Saturday, May 21

What happens around the dinner table...

Growing up, especially when younger we always ate at the dinner table.  I remember it with equal amounts of nostalgia and dread.

I do remember learning how to use a knife and fork, how strict my Dad was with table manners - 'Elbows off the table', 'Don't talk with your mouth full',  'Don't open your mouth when chewing' and that dread of all dreads - 'Don't leave the table until you've finished everything on your plate'.

I recall sneaking into the backyard and burying something once in the compost.  Another time I vomited ham-steaks and pineapple all over our glass dining table.  I didn't always conform and I've never been able to eat ham steaks or ham and pineapple pizza since.

Hubby remembers being told to eat the things he didn't like on his place first, and he coined his phrase which he even uses today 'Peas are poison'.  (Luckily the frills adore peas). Talking of peas, I remember peas being used as a pretty hefty threat at the dinner table. 'If you don't eat your peas you'll have to go the kids' home where they shove them down your throat with a fork'.  This was usually enough to have me eating peas in submission, usually doused in tomato sauce (ketchup).

When I was a teenager I don't remember eating at the table as much, moreso the television - maybe this was where the trend started - but then again that could be my hazy memory. I still remember in that period though, family dinners at the table, and moreso with nostalgia.  Sharing the day's events, making plans, talking about food.  There was no longer the crime and punishment of something left on your dinner plate - that was now called leftovers.

These days we eat at the table every night.  The TV is off, we talk about those familiar things - what happened at school, what we're planning for the weekend and of course, this is where my little ones seem to ask the hard questions - 'What is God?' 'How do babies get in your tummy?' and the like.

There are certain rituals in this house too - we always thank the cook, and there are some rules about finishing your plate.  Generally my girls are great eaters so we don't need to pull the heavy that often but we never offer alternatives and unless there is a compelling reason (i.e. we don't like it, they had a lot to eat that day or they are unwell) it's off to their room for the rest of the night to read before bed - i.e. no TV after dinner if they refuse to finish their dinner.  It doesn't happen that often to be honest.  We are working on asking if they can be excused from the dinner table.

It's important to me that we continue to connect each day with each other over our nightly meal.  I worry when I return to work I won't make it home for dinner - what will happen then?  There will always be the no TV and sitting at the table thing, but not altogether it seems.   Perhaps only a few nights a week and the weekends... better than not at all!

Do you regard eating together at the table an important ritual or is it a car-drive or other routine in your day that gives you that interaction?  Are there 'rules' at your house?

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10 lovely comments:

emmaO on May 21, 2011 at 12:04 PM said... [Reply to this amazing comment]

I soooo wish we could all eat together but my husband doesn't get home until 7ish weeknights. It disappoints me that we can't do it more.

We mostly ate dinner together as a family when I was growing up, with the TV off and at the table - it was a good way to catch up on the days activities. I was also made to eat everything on my plate.
That is one thing that I don't do with my kids. I don't have that trigger where I know I am full. So I ensure they at least try it and eat some of it, but don't do the "you must eat everything on your plate."

Super Sarah on May 21, 2011 at 12:50 PM said... [Reply to this amazing comment]

So many of my friends have the same problem, husbands working long hours mean that they very seldom have family dinners round the table. Its tough. We are so lucky that my husband works govt. hours so we eat together as a family at least 3 weeknights, usually more. Weekends are a bit more flexible. My girls are learning to use proper cutlery, set the table, thank the cook and ask permission to leave the table before helping me to clear. I love this tradition, its something I treasure from my childhood, thankfully no bad memories of being made to finish food I didn't want. My number one rule for my girls is that they have to try everything on their plate, if they don't like it, they don't have to finish it.

Anonymous said... [Reply to this amazing comment]

There is some new research suggesting that asking children to finish their plate means they are not learning to listen to their bodies and when they are full - they are just eating because it's required. Research us suggesting thus could be contributing to obesity levels.
We don't offer alternatives and ask whether our daughter is full or hungry and that dictates when the meal ends for her.

Diminishing Lucy on May 21, 2011 at 3:18 PM said... [Reply to this amazing comment]

I too was a memner of the "clean plate club" as a child - something we don;t ever do with our kids.
They are good eaters and we encourage them to try new foods, but we don't stipulate how much or how little they must eat.

We sit at the table every night - TV off, and chat.

Table manners are a big issue for me and lovely husband - so we're instilling them into our kids too...or at least trying to...

Liss on May 21, 2011 at 5:23 PM said... [Reply to this amazing comment]

@Anonymouswe don't make them eat it if they are full, and I agree, that is setting up unhealthy eating habits... What I didn't put so eloquently and quite confusingly I concede is that if they have tried it, and don't like it - fine. If they have made a good attempt and can't finish - that's fine too. But where we have run into problems in the past is whereby they say 'I don't want this' and we don't offer anything else, let them leave the table and then 5 minutes later they are 'hungry'. Wasteful deceit is an issue with some kids, and as I said, not really our kids very often but sometimes they will push the boundaries ;)

The last thing I want is my child sitting there with a meal they are too full to eat and stuffing themselves sick on instruction.

Liss on May 21, 2011 at 5:27 PM said... [Reply to this amazing comment]

@Anonymous I also wish you didn't have to leave your name as an anon! I think you had something valueable and quite justified in saying - it doesn't upset me! It's just a shame you feel this way... :) Maybe next time eh?

Catch the Kids on May 21, 2011 at 5:42 PM said... [Reply to this amazing comment]

We struggle as a family of seven to eat together as everyone is so busy with work, sport, rehearsals, meetings etc. For us, it's often the simpler meals, such as scrambled eggs on toast, that manage to get eaten around the table. The conversation is still gourmet though!

Liss on May 21, 2011 at 5:44 PM said... [Reply to this amazing comment]

@Catch the Kids Haaa! Love that 'The conversation is still gourmet though!' <3

The Professor's Wife on August 30, 2011 at 10:22 AM said... [Reply to this amazing comment]

I am a stay-at-home wife (yes with no kids) and I try to serve dinner at the table every night. Once in a while we will watch a movie while eating dinner, but not very often. I feel like we have deeper conversations when we sit together at the table, and food seems to taste better somehow.

bernie j said... [Reply to this amazing comment]

We used to have the 'I'm full situation' and then be confronted with them 5 minutes later telling us that they were hungry.

We know operate on the 4:30pm rule. Nothing to eat after 4:30pm. It now works a treat - no tears, no tantrums and they generally eat whatever is placed in front of them.


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