By Guest Blogger Ginny Olson, author of the blog MothersRest.com
I got in this bad habit when my oldest was born of EATING SUPER FAST – and only things you can grab and go, like pop tarts and brownies. That kid is 10 now, yet I still approach food like that.
I wasn’t even aware of my tendency to plough through dinner until I saw a list of random etiquette rules on Facebook. With things like DON’T ANSWER YOUR CELL PHONE DURING DINNER and USE YOUR TURN SIGNAL. Also, SIT LIKE A ROYAL (um, no.)
Then I noticed rule #29: WAIT UNTIL EVERYONE HAS BEEN SERVED TO EAT.
Huh, this sounded familiar. Like I used to know this back in the days before children. Let’s see if you can relate…
Babies are Demanding
You arrive home from the hospital with your dear sweet baby and your life morphs into WHATEVER THE TYRANT WANTS. Sleeping on your own schedule? Forget it. Showering when you want? Nope.
Mealtimes turn into EAT AS FAST AS POSSIBLE. Otherwise known as: find something you can eat one-handed and swallow it whole. Because you’re carrying baby in your other hand and have no idea when the next diaper explosion will come.
I don’t have babies anymore. Yet I still eat like this. Even though my boys are old enough for normal, everyone-sits-at-the-table-and-eats-slowly-with-both-hands, family dinners.
Family Dinners are Complicated
I like the idea of leisurely family dinners. Especially when experts spout off the benefits: Quality time! Connection! Memory-making!
Unfortunately, family dinners tend to devolve into me smiling in a detached way while the boys spaz out about eating chicken again or whining that I put peanut butter on only one piece of bread, instead of the requested 3 slices.
My desire to WAIT UNTIL EVERYONE HAS BEEN SERVED TO EAT quickly turns into get ‘er done. Also known as: EAT AS FAST AS POSSIBLE.
So, the Facebook etiquette list has got me wondering what I’m modeling for my kiddos.
Given that the list also says, TEACH CHILDREN GOOD MANNERS, I polled the boys for a list of mealtime rules. To see what they’ve internalized so far. I’m impressed with the 14 rules they came up with completely unprompted.
14 Dinnertime Rules for Kids
- Wash your hands before you eat.
- Say the blessing.
- Don’t get up unless you must pee.
- Don’t scream.
- Don’t play with toys at the table.
- Don’t chew with your mouth open.
- Say PLEASE and THANK YOU.
- Don’t punch your brother.
- Don’t throw food.
- Don’t use your cell phone at the table.
- Don’t pour milk on the floor.
- Don’t stab anyone in the neck with your fork.
- Don’t stand on your chair.
- Don’t spit your food out on your plate.
I think it’s a good list. (Although 14? Y’all, that’s A LOT OF RULES!)
Saying the Blessing
What’s missing from the list? WAIT UNTIL EVERYONE HAS BEEN SERVED TO EAT. The closest we come to this is #2: SAY THE BLESSING.
Here’s the big ah-ha moment for me. I can easily make the leap between these two rules for my boys. Because the purpose behind both of them is togetherness.
We say the blessing as a family when we’re all seated, when the table is set, and the food is ready to eat. When no one is milling about, heating up leftovers, or cleaning up pots and pans. We’re all sitting together, poised to (fingers crossed) ENJOY a meal.
The blessing gives us a chance to be calm for a minute before we dig in. It centers us and readies our minds, reminding us we’re stepping away from the daily chaos to join together and break bread.
Taking a New Approach
Folks say we never stop learning and growing until we’re dead. Which means we have plenty of time to perfect the family dinner. To slow down and enjoy being with one another. To take a minute before we eat to pause and care for one another. To notice who’s at the table and who’s missing. To lavish in the fact that within the midst of busy school and work schedules, dinnertime is important. Family time is important.
Eating is about togetherness. It begins when we approach the table and say the blessing, when we WAIT UNTIL EVERYONE HAS BEEN SERVED TO EAT, when we recognize that we want to be with each other. Even if one boy will soon be tempted to stab the other boy with his fork.
Ginny Olson is the author of the blog MothersRest.com, a love letter to moms, both new and seasoned, journeying from sleep deprived to joy-arrived. When not riding-herd over two small male children, Ginny runs the career strategy firm, Brand Elements Coaching, where she helps professionals navigate the job market and successfully undertake career pivots. She also teaches Marketing for Nonprofits at the local university.
Ginny’s writing has appeared in GLAMOUR magazine, the Greensboro News & Record, Piedmont Parent, and Triad Moms on Main, as well as several mom blogs. You can follow MothersRest on Facebook.