The family meal. One of the great traditions of our culture that is being swept away by the McDonald’s drive-through and widescreen TVs. But in our family, this tradition is alive and well, mostly because we don’t have a widescreen TV and the closest McDonald’s is twenty minutes away.
I think that the best part of the family dinner is that it provides an ideal time for Art and I to instill good table manners in our darling little offspring. Such important social skills as which fork to use (yours, not Daddy’s or the one you found under the couch), how to hold your cup (right side up is the preferred method), and how to carry on a pleasant dinner conversation (no potty stories is a good start) are easily taught while sharing a delightful meal around the dining room table.
Recently Art has been reading Little House in the Big Woods to the boys. They love it. Their favorite part was where Pa butchered the hog and Laura and Mary played with the bladder like a balloon.
“What’s a bladder, Daddy?”
“It’s where your pee goes until you go potty.”
This pronouncement was followed by a predictable fit of laughter from my children who find all things potty-related to be incredibly funny.
But I digress. To me the most fascinating part of the Little House series is seeing how different our expectations of children are from what they were 150 years ago. Including at the table. “Children should be seen and not heard” was the rule, and it was adhered to very closely.
Art and I have discussed how nice this would be in between breaking up arguments, answering questions, and frequent reminders to our progeny not to toot at the dinner table. This conversation, in addition to every other dinner conversation with our children in the same room, took ten minutes and included two sentences from each of us regarding the actual topic at hand.
I suppose we could teach our children to be silent at dinner. But since it’s really hard for a five year old to eat with his mouth taped shut, it’s not really a reasonable expectation. My children inherited my own obsessive need to communicate, and although it does get frustrating to hear the intricate details of what Ryan’s friend Pierce did last night, I truly believe that my sons’ talkativeness and inquisitiveness is a gift. Besides, there’s no way I could be like Caroline Ingalls (Ma in Little House), so why should I expect my kids to act like her kids? One time of Art butchering a pig, handing me the brain, and saying “here, woman, make head cheese,” and I would be so finished.
Which brings me to the actual point of my blog today. Yes, as a matter of fact, I have typed 474 words without actually reaching my point. It’s my blog. You don’t like it, fine. But read it anyway. It makes me happy when people read my blog.
I’m pretty sure that last night several of my female ancestors sat up in their graves and disowned me. Because last night, at our sacred family table, I did the unthinkable. I, the Princess of Something, mother and teacher of my young impressionable children, played with my food. Not only did I play with my food, I encouraged my children to play with their food.
Here follows the pictorial evidence of my great depravity and the way in which I led my children down the same path. I am so ashamed.
It started with me putting grapes inside my glasses for the sole purpose of making my children laugh.
Soon Ryan was following my example (I’m so ashamed!).
Sam, not having glasses (yet, anyway), found a different place to put his grape.
Which inspired Ryan to do the same.
Then Art had a brilliant idea.
It is such a blessing to see my children following in the footsteps of this amazing man.
I think my boys and my husband are so lucky to have a woman in their lives who is as mature, sophisticated, and beautiful as I am.
And yes, those grapes did actually fit into my nostrils. My mother will be so proud.
Sometimes laughter is more important to family life than perfect table manners.