I have previously discussed in this post, how dinnertime in my house is the least enjoyable time that I spend with my boys each day. Now, don’t get me wrong. Mostly, my kids are extremely well-behaved, excellent listeners that really do try to be good and follow the rules. Especially my oldest. He is the most rule adhering, good boy I think I’ve ever known. Sometimes to a fault. Especially when he’s telling his younger brother all the things he is doing wrong, and then, inexcusably, moves on to telling his MOM how she is breaking rules. Hush, kid. Go play.
The one exception to this good behavior (and don’t get me wrong, I’m not one of those delusional “my kids are perfect” moms. They are hellions, just like all other kids can be, but mostly they at least try to be good) . . . is dinnertime. Their personalities alter into some sort of Jekyll/Hyde morphation that is truly remarkable. One minute they are sweet, loving, hugging, listening, good boys. Then, the next minute, it’s dinnertime. They sit down at the table, and for some reason turn into little monsters.
Now, lest you think this is some sort of instant personality change, all hulk-like “you wouldn’t like me when I’m hungry” type of thing . . . no. It is gradual. That is why it’s so frustrating. They start off relatively well-behaved. Usually, they start eating their dinner when they sit down at the table. All is good for a few minutes. Then, I find myself having to remind them of certain rules. Telling them to take bites, don’t talk with your mouth full, no singing, put your feet down, etc. Until about 20 minutes in, and it starts getting real, y’all.
It is especially frustrating on those evenings where the hubs is travelling, which is often, so that I am the only one sitting there with the boys. Usually, towards the end of dinnertime, something happens that is hard to watch. They transform into these giggling, goofy, deaf children, that unfortunately start playing off of each other’s silliness. And, no matter what I say or do (except for extreme yelling, which I try to avoid), they cannot be stopped. It is a continuous loop of craziness and non-eating and it drives me batty.
Such was the situation at last night’s dinner. It was well into our eating time, and they both had lots of food left on their plates to eat. I found that I repetitively had to remind them of pretty much every single rule that we have about eating and what not to do/what to do at the table. I was tired of it. And then the craziness and mirror image goofiness began, and I just had enough. So, I decided to make a list. A written list.
My boys know the rules. They were always unwritten, but I tend to have to remind them pretty much every night as dinnertime deteriorates into playtime. So, last night, I decided that they should not remain unwritten. Instead of constantly having to say “stop singing,” or ” take a bite,” I would just point to this list and say “Number 3!” So I started writing. Here is what I have come up with so far (with help from my kids, who know these rules probably better than me):
(These are in no particular order, but just written as I thought of them, or as they did, is more like it).
1. NO SINGING. If they are singing, they are not chewing. This happens A LOT. There is a reason it is the first rule I wrote.
2. NO DANCING. The amount of times they have been flailing around in their chairs and knocked over their drinks, is beyond calculation.
3. NO SHENANIGANS. This one made them laugh, but they were in their manic phase, so it didn’t take much. This is just a general all encompassing one that covers the craziness that ensues about mid-meal.
4. NO TOUCHING YOUR FEET. My youngest is apparently practising to be a circus performing contortionist for when he is older. He is somehow always holding his feet all the way up toward the table. It is gross, and I have to tell him to stop no less than 3 times a night.
5. LEAN OVER. The amount of food that falls in my kids’ laps could probably feed a hungry 3rd world country.
6. NO LOUNGING. This drives me crazy. It’s when they are act like they are sitting in a barcalounger, rather than at the dinner table. This goes along with the previous rule #5.
7. CHEW WITH YOUR MOUTH CLOSED. You would think that this would be a pretty basic rule, right? Well, I don’t really care all that much about the fact that I can see the food in their mouth as they are eating it. Yes, it’s gross, but if they are eating, I’m happy. Not to say that I don’t try to instill in them that chewing with your mouth open is rude, but I’m picking my battles here people. And it is this one: It’s the incessant and non-stop talking that occurs all throughout dinner that I am trying to prevent. If they are eating and have to keep their mouth closed, no words escape either. Ahhh, peace.
8. NO TALKING WITH FOOD IN YOUR MOUTH. As I explained above, this is the route of all evil in my house at dinner time. The talking leads to jokes, which leads to giggling and laughing, which leads to the eventual spitting of food across the table. It is not pretty.
9. IF YOUR MOUTH IS EMPTY, TAKE A BITE! This is the loophole they attempt to create with the talking. They finish their bites and then start blabbing on with the words and sentences and questions, ad nauseam. So, once they swallow, they have to put food in again. You would think that this should remain an unspoken rule, since isn’t that the point of dinner? To take bites. To put food in your mouth when it’s empty. Ha! Novice. You would think that if you don’t have kids of your own, perhaps. Or if you have perfect angels who scarf down all of their food like starving artists. But, this phrase: TAKE A BITE. This is the thing I probably say the most every single day of my life. Every day. I so want to not have to say it and just have them do it. I’m not holding my breath, though.
10. NO WATCHING TV. This isn’t a problem we have since we normally turn off the TV. But every now and again, we have it on for some purpose, and it is directly behind my youngest. So, he basically just turns himself around to watch whatever is on and stops eating. It’s like he can’t help himself. He is drawn to the pretty moving pictures on the big square screen.
11. NO TURNING AROUND. See Rule #10. This also applies to my oldest who will turn towards the kitchen proper to talk to me or his dad if we are doing something in there instead of sitting at the table. We’ve had to tell him to turn around to eat numerous times when we are behind him.
12. NO MAKING FACES. This is the crux of the dinnertime shenanigans that I previously mentioned. The boys start making silly faces at each other and play off of the other’s silliness until dinnertime devolves into craziness. In extreme cases, I’ve had to remove one of them from the table so they aren’t facing each other and made one eat at a separate area facing away from the table. I’m hardcore like that.
13. KEEP MILK AWAY FROM THE EDGE OF THE TABLE. This follows along with that whole dancing thing. No matter how many times I say it, my youngest can’t seem to get the concept of not setting his cup right on the very edge of the table after he takes a drink. Thus ensuring that one random movement of his arm will knock that sucker right over and have me scrabbling to sop up milk that is now spreading all over the table, the floor and my son.
14. NO GIGGLING. Now, you might think this is harsh. I mean, they are young boys. Am I saying they can’t laugh? What am I, some sort of humorless monster? At dinnertime . . . YES, YES I AM. The giggling is usually a result of #12 and it just goes completely downhill from there. Once the giggling starts, all semblance of normalcy and eating ceases and it is usually around that time that mom completely loses her shit and becomes unhinged. Do I love the sound of my children laughing? Absolutely! It is one of the most precious sounds in the world to me. Do I want to rip off their heads and scream down their throats until they cease making that eternal racket at dinnertime? Yep, that, too. Hmmm, maybe I’m discovering the root of this Jekyll/Hyde syndrome of my boys . . .
15. NO PLAYING WITH UTENSILS. It’s a wand! It’s a sword! It’s a comb! Oops . . . it’s on the floor. Instead of waving their forks and spoons around in the air after taking a bite, they need to put those suckers down on the plate. Nothing makes me madder than having to fetch new forks/spoons because they are playing with theirs and they drop them on the floor. Well, nothing except for that eternal giggling, I guess.
This list is by no means all-encompassing, as I’m sure I will be able to add more to it each night. But this covers most of the major issues we have at dinnertime every night. And lest you think I am too harsh or militaristic about this whole thing . . . why don’t you come on over for dinner one night? I guarantee you will be changing your tune soon after around the 40 minute mark. They have brought lesser (wo)men than you to their knees! Bring it.
So, what do you think? Too harsh? Not harsh enough? Go ahead and judge me. I’m game.
What are your mealtime rules? Did I leave anything out? Wanna add to the list? Feel free.