Growing up, my parents encouraged a very civilized atmosphere at the dinner table. We always sat still, we never horsed around, and we never told jokes. It was very proper. It was very civilized and refined. (Not to be confused with fancy.) It wasn’t exactly the fondest part of my childhood, and there wasn’t anything wrong with it. It was in fact a rather forgettable part of my childhood. Sitting at meals with my future family was something I never put a moments thought into as I grew up.
After I got married, meal time was much the same. Meals with my wife were very civilized. We enjoyed pleasant conversation, sitting over exquisitely planned and prepared meals. (She is an EXCELLENT cook.) Then we had our first child. . .
Meals became something that got increasingly difficult to prepare and to enjoy. We had to scarf food down, the menu became more child friendly, and adult conversation become less and less possible as our daughter learned to talk. (She hasn’t stopped talking yet!) As our family continued to grow, our meal time became much more chaotic. Drinks were spilled, plates of food were dropped to the floor, and faces were covered with the dinner’s remains. Meals were becoming less and less dignified as our family grew.
Somewhere along the way, something happened that my wife and I had never intended. We started playing with our kids at mealtime. I can’t remember exactly how it started, but once we saw what had begun, my wife and I silently agreed that there was nothing wrong with a little playfulness at mealtime.
We don’t have a particular pattern that we follow. We don’t even feel the need to joke around at every meal, but when the silly bug bites, we don’t put a limit on the playing around. (As long as there is no inappropriate joking, or food fights.)
Some of the dinner games we enjoy are “living food” that doesn’t want to be consumed, slurping in long strands of spaghetti, pretending to fall asleep into your plate of food and “waking up” with sauce all over your nose, and making food puns (with the older kids).
Dinner time is certainly a memorable experience for my family.
On a side note, we have been REALLY careful about stressing to our kids the difference between what is acceptable at home and what is acceptable at a restaurant.
Photo Credit: powertochange.com