How We Family
This is the first installment of a series called How We Family.
This isn’t meant to be a showboat type post, OK. Far from it.
It’s probably more of a mom blog type of post (try as I might to fight it).
We make sure to have lunch and dinner together, every single day. It’s easy for us because my husband and I are home most of the time.
We (husband and I) have a love-hate relationship with family mealtimes.
OK-lah it’s not that bad la. It’s actually worse (sometimes). No one is crying or screaming in the photo, unlike in our case.
This is how a typical meal would go in our household.
Our toddler, Juliette, helps out by setting the table.
Juliette: The blue cup is for me… The orange cup is for papa… The green cup is for mama.
Me: And how about Oliver (her baby brother)?
Juliette: He doesn’t want a cup. He wants boobie.
The stress starts when we are with trying to get Juliette to sit the hell down.
This alone can take a good 5 minutes.
Me: Jet, can you climb onto your chair, please?
Me: What am I waiting for?
Juliette: I said WAIT. I need to wash something first.
(Seriously, the sass with which this almost 3-year-old operates is incredible.)
Me: But you’ve been washing that cup for the last 10 minutes. It’s time for food.
Juliette: The cup is very dirty. OK, It’s clean now. Quick, say “thank you Juyet for washing the cup”.
Me: Oh, thank you, Jet. NOW can you climb onto your chair?
Once we are all seated, we start with our prayers.
Of course, sometimes the toddler refuses to ‘say thank you baby Jeyus for the food’, so we’ll have to spend 5 minutes explaining to her how He suffered and how He’s sad now and how important it is yadda yadda yadda…
I know. Sometimes I feel like we’re forcing it down her throat.
The one not holding the baby starts preparing Juliette’s plate.
IF she’s in the mood to eat, she’ll start right away.
OTHERWISE, she’ll look at you and say either one of these:
- It’s hot. Bwow for me?
- I want soup (if it’s not on the menu).
- Where is my water?
- The lion dance is coming today. Mmm. Yes.
- Oliver wants me to sing to him. OK, Oliver! I sing now, OK? Itchy bitchy pider…
Juliette knows how to eat by herself, but these days she’s a bit more manja (maybe due to having a new sibling), so she has a few spoonfuls by herself and then decides that I need to spoon-feed her the rest, while I’m in the middle of nursing Oliver. Not her Papa who happens to have both hands free. Me.
So there I am, nursing Oliver, and feeding Juliette at the same time.
I know I shouldn’t do it.
But… What option do I have? Let her go hungry? Anyway, it’s just a phase, right? Right?
Anyway, this is what the meal is like.
Sometimes the kids are crying.
Sometimes the adults lose their tempers.
The toddler ends up in the corner once or twice.
The adults start conversations that they never seem to finish.
Husband: What were we talking about again?
Me: What your client said.
Husband: No, that was from yesterday’s lunch.
Me: Oh, right. You were talking about our plans this weekend.
It’s usually right when we remember what we were talking about that our toddler starts singing.
AND DOESN’T STOP.
Or she starts telling stories about ‘the lion dance’, that she’s been talking about ever since Chinese New Year. Yes, I know that it’s June now. Try telling her that.
Or she starts telling us how we have to go to Tesco tomorrow because we’ve run out of sugar and flour. It’s always sugar and flour.
Oh, and the baby wants to sit at the table, too – so one of us has to sit him on our lap.
He tries to grab everything off the table.
He’s annoyed when he sees spoonfuls of food heading into our mouths and not his.
Meanwhile, the toddler has decided that drinking water counts as eating food.
Husband: Quoi? Je ne comprends pas. (What? I don’t understand.)
Toddler: I want water.
Husband: COMMENT DIT-ON? (HOW DO WE SAY?)
Toddler: I would like… some water… please, Papa.
Husband: Bah voila. C’est pas compliqué. (That’s it. It’s not complicated.)
*This repeats at least 5 times throughout the meal, by the way. Every. Single. Meal. Sometimes I think she’s doing this for fun. Like it’s a ritual for her or something.
Once we’re done, one of the adults washes the dishes. The other one clears the table and tries to get the toddler to eat her last spoonful of rice.
Everyone is singing to entertain the baby.
Yeah, our mealtimes are how we spend time together.
It’s 2 adults against 2 very young kids. (Imagine if we were blessed with twins next)
We don’t eat healthy home cooked meals ALL the time.
We don’t eat organic.
Sometimes we feel so annoyed once the meal has ended that we actually are happy that it’s done and over with.
Sometimes we wonder if we should get a helper to come in just for meals.
One thing for sure, though, is that we eat together.
Benefits of Eating Together as a Family
My husband grew up in a family where children were meant to be seen, not heard. Children below 7 ate their meals with their nanny, before the adults, or in the kitchen. Basically, in his home, you could only join the ‘adult’ table once you learned your manners.
I suppose he probably expects for us to replicate his childhood experience somehow but I don’t see us hiring a nanny anytime soon, and I actually like us having meals together, messy as it can be.
While writing this post, I decided to do some ‘research’, and I read that while it might exacerbate the growth of our grey hairs, eating together as a family has some really great benefits in the long run.
- Dinnertime conversation makes for a lesson in vocabulary
- A powerful predictor of high achievement scores
- Children consume more fruits, vegetables, vitamins, and micronutrients, as well as fewer fried foods and soft drinks
- Lowering a host of high-risk teenage behaviors
- Strongly associated with positive moods in adolescents
- Kids experience less stress and have a better relationship with their parents
Of course, this only applies to happy meal times. Meals filled with time-outs and temper losing.
We obviously have a long way to go.