Dinnertime Downers

DIEGO MARTIRENA/MAPLEWOOD PHOTOGRAPHY, CHICAGO

So many childhood professionals tell us how beneficial family dinners are… or should I say, are meant to be. They encourage conversation, bonding, relationships, social skills, all those good things. Apparently.

It seems I must be doing them wrong.

In my house there is less conversation & bonding, and more complaining & giving out.

Dinnertime is often the most stressful time of day for me. Having overcome the preceeding 2 hours of starvation exclamations, I am often left looking at the dinner that I rushed to get on the table. When dinner is eaten, it is often after 15mins of “encouragement” from both of us…

I sit there trying not to lose my sh*t while the eldest complains that he doesn’t like it, it’s too hot, it’s gone cold, it’s too spicy, it’s yuck, it’s “grosst”… the list goes on.

As regards “conversation” at our dinner table it mostly consists of kids talking non-stop, literaly non-stop, and parents asking/telling/barking at them to please stop talking/complaining/whingeing & JUST EAT ALREADY.

Post-dinner treat negotiations take up quite a bit of time within that conversation… Ice pops are often promised/threatened to be withheld on the basis of how much or little is getting eaten. (Yes I know we are not meant to bribe children with food, but I would imagine food-related bribery & coersion is pretty rampant if the truth was told).

Then the proclamation of “DONE! I WIN!” brings screams of protest from the other sibling… and the refereeing starts… “Yes you are almost done… no he won’t get his pop before you… yes we will wait for you… JUST EAT!”

In the midst of all this, the adults are trying to eat their own meals. In my case, I am shovelling in food on auto-pilot, barely tasting what I carefully planned & lovingly made, looking at the plate as I finish, wondering to myself “Where did that go?”. And not feeling a bit satisfied after it.

Dinnertime is a daily endurance test. If it’s been a particularly wearing day, I let the boys have theirs in the sitting room agog in front of the telly, but the vast majority of days we battle on through together at the table.

Eating dinner anywhere else wasn’t an option when I was growing up, and I do believe it’s the best habit to instill in them.

I hope this is just another of life’s “phases”, and soon we can all sit harmoniously together at the table, and not just consume our dinners, but to eat it & enjoy it… maybe I’m asking too much?

Time will tell!

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