Learning to Eat at the Dinner Table

If you’re the mother of a young child, you know Murphy’s Law dictates that you cannot have a hot, uninterrupted meal.  Without fail, your child will need something, spill something, or poop on something while you’re trying to eat.  The dishwasher will explode, the phone will ring, a politician will knock on your door, or your cat will saunter through the pet door with a live snake in its mouth as tribute and demand a reward. (Though the latter has not happened, I honestly believe it WOULD have happened by now if we had a pet door.) There are a million different scenarios—some amusing, some not so amusing—that keep you from enjoying your meal while it’s still edible.  The problem with this particular conundrum is that I really enjoy eating.  More to the point, I enjoy eating peacefully and while my food is still hot.

David was never happy sitting still at the table.   He squirmed his way out of every high chair, screamed and whined and complained any time he had to sit at the table, and was generally unpleasant about eating while sitting down.  Until he was about 4 years old, he stood up in his chair while he ate.   Since Stuart and I were  working all day every day, the last thing we wanted to do when we came home at night was listen to a screaming, crying child while we were trying to unwind. (Selfish?  Yes.  What can I say?  We don’t claim to be perfect.)  So, for almost six years we  had maybe thirty meals at the table together, mainly consumed on the coffee table in front of the television.

But about a week before school started, I sat David down for a little discussion.  “You’re going to be in big kid school now,” I said, “so it’s time for some big kid rules.”  And, among other things, I told him that each night he would join us at the dinner table without fussing or whining.  Of course, this brought on a ridiculous bout of fussing AND whining, so I braced myself for Battle Royale 2011.

But that battle never came.  Monday rolled around, and when it was time for dinner David was excited to come sit down at the table and eat with us.  We talked about school, though he claimed he couldn’t remember much, and enjoyed each other’s company.  It was a really nice change from the days of staring blankly at EPSN or Spongebob  or eating in front of the computer in a windowless room while the boys watched television.

The best part about David eating at the dinner table is that he’s eating more at mealtime and snacking less.  There is clear definition between snacktime and dinnertime instead of grazing all day like before.  He has a little snack after school before he starts his homework, then doesn’t eat anything else until dinner.  And there isn’t really an after dinner snack now since he’s eating more at the table.

I’m not going to tell you that it’s all been milk and cupcakes, we’ve had a few tantrums and he’s been sent to his room once, but I’m glad I instituted dinner at the table.  Now if only I could get him to eat more than chicken and potatoes.


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