Dear Childhood Development Scholars:
I have read some of your reports that suggest “old fashioned” sit down dinners increase family bonding, decrease behavioral issues, and possibly even help raise smarter, more balanced, kids.
Well, we sit down together almost every night for dinner, which makes me feel qualified to let you know that you might want to head back to the drawing board with that one.
Pretty much every evening, about fifteen minutes before dinner is ready, I start politely asking my children to set the table. After quite a few minutes of “ignore Mom syndrome” I eventually find a pile of forks (of different sizes) and crumpled napkins in the middle of the table, then I just sit down and yell, “get yourself a glass of milk and come sit!”.
When they finally sit down I see their hands and decide that I really didn’t want them touching our food in the first place, so Mike and I hurry and serve ourselves before they have a chance to grab at anything.
So right there, you can throw out any lesson on manners and etiquette, my kids would just as soon grab a chicken leg and head outside to the fire pit.
And conversation? Last night my husband, in his very best 1950’s Father Knows Best voice, asked our twelve year old, “So, how was your day? Did you learn anything at school?”
And our twelve year old, in his very best pre-adolescent-completely-annoyed voice, (and with as close to an eye roll as he dare get while sitting within arms reach of his Dad), said, “Really? That’s a rhetorical question, right?”
“Well no, it isn’t, and considering the fact that you just used the word rhetorical I think you might be learning more in school than you think.”
“No, I’m not, I learned that from my friends.”
“Actually I’ve met some of your friends, and I don’t think you did…”
At which point, our chatty nine year old (clearly feeling left out of the conversation), chimes in with, “We played with a poltergeist in science today.”
“What?”, the rest of us replied (all with an equal level of confusion).
“A poltergeist. He was kind of a shadow, but kind of a black blob.”
“Well” said her big brother, apparently now an expert on the supernatural, “that wasn’t a poltergeist then, you can’t see those, they are just kind of evil spirits that throw things or possess your baby dolls, or….”
“That’s enough!”, I jumped in, right after taking a healthy swallow of pinot gris, “You should probably stop right there, unless you plan on being the one sleeping on the floor by her bed tonight.”
It is at this point, Dear Scholars, that I wonder: Would we not have benefited equally from a nice quiet dinner in front of the TV?
And then, as I met my husbands gaze across the dining room table, he said to me, “So Mama, the kids are going to clean the kitchen for you tonight?”
I just rolled my eyes and answered, “That’s a rhetorical question, right?”