For a number of reasons, but mostly ease our children transitioned from high chair to a toddler table smack dab in the middle of the living room in front the television. Since I would never talk about you, I will talk about me. I relished in the idea of being able to eat while my food was somewhat hot. They are learning independence I told myself. They are learning to feed themselves. They are learning how to share their space. I said a whole bunch of things to make it seem right to have them strategically placed in front the boob tube a synonym for idiot box.
Well the older they got the less likely they became to actually sit down and eat their food. Grazers I called them, after prayer they would take a bite, run a little; take a bite and play a little. Dinner became an all night affair and I was frustrated as I watched my hot home cooked meals turn to ice waiting for the mood to hit them to eat. Usually their plates were still full at bath time and bedtime snacks became their dinner.
So a change had to come and it came in the most traditional of senses…it’s amazing what eating at a dinner table did for our family. Okay so I admit that my kitchen table had become a catchall. It caught all the dirty dishes that didn’t make it to the sink. It caught all the coats, all the mail, all the keys…everything but a dinner setting.
Day 1 went something like this:
“Why we have to eat in here,” Morgan said. “What about my show, I can’t see the T.V.” We laughed and announced that from now on we were eating at the table for dinner. We explained that it’s important for us to talk to each other and to let our food digest by eating slowly. We followed up with reminders about table manners and having to ask to be excused from the table. And our children looked at us like we had lost our mind.
By the end of the week the conversation went like this:
“I like eating at the table,” Morgan said. “How come?” I asked. “Because we get to talk about each other’s day and tell stories,” she said. “So what do you want to talk about tonight,” her dad asked? “I want you to tell me a story she said. After a short pause my husband said “I have a true story to tell you about someone special that died this week, his name is Nelson Mandela.”
After a five-minute brief explanation of apartheid and Mandela’s life, my daughter interrupted and said “so he was like Martin Luther King.” Not a bad analogy for a 4-year-old hearing about Mandela for the first time. So we explained the differences and moved on to the next conversation, which happened to be about dessert. But I was happy, I was pleased that eating at the kitchen table encouraged our family. It helped us initiate conversation. It helped our children focus on eating and family time instead of looking for the next instant gratification through song, color and images on the “boob” tube. Welcome, welcome, welcome to the dinner table.