Monday, March 7, 2011

The Importance of the Family Dinner

The children and I were eating dinner recently.  I am one of those people who feel that it's important to sit down to a meal together every night, even if Daddy can't always join us.  We talk, we hear about everyone's day, we eat some nice food.  Or at least, that's what it's supposed to be.  In reality we have about four seconds of conversation before someone has to pee or they start bickering or something gets knocked over and I have to wipe it up. I spend far too much of my life wiping things.

On this particular evening, I was serving a delicious Beef Burgundy that I'd braised for hours in the new Dutch oven that the Cap'n had just given me.  That's correct. My husband gave me a Dutch oven.  You may laugh now if you're one of those people for whom a "Dutch Oven" connotes a more colloquial meaning. Moving on.

The conversation and events that follow serve to illustrate that despite the significant body of research and evidence that The Family Dinner is important to the social and moral development of children, there is no point in me trying to serve a civilized meal to my kids when they are clearly part howler monkey.  In the future I'm just going to send them to the playroom, turn on the TV and throw bananas down the stairs at them.

I'm not going to argue with this.
Hawk (age 5): Who has the next birthday? Is it me?
Lydia (age 38): Daddy has the next birthday. It's in a couple of weeks.
Mini-mini-me (age 2): (starts singing Happy Birthday as loud as possible)
Hawk: I know what we need to get him for his present...
(his dramatic pause is somewhat undermined by ongoing screaming of the birthday song)
Thumbelina (age 7): Just say what it is! WHAT?
(waits for silence)
Hawk: A make-over.
Thumbelina: Oh yeah!
Hawk: Wait for it... A STAR WARS make-over.
Thumbelina: Oh no.
Hawk: Oh yes. We will make him look just like Han Solo.
Lydia: I'm actually good with that. 
Thumbelina: That's the dumbest idea I ever heard.  Why not make daddy over into someone cool?  Like that guy. You know... The old one.
Hawk: John Adams?
Thumbelina: Yes, that's it.
Lydia: Are you talking about John Adams, the second President of the United States?
Hawk & Thumbelina: Yes.
Lydia: I don't understand...
Hawk: John Adams is old and stupid and probably already dead. Han Solo is better. Han Solo is the best. It's the awesomest idea ever, Thumbelina. If you had a brain you would know that.
Thumbelina: MOOOOM! Did you hear what that stupid baby brat just said to me at the dinner table?
Lydia: Apologize now! Both of you.
Thumbelina: Me? Apologize for what?
Thumbelina: I don't think I said that, but fine. Sooooorrrrryyyy.
Hawk: Fine! Sorry!

There's a momentary lull where people actually eat their dinners. There is peace.  There is the sound of chewing.  Someone says something nice like: "this is good meat." And then Hawk jumps out of his chair and runs to the bathroom.  And comes back to the table in 23 seconds which is a dead give away that he hasn't washed his hands. 

Lydia: Boy. Go wash those hands.
Hawk: But I don't have to.
Lydia: Now.
Hawk: Really. I don't have to. You understand, right?
Lydia: I understand that you better wash your hands or you're going to straight to bed.
Hawk: (Starts inexplicable freaking out and crying) You don't understand! I don't have to!

But he eventually stomped his way to the bathroom and washed his hands.  I know that he did this because he then stomped back to the table and put his ice cold, dripping wet hands on my face so that I could smell the soap and feel the water. Some of the water dripped into my Beef Burgundy.

Hawk: Mommy, I know why you like the Han Solo make-over idea. 
Lydia: Do you really?
Hawk: Yes. It's because of the romance and the dating.
Thumbelina: What do you know about romance?
Hawk: Only everything. I know that women and teenagers LOVE it. They both love the romance and that's important because woman and teenagers are not the same.
Lydia: How so?
Hawk: Women are like teenagers.  Only teenagers are a lot more fun.
Thumbelina: Teenagers are more fun. And they do all the dating anyway. Maybe they're fun because of the dating.
Hawk: You're so wrong.  Grown ups do dating.  Mommy dates so much.  She is dating a lot of persons. 
Lydia: Son, I am not dating a lot of persons.  I am married to your daddy.
Hawk: Yah. You're dating him, too.
Mini-mini-me: DADDDY! I love daddy. (slides out of her seat and scampers off singing Happy Birthday)
Lydia: I am not dating persons. What are you talking about?
Hawk: You go on dates with Mrs. McLovin. And with Miss Ellen from down the street.  And when Aunt  Lucy is here you guys are dating the whole time.
Lydia: What does it mean to be dating someone, in your world?
Hawk: It means you go out with them and the kids have to stay at home.  So you go out just with them. And it's at night. And you get in the car and you ride in the front seat.
Lydia: Oh, well by that definition I guess I am dating Mrs. McLovin.
Hawk: (smirking) I told you I know everything about it.
Dress? Yes. Dancing? Yes. Dating? Yes.
Thumbelina: You don't know ANYTHING. Dating has to do with dresses and dancing and boys asking you out on the phone and not kissing.
Hawk: It does sometimes. It also has to do with parking the car when you're in the front seat and looking out at all the lights.
Lydia: You guys are funny. Dating is actually... Wait... What's that smell? Where's the baby?

Then the big kids started hysterically laughing and I knew it was something bad.  I felt a tap on my back.  I looked over my shoulder to see a naked toddler smiling at me and handing me wipes. Then she pointed to something.  She'd just taken a huge deuce in the middle of the hallway. An unnaturally large, man-sized, long-haul trucker deuce. It's a testament to mom-skillz that I actually was relieved it was on the hardwood and not the rug. And that I didn't barf. With the discovery of the enormous turd - the meal was over.

Thank you, children, for reminding me of the importance of The Family Dinner.  

(c)Herding Turtles, Inc. 2009 - 2011

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