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Dinner is Served

For the last year, we’ve been doing family dinners.  Josh used to get home very late, so either I would eat dinner with the kids, or I would sit with them while they ate and then wait to eat dinner with Josh.  It was a rare occurrence to have a weeknight dinner together as a family.

But now he works much closer to home, and it has flipped: non-family dinners are now the rare exception.  We sit down and have a proper-ish meal with a proper-ish conversation.  It’s practically 1950 in our house, except that I don’t serve highballs before dinner or have Josh’s pipe packed with his favourite tobacco.

I don’t wear a frilly apron.

Everyone has a role to play.  I am the cook.  Josh is the cleaner.  The ChickieNob is the reporter.  The Wolvog is the police.  I prepare a wholesome, nutritious meal (cough).  Josh clears the table and washes the dishes.  The ChickieNob not only tells us everything that happened in her day, but everything that happened in the lives of every other child in school.  (Ever curious what happened in your child’s life?  Come to dinner!)  The Wolvog reminds us often that a topic is not “dinner table conversation.”  I am the person who gets in trouble most often with the policeman.

We’ve been trying to use the family dinners to teach a little etiquette.  For instance, when someone has made you a meal, it’s good form not to whine that you hate what they made.  It’s also polite to not openly gag or to throw your body across the table before the meal is set in place and exclaim that you are going to just die if you have to eat something revolting (that you loved as recently as last week).  It’s not polite to reach into the salad bowl and remove a crouton or a cucumber with your fingers.  And yes, it still counts even if that crouton or cucumber was sticking up at an odd angle, practically begging you to snatch it.  Of course, no phones or screens at the table.

We’ve also been trying to teach them to wait until everyone is seated before beginning the meal.

You know, baby steps.

It’s been interesting to flip our life like this and have one year of family meals under our belts.  I’d like to keep it up from this point forward until they leave for college, though I have a feeling that we’ll be fighting a battle of schedules in the future.  But for now… it works.

What is dinner like at your house?  Most importantly, are their highballs and do you wear an apron?

Sidenote: go work on tomorrow’s #MicroblogMonday post.

21 comments

1 Cristy { 03.15.15 at 8:24 am }

I love that you’re doing this. In an era of “grab-n-go” family dinner has almost been lost. It’s a lot harder to do family dinner because of this and conflicting schedules. Yet as you pointed out, there’s so many good things that can come from it.

One benefit of commuting as a family is that we have family dinner. Usually it’s a mad-dash to warm up whatever leftovers are in the fridge or a meal that was cooked earlier for this purpose, but we do enjoy sitting down and eating together. Though our conversations tend to revolve around not tossing plates or leaving the table unannounced.

2 a { 03.15.15 at 8:33 am }

We don’t have highballs at dinner, but we do have Holiday Highballs. That’s a tradition passed down from my dad, who would fortify himself with alcohol before any family gathering. Now my sisters and I text each other pictures of our holiday highballs.

As to dinner, we usually eat together 5 days a week – the days I’m off plus a couple others. I cook most of the time. I clean up on the days I don’t work. Conversation usually involves my husband and daughter talking while I eat. Then they say I inhaled my food, when really I merelyapplied myself to eating instead of talking, or fetching more ccondiments, or complaining about the food.

3 ANDMom { 03.15.15 at 8:37 am }

We have a lot of the same problem you did, with some added complications. My husband doesn’t get home until 6-6:30 most nights … with bedtime for the youngest starting around 7. (Any later and I’d have to drag him from a sound sleep to get the others to school the next morning.) So weeknight family dinners are logistically hard.

And then … I have the one who does not eat (i.e. is tube-fed). So most nights we don’t even make it to the table because he just can’t stay there long enough for the others to eat, and as soon as he starts whining to be done, the others want to stop too. And when he DOES eat, he eats a lot more and a lot more efficiently if we park him in front of a screen. (Mother of the year award can just be sent to me now.) So weeknights I’m basically a short-order cook, everyone gets something (generally nutritionally balanced) that he’ll eat, and then DH and I sit down after they go to bed and eat together.

We try to make up for it on weekends, but end up playing a lot of I-Spy and such at the table to keep everyone’s butts in their chairs.

4 Mina { 03.15.15 at 9:11 am }

We do family dinners almost every night. Since the children are 4.5 and 2.5 years old, it is not really a relaxed time, I’d say that teaching table manners, and proper cutlery use, and so on, rank midway on my fun-to-do-with-kids list. Whenever I get to eat without children present at the table, I am all tickled pink when I realise that I do not have to help anyone with their meal, and tell no stories about food that needs to be eaten. That said, when we go out dining with the children and they already know what is expected from them, since we practice it every night, and they do behave like two little, shorter human beings instead of wild monkeys, I am ever so proud. 🙂

5 Chickenpig { 03.15.15 at 11:22 am }

Our kids sit down for dinner every night. My husband and I sit down with them, but we usually don’t eat with them. We always use our manners. The only night of the week where screens are involved is Friday, which is movie night. That night we watch a movie chosen by one of the children and eat their chosen take out or theme meal. (D is fond of themes, tacos while watching Turbo, for example). Friday night is the only night where I will eat with the kids. The reason is that I am a very slooooooow eater, and the kids aren’t. While I try to get them talking, they are very business like with their food consumption. I am always left with a cooling plate of food sitting by myself. Since I eat all my other meals by myself, this isn’t fun for me. Which is why my husband and I eat together later after the kids are in bed.
I have the best conversations with my kids when I am putting them to bed. When the lights are out they feel comfortable talking about just about anything. And at that time they aren’t shoving food in their faces, which helps. But I do have to say, my kids eat healthy food, and they have excellent table manners, since they have been expected to behave at the table since they were old enough to sit at it. Their excellent table behavior is consistently the ONLY thing my kids do (other than use the toilet) which I can point at and say “Yeah, we did that, and we did GOOD.” Considering one of the twins has ASD, that is no small accomplishment.

6 Northern Star { 03.15.15 at 1:15 pm }

We are really enjoying family dinners now that moonbeam is sitting at the table and not in her high chair. She helps set the table (takes great pride in this!) and we love sitting down, the three of us, and sharing dinner (sometimes this is quite literal… Moonbeam eating from our plates instead of her own, which is a battle of wills… Hers is stronger than ours right now on this!).

We take turns cooking and cleaning. But I mostly do both!

7 nicoleandmaggie { 03.15.15 at 1:46 pm }

We do a lot of picnic-style dinners in the kitchen.

8 Working mom of two { 03.15.15 at 3:11 pm }

We do family dinner every night. Kids are 2 and 4 and our focus is on the 2yo not making too much of a mess (the older child used a high chair til 2.5 but the younger one demanded to be at the table at about 18 mo bc she felt left out). The 4 yo has started the ” I don’t like this !” (But you did last week) and other comments. We try to enforce the try one bite rule and sometimes she suddenly likes what we are eating. We’re also trying to teach manners about not saying something is yucky and saying no thank you instead of yelling “I don’t want any!” So there’s a lot of refereeing at this stage.

We are eating a lot earlier than we used to–used to be in the 6:30-7:30 range after the gym but now it’s 5:30-6 to accommodate the kids (and gym when possible is after they go to bed). We are used to eating early now.

9 sharah { 03.15.15 at 4:46 pm }

I DO wear an apron, a practical linen sfriped number from my sister in law. Pre dinner drinks are common, but not required, and never highballs. Dinner itself is usually a grit your teeth affair of conjolling and bribery to get enough food into all of them that they aren’t whining about being hungry before bed an hour later. I really wonder sometimes if family dinner is worth the effort a lot of nights.

10 Lori Lavender Luz { 03.15.15 at 5:39 pm }

Bring back the highball!

(but not the frilly apron)

I’m going to adopt some of your rules, though I have no Wolvog to enforce them. Some nights it seems that the gagging and exclamations of “revolting” are of epidemic proportions.

I’m glad you’re able to time travel like this <3

11 torthuil { 03.15.15 at 6:29 pm }

I always assumed we would do family dinner when AJ is old enough. Both my husband and I grew up with it. I honestly don’t remember it being a big deal as a child so I’m kind of surprised to read about all the challenges the other posters mention. Right now family dinner involves Mr. Turtle and I eating in front of the TV. Although the TV is there it really is about us sharing time together. We eat Sunday breakfast at the table. :-p It will be interesting to modify those rituals as AJ grows (we’re certainly not putting her high chair in the TV room, gross). But I believe it is absolutely a life skills to eat a decent meal with good manners, so I WILL. DIE. ON. THAT. HILL. LOL!

12 coffeegrl { 03.15.15 at 6:37 pm }

We have no highballs. But we love family dinners and are incredibly lucky to be able to schedule them as such. We even have “special Sunday night dinner” to help us ease back into the week. Essentially this entails candlelight, a reflection from each family member on highlights of the week and generally enjoying the company of our little family before we launch back into Monday, the school routine, etc. The kids *love* it and remind us when we forget the candles for example. It’s amazing to see how powerful that experience is in our lives.

13 deathstar { 03.16.15 at 3:16 am }

I don’t have the family meal I envisioned in the past. First of all, the bloody TV is on. I don’t face it, but hubby watches it and it’s usually the news. Then there is the arguing about the kid eating (or rather not eating) his dinner. Or sitting properly in his chair or playing with a toy or not pulling his bowl closer or….. I have even resorted to trying to sneak in some reading at the table since no one is actually listening to me. I was chided for that but then I mentioned that if I can’t read, then the TV shouldn’t be on either. I have totally lost control on my dream. Help!

14 JustHeather { 03.16.15 at 5:23 am }

I do wear an apron often times, to cook in only (if I remember to take it off). No highballs here, not 100% sure what they are, but I’m assuming alcohol is involved. 😀

As for dinner, I do sit with Paxlet for dinner time M-F and hubby will if he’s home, but he usually comes home from work late(r). Weekends we do all sit together. Meals are decently healthy most days and there are not really any issues with Paxlet eating. Some days he likes spinach, others he will gag. LOL
Our biggest manner concerns at the moment are quite age appropriate (2,5yr), I think: one (small) bite at a time, not talking with mouth full, using silverware instead of hands and sitting nicely in the chair because he refuses his high chair.
We also have many conversations and stories while eating and every other moment of the day. This boy isn’t quite. I’ve been told he takes after his mom. 😀

15 Lindsay | Solo Mama { 03.16.15 at 9:20 am }

On weekdays, my kid is usually exhausted after a long day at daycare, and I’m tired from a long day at work. We always sit down at the table to eat together, but whether or not she *actually* eats is unpredictable. Since she’s not (yet) much of a conversationalist, we always listen to podcasts. Might as well learn something if we’re not talking much!

16 Karen (formerly Serenity) { 03.16.15 at 10:16 am }

OMG we have the same family dinners. Except we need a ChickieNob because we just have Jeff and I and Owen is the police.

🙂

17 earthandink { 03.16.15 at 11:57 am }

I love sitting down to eat and making a bit of a production about it. I’m alone, so it would just be me. But I like the ritual of it. No highball. It would be nice to include a more frequent glass of wine, though. (I’m trying to remember the last time I had wine …. maybe New Year’s?, hmm.)

ANDMom I know a bit about all of that and you go to the front of the line for mother of the year. One person’s opinion.

18 loribeth { 03.18.15 at 7:20 pm }

Love this post. 🙂 Family dinners were the norm when I was growing up. My sister & I were involved in tons of stuff at school & in the community, but we almost always still managed to sit down together as a family. It was nice, and I think it’s important. Sunday nights were special because we were allowed to eat on TV trays in front of the TV set and watch Walt Disney. 😉

Since there’s just me & dh today, most dinners are family dinners. Sometimes we even bring our books to the table — no parents around to yell at us to be sociable. 😉 No highballs and no aprons. 🙂 My parents, though, often have a rum & Coke before dinner/while they’re cooking, especially in the summer when they can sit out back on the patio.

19 Geochick { 03.27.15 at 6:46 pm }

No highballs. Just wine and beer…and well this week I found vodka when S was sick and I didn’t want to tempt myself by opening a bottle of wine.

20 Geochick { 03.27.15 at 6:48 pm }

What happened to the rest of my comment?? Ok, so we switch off cooking and cleaning duties and usually sit down to dinner all together. These days that includes trying to feed the baby at the same time we are eating and also trying to convince X to just try one bite before calling a food disgusting. The picky eater thing is downright annoying. Anyone have a magic bullet trick to that problem??!

21 BattyNurse { 03.28.15 at 6:59 am }

Dinner at my place usually involves keeping 1-2 cats away from my food. I saw it recently depicted in a cartoon on FB and could just nod at the truth.

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