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


  1. This is going to be disgusting, but it's about my brother so it's ok. I totally know what why Hawk thinks he doesn't have to wash his hands. I watched my nearly five year old nephew leave the bathroom without washing his hands, so I called him out on it. My brother responds, "if you don't piss on your hand, you don't have to wash, right buddy?" My nephew nodded. Awesome, no unsupervised visits with their cousin for my boys.

  2. Frickin' hilarious. Reminiscent of our family dinners except that someone has to complain about the food every single time. It could be their favorite meal ever, but they "didn't feel like having tacos tonight". I have yet to please everyone with a meal, but it is on my bucket list. Also, my 5 year old cannot stay in her chair no matter what. It is like she constantly has ants in her pants and it drives. me. insane. Nothing puts me over the edge more than saying for the 4th time, "Where are you going?, Sit down!" You do have me beat with the turd, though. That would definitely cause one to lose their appetite!

  3. And my friends all wonder why I stopped at Singular Child. :)

  4. everyone's dinners are like that, right?

  5. I'll see your turd and raise you a barf:

    DramaQueen (then 7): "what is this?"
    Me: "it's meatloaf. you like it."
    Kitten (then 2): "*I don't like it."
    Me: "sure you do, it's just hamburger, honey."
    Sounds of chewing. Blissful silence.
    Then, suddenly, sounds of wretching, followed immediately by the Kitten barfing all over the dinner table.
    Me: " ... "
    Kitten: "told you i didn't like it."

  6. My 15 year old daughter had a sleepover with two of her 15 year old friends. Fine but come Sunday morning breakfast a big traditional cooked breakfast was called for. I shouted up stairs "breakfast ready" having cooked, sausages bacon eggs tomatoes beans toast juice and coffee and set the table. My call was followed by a number of teenagers and sundry adults running to the kitchen and taking their places around a groaning table. In fact the only person missing was my 15 year old daughter who decided to have a lie in. So there we were parents, various children and two teenagers who I barely knew, both of whom said what a nice change it was to have a family breafast. Maybe I'll let their parents know.

  7. Family dinners=blog fodder. And I like all of the bonding with my family stuff, too.

  8. love this!!! Hawk's Hans Solo makeover idea is AWESOME!! And, I think, a billion dollar business idea in there, somehow.

  9. I love the kids' concept of dating. I also love that you're dating Kate, based on this definition! Finally, sorry to say that I think you are doing a wonderful thing, turds and barfing aside, by encouraging a family dinner. In years to come, the kids will remember these dinners and will ultimately value the time spent as a family. No really, it's true. :-)Keep up the funny, but definitely keep up the good work you do as well!

  10. I as doing okay, until the very end of the story. Then I snorted coffee out of my nose! Thank you very much, and now I must go change my clothes!

  11. "I spend far too much of my life wiping things." HILARIOUS! I love this whole conversation. And I thought of my favorite mommy blog today when I brought my 7 week old to the doctor in yoga pants and clogs. Hahaha. See, you're not alone. Make sure to let Kate know.

  12. Lydia, the posts that contain commentary from your kids are always among my favorite. They are the awesome-est. Oh, and Han Solo = YUM.

  13. My husband is a long haul trucker. I know *exactly* what you're talking about.

  14. I love love love Hawk's comments ... Han Solo makeover? Oh even yesser! His definition of dating? Way even yesser. And I have a Thumbelina of my own, except she's 9. But she's our baby & looks like a princess. The boys better watch out!

  15. you totally had me googling dutch oven! lol!

  16. Han Solo is one of the two people my boys have said I can date since I will no longer be "dating" their Daddy (you, know since Daddy HAS a girlfriend and all). Han Solo or Peyton Manning. Although, now Bug is fairly certain that Han Solo MIGHT be married to Princess Leia so that might pose a problem...

  17. My husband would be SO EXCITED for my daughter to want to make him over into Hans for his birthday. Seriously. I will tell him about this and he will be so jealous.

  18. We too feel it's our job to socialize the animals by dining with them. And yes; it's fighting, spilling, really, really random "conversation."

    You didn't include disgusting chewing noises. That's staple of any family dinner here.

  19. I'm always relieved when the poo, pee, puke, hairball, juice spill, what the heck is that, is on the hardwood or linolium rather than the carpet. And will be the person to clean that up voluntarily - meanwhile on the carpet, first person to see it cleans it up (and I will ignore it if I can).

  20. You had me at "It's a testament to mom-skillz that I actually was relieved it was on the hardwood and not the rug."

    Becca - My cousin and I once stayed at my grandparents' house while our grandma and my sister ran to somebody's house to drop off a birthday present. While they were gone the cat hurled in the front room. My cousin and I investigated, then high-tailed it back to the family room and avowed no knowledge of the mess when they came home.

  21. LMAO at “Dutch oven” and drooled myself silly at the Han Solo pic. Yummy yum yum. Whuck?!?




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