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Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Sometimes It's Just Hard To Sit Still: Dinner + Little Kids

What is reasonable to expect of little kids at the extended-family dinner? For my four boys, a favourite activity is sliding off their chairs and disappearing under the table briefly, only to suddenly reappear on their seats again. Sitting across from them, they look like a pack of gophers popping in and out of their burrows.

NOT what dinner looks like at our house!

Due to this tendency, I usually allow my boys to leave the table between courses, so that they can play, away from the eating and conversing adults. Last year, my laxity produced a few critical comments from grandparents and some great-uncles and aunts: "They need to learn to sit still and eat together as a family!"

I certainly agree: kids can --and should-- learn to participate appropriately in various social scenarios, including siting for the duration of a meal, waiting to be served and enjoying conversation with others. However, I also think we adults need to be realistic about how and when that will happen.

At the time of the above story, my four boys were aged six and under. Let's put on the perspective of, say, a very normal four-year old boy and see the typical extended-family dinner through his eyes:

Mom said two minutes until I get food. That's forever! My tummy's sooo hungry, I'm not sure I can... Oh, good! She putting food on my plate.... Huh? What's this stuff? This doesn't look like what we normally have for dinner. What's that mushy brown thing? I don't think I want to eat that...

I really want a piece of that pie Mom and I made together. So yummy! It's my favourite. When's dessert coming?

Arrrgh, Uncle Somebody is asking me a bunch of questions. Things about school... I don't remember --I haven't been to school for days and days! Why doesn't he ask me about something cool, like the new truck I got? Wait, did I leave it in the other room? I can hardly wait to play with Cousin Jay with it... Is it time for dessert yet?

Seriously, can you say this is a four-year-old's ideal fun-time? So, yes, let's help our children learn the rules of social gatherings and the art of conversation. But, for heaven's sake, let's be realistic and do it in such a way that takes into account who our kids are and where they're at. Relax, all you relatives! They'll get there.

(PS -- For any of you who might be counting, yes, I've been away for several months. What can I say? Family life got overwhelming, and I decided to take my own advice and be Realistic about what I could manage. Now that I'm back, my aim is to post once per month --hey, still trying to be Realistic-- with breaks at busy times. Thanks for keeping on reading!)


  1. Glad to see you posting again!! My philosophy has always been mummy wants to enjoy dinner too so if the kids are finished and the adults are not , they may ask to be excused!


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