportunity's there.

Rule: Try a new food or recipe at least once a week.

Interpretation: If it's not made with hamburger and tomato sauce, or if its name doesn't contain the words pizza, taco or meatball, we're not interested.

Rule: You can't have a second sandwich until you finish your first one.

Interpretation: Crust shouldn't be factored into this.

Rule: If you don't eat your vegetables, you can't have dessert.

Interpretation: We only eat vegetables if Daddy makes a game out of it. After all, broccoli should be called trees, and we should pretend that we're dinosaurs biting off the top and then devouring the trunk.

(What can I say? It works.)

Rule: Wait your turn to speak. Don't interrupt the person who's talking.

Interpretation: Sometimes you just have to get loud to be noticed.

Rule: Stay seated until everyone has finished eating.

Interpretation: Yes, but if you bite your tongue and cry, Mommy will pull you onto her lap.

And that is their ultimate goal. I've finished many a meal with a little one on my lap cuddling and jabbering away.

To be honest, it's better than any dessert.

We'll probably never be able to measure the bonds we're building around the dinner table, and even though it's frustrating when all we want is a quiet evening with adult conversation, I know I'll miss these times someday.

Hopefully the closeness will grow as they get older.

If not, I may recapture these days by winging a few peas in their direction.

How's that for fair play?

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