You gotta love dinner time. It’s that time of the day when all you want to do after a hard day’s work is wind down, destress and sigh with relief. But alas, the battle is about to begin. You know the battle, the one to make a meal that all family members will eat, is regarded as even remotely nutritious, that won’t require three years in chef school to put together nor end with a mound of pans to wash. Yes THAT battle.
I have never been a natural cook. That hasn’t stopped me from having the goal to build up an exotic repertoire of edible meals which my family will eat. Alas…this has alluded me for several reasons, including the time factor, the shopping factor and the children factor. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve looked through recipes that to me look delicious and not too complex and discounted them out of hand because of my children. You’ll know what I mean if you have ever had a meal rejected by one of your offspring because “of the green things in it”, “the weird smell” or because “it has onions and/or mushrooms in it – ugh”. Then there’s the children and the universe factor. This is my term for when one of my children suddenly decides they don’t like a dish anymore after eating it without complaint for 10 weeks straight just because Mars is no longer in line with Jupiter or whatever.
One thing I do regard as sacred is eating around the dinner table and engaging in conversation (schedules of course permitting). As a family we can manage this about four times a week and despite the aforementioned battle, it is one of my favourite times of the day. To me the dinner table is the family board room, where all line managers report and debrief. On a good day with messers 12 and 17, we move beyond the teenage script:
“How was school?” – “Good”
“What did you do?” – ” Nothing”
and we laugh and engage. Decisions are made. Strategies are discussed. Timetables are coordinated.
My dinner time rules are:
- eat only at the dinner table
- no mobile phones, computers or other digital devices to be present
- no distracting television in the background
- all participants are to stay seated at the table until the last person finishes eating – I have no wish to be seasick by the end of the meal with all that bopping up and down
- every member pitches in to clear the table at the end of the meal.
My kids are great lobbyists. Over the years, they have tried to lobby to bend these rules. Each rule has had its great lobby moment with number two getting a work out at the present.
In this hectic world we live in and given the ages of my children, dinner time is one of our last remaining opportunities for face time as a family. Engagement and communication is essential to the knitting of the family fabric. I often marvel at these times just how witty and articulate my offspring can be – even if their wit is directed at my cooking or my person. There is no amount of text messaging or fantastic television shows that will convince me to give up this ritual.
Through this, I hope I have instilled in my boys the art of conversation and value for each other. I hope they continue with these rules when they move to the next stage of their lives, some of which were passed on to me by my own parents.
Now, if I could only teach them the art of eating a chicken leg gracefully with utensils and that sometimes green stuff is actually edible….
This post is part of the you know what Challenge