Eating in front of the television leads to obesity, especially in children. It infringes on family quality time, time better spent talking, and bonding, and building open lines of communication between parents and their offspring. Dinner time is family time.
You know what else dinner time is? A war of wills between parent and child. A steady stream of “take a bite” reminders (or reprimands) as their little minds are distracted by anything that crosses their line of sight. It’s a test of negotiation skills: “How many bites do I have to take?” “Until your food is gone.” “That’s too many, I’m getting full. How about one more bite?” “I was thinking more like twelve.” “Twelve?! Ok, how about three.” “Eight.” “Six.” “Sold.”
Little Missy? She’s good. She has a hard time keeping her butt in her seat at dinner time. After constant not-so-gentle reminders to sit down, the sneaky devil came up with this little trick. She would put on her best pitiful pout face and say, “I just want a hug.” Which would then lead to five minutes of her walking around the table hugging everyone four or five times. I caught on pretty quick, but the Officer, he’s a sucker. Now, dinner time includes the rule: No hugs at dinner! Which sounds harsh to dinnertime visitors, but, trust me, its a necessary cruelness.
We started playing the fun round robin game of “tell us about your day” at dinner- which the kids actually like. Turns out they like to hear us list off our daily activities as much as we like to hear about theirs.
But, then, we have weeks like this one. The Officer worked four out of seven days. The other three days he spent lying on the couch, or in bed, down for the count, with some sort of sinus infection thing.
All of this added up to a whole lot of quality time with the imps for me. Every fight, demand, pout, negotiation, spontaneous dance party, butt wipe, bath time, story time, lift me up, kiss the boo-boo, I’m hungry, I’m thirsty, school pick up, school drop off, and random errand was mine, all mine. By the end of the week, I was spent.
So when dinner time rolled around on day seven, and a little voice (I couldn’t tell you which one it was, they had blurred together at that point) asked “Can we eat in the living room?” I said, “YES!”
We didn’t need to talk about what we did that day, or that week. I witnessed it all. I heard all the stories. They witnessed my days, running the errands with me, dancing around my legs while I folded the laundry.
What we needed was a break – from each other, and our bonding. They needed it as much as I did. Their bickering had steadily increased over the week. The line between me and them blurred as they lost sight of where their bodies ended and mine began – legs and feet everywhere, in my face, on my head.
Conscious un-bonding. That’s what was called for. Hitting the reset button and re-establishing personal boundaries.
For those thirty blessed minutes, everyone retreated to their neutral corners, and sharpened up their edges. And we became three distinct and separate people again, not one big blobby mess. After dinner, their play was nicer, gentler, less fights and more sharing. I didn’t cringe every time someone touched me, or asked “why” for the thousandth time.
A little brain candy was all we needed to get back on track, and I’m not ashamed to admit it.
Will we make eating in the living room a regularly scheduled event? No, not likely. But, I’m so not above pulling this little trick out every once in a while when we’ve spent a little too much quality time together.