Eating with kids is crazy. Or I should say, eating with my kids is crazy. While we eventually got over the stage when Elijah was a newborn and Joe or I would just take turns holding, swaying, and rocking The Bean while the other one shoveled food in the general direction of their mouths, dinner is definitely not a relaxed affair. I don’t foresee it becoming one in the near future either. And I’m okay with it-most of the time. Because despite the fact that all of my mindful eating efforts go out the window as I try to simultaneously feed myself and give two others some help (Joe can generally manage the whole plate to mouth thing by himself at this point), I love being with my family around the table. It’s one of the few (if not only) times of the day when we are all together and seated.
When Remy first arrived, she would sit at the table for as long as we wanted. Now she has adopted Elijah’s “eat and run unless tethered down” style. Dinner quickly disintegrates into a drumming session, a feeding Harvey session, or a singing in very-high pitched voices session.
We have our ways of drawing out dinners in more socially acceptable manners: we say our high and low of the day –some of which are so hysterical and random that they deserve their own post-and we often allow books and watercolors or crayons for those who have hoovered their meals. We have tried to keep technology off the table (which is fairly easy since neither of us has an iphone or ipad) at home and when we are out, but it is quite tempting. I remember many a meal out with my family where we all brought books and read while we were waiting. Reading is more palatable to me than an electronic device because Joe and I know how difficult it is to stop or pause an absorbing video game (hence our respective Zelda and super Mario Brothers marathons). And also because we’d rather it not become a habit. I know, I know: as soon as they turn 5 they will be demanding cell phones and texting and fielding calls throughout dinner. But not yet, I say. NOT YET!
Eating dinner together growing up was just something we did. Almost exactly at 6 o’clock, there would be the sound of the garage door opening and closing, then the echo of my Dad’s footsteps as he came in the house, walked through the hallway to kitchen, placed his briefcase down and greeted us. We would gather from the corners of the house: stopping homework, turning off MTV (when they actually played music videos), or coming in from shooting some backyard hoops. We ate dinner together almost every night, and even when our schedules didn’t allow that (such as when we had dance or volleyball) my sisters and I always had a dinner companion who sat with us while we ate and asked about our day. Now when one of us comes home for a holiday and arrives late from the train or plane, there is always a communing around the table, where we sit and laugh or complain or all of the above.
We are not at the relaxed, conversational stage with Remy and Elijah (not by a longshot). But just as I imagine the way their eyes will look when they take in the Eiffel Tour or the Golden Gate Bridge, I fantasize about the day when we will all hang out around the table, savoring the food and the talk. There are plenty of studies out there that discuss how important it is to eat dinner with your family every night and that the practice yields numerous results such as better grades for the kids, fewer problems with drugs and alcohol, lower chance of obesity. All of that is lovely and even more reason for us to do so, but I just love that my beloveds are close by, that I can help Remy cut up a piece of lasagna even if she is waaaaay too independent to have me actually feed it to her, that Elijah can tell us the latest playground chatter, that Joe and I can look at each other from across the chaos and the interrupted, never-to-be-completed sentences and laugh and enjoy a meal that I hope nourishes our minds and bodies. Even if it only lasts five minutes.