Before I had kids, I was adamant that we would always sit down together for family meals. In the typical manner of a person who doesn’t have kids judging actual parents, I thought it was silly to be serving your children a separate meal. I also had this beautiful wholesome image in my head of us all sitting round the table and having a civilised conversation.
But now that I actually have to share my mealtime with my little anklebiters, I understand why some would rather not.
A dramatisation of dinner in our house
Dad: It’s teatime.
There is no response. The TV drones on in the background.
Mum: It’s teatime! Come sit down at the table, please.
4yo: In a high-pitched tone No! PJ Masks is coming up next! I want to watch PJ Masks!
Mum: We’ll record it then. Presses record button on TIVO with intention of surreptitiously deleting PJ Masks after child is in bed. Turns TV off. Okay, now sit down!
4yo slowly and reluctantly walks towards the table. 2yo continues to play with his Ninky Nonk toy. If you don’t know what a Ninky Nonk is, lucky you.
Mum: Come on! It’s teatime.
2yo: NO! Catch the Nonk!
Mum picks up 2yo who does his best imitation of an angry cat in a bag, noises included. She places him in his highchair and attempts to put on his bib as he morphs from cat-in-bag to enraged Kraken. She passes him his food and he merrily starts eating it.
4yo: wiggling around in chair, not eating. MI, MI, MI-MI-MI. I’m being a Pontipine!
If you don’t know what a Pontipine is, lucky you.
Mum: Please be quiet and just eat your food.
4yo: NO! MI!
Mum: If you don’t eat your food, then you can’t have any pudding.
4yo: BUT I WANT PUDDING! MI MI MI!
Mum shrugs, gives up and attempts to eat her own food while 4yo continues to make irritating noises.
4yo: Need the toilet!
Mum: Well, go then.
4yo: But I need you to watch me.
4yo stands there holding himself and refusing to go to the toilet on his own. Mum gives in and follows him to the toilet and watches while he goes, thoroughly losing appetite in the process. After the deed is done, 4yo returns to his chair and starts happily munching his broccoli.
Dad (to 4yo): So who did you play with at school today?
Mum: And what did you eat for lunch?
4yo: I don’t remember.
Mum: What was your favourite part of the day?
2yo had finished eating and so he had launched his cup onto the floor.
Mum: Okay, hun, but you need to wait until the rest of us are finished.
2yo picks up his spoon, extends his arm, makes eye contact with Mum, and ever so slowly opens his fingers and lets the spoon fall to the ground. Giggles hysterically. Then, he picks up his plate. Mum grabs it before it ends up on the floor.
2yo: PLAY PLAY PLAY! CATCH THE NONK!
4yo: I CAN’T EAT BECAUSE IT’S TOO NOISY!
4yo suddenly falls off his chair from all the fidgeting. Screams at the top of his lungs.
2yo: PLAY! PLAAAAYYY! AHHHHH!
Dual screaming continues.
Dad quickly serves the children some cake.
Silence. Mum and Dad drink wine.
2yo: dropping cake bowl on floor FINISHED!
Are family dinners civilised in your house? Do your kids respond to your efforts at conversation? Do they always need to take a poo halfway through? Let me know in the comments.