The Rules of Dinner

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):

The Rules:

(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.

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41 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. red
    May 02, 2012 @ 08:58:59

    Um, pretty harsh – that’s a long list. I just remember two rules repeated ad nauseum in our house:
    No singing at the table.
    No talking about TV at the table.

    Actually, the rest were probably there, just didn’t need repeating as much. Although I don’t think any of us were touching our feet or dancing. And as an adult, one thing I can’t abide is chewing with your mouth open. I don’t know why. We used to “play looky”. Where you get your siblings attention: “Hey Diana!” and when they look over you say, “Play looky!” and open your mouth to show your food. Mom and Dad hated it, but we weren’t chewing, so it was our loophole.

    Reply

    • mistyslaws
      May 04, 2012 @ 15:46:00

      Our big problem is the constant talking with food in their mouths or worse yet, singing. They love to sing and dance while at the table. Against the rules!!

      Reply

  2. thoughtsappear
    May 02, 2012 @ 09:07:02

    “IF YOUR MOUTH IS EMPTY, TAKE A BITE!”—Boo and Radley don’t have this problem. They need rules like, “Remember to breath” and “Chew your food a few times before swallowing.”

    Reply

  3. about100percent
    May 02, 2012 @ 09:16:29

    I have one rule that I have been using since my oldest was 2 (it’s your #5). He is now 11. I’ve been saying it at least ten times a day for 9 years:

    Eat Over Your Plate.

    More recently, I’ve added:

    If You Don’t Like What I’ve Prepared, There’s A Jar Of Peanut Butter And Loaf Of Bread In The Pantry.

    Reply

    • mistyslaws
      May 04, 2012 @ 15:48:35

      Oh, when my kids get older, they will definitely be directed to the pantry to get their own damn meal if they want to whine about the one I made.

      My oldest went through a phase that I finally broke him of, where he would come to the table, look at the food and go, “awwww, I don’t like this.” Every night. I about wanted to smack him. He doesn’t say it out loud anymore, even if he still thinks it, so I’ve won that battle at least.

      Reply

  4. Jana
    May 02, 2012 @ 11:05:05

    Last week my hubby was gone ALL DAMN WEEK, dinner time was filled with all sorts of shenanigans! I don’t know how many times I started a sentence with, “I have already asked you to not…….” I feel ya Misty!! Also, finish your dinner because yogurt, fruit, cheese..etc will not be available later!!

    Reply

    • mistyslaws
      May 04, 2012 @ 15:49:44

      My favorite is when they get down after a torturously long dinner, full of yelling and shenanigans galore . . . and they immediately ask for a snack. I wanna kill those buggers!

      Reply

  5. Leauxra
    May 02, 2012 @ 11:28:20

    Yeah, not sure. Seems about right… of course, I don’t have kids, so what do I know? I DO know that they need to get all these rules down pat before you can take them out to eat.

    But what do I know? Dad would bop me on the head if I misbehaved, or I would have to sit on the stairs while everyone else ate if I acted up too much (on the stairs there is nothing to do).

    Reply

    • mistyslaws
      May 04, 2012 @ 15:51:39

      Oooh, sitting on the stairs. I have never thought of that one. Storing that for later use, thanks.

      See, I’m this strict at the house so that when we do go out, they know the rules and I don’t have “those kids” in a public restaurant. You know those kids, right? The ones the parents completely ignore through the entire meal so the kids run around screaming and bothering other people the whole time? Yeah, my kids will NEVER be those kids, thank you.

      Reply

  6. Vesta Vayne
    May 02, 2012 @ 11:28:42

    BWAHAHAHA! No touching feet. That is awesome (but not to you, obviously).

    Reply

  7. jen
    May 02, 2012 @ 12:14:27

    What the hell is the dealio with boys and their incessant need to fondle their feet during dinner? We have the “no feet when we eat” rule which should go without saying, but sadly, not so much.

    Reply

  8. hmiliman
    May 02, 2012 @ 16:20:45

    I have no little spawn-lings of my own yet, but I remember constantly getting yelled at as a child for not sitting with my feet under the table. I was always ready to jump up and leave the table, so I sat sideways. Also, no using the word “disgusting” to describe dinner. Even if there are peas on the plate. I, of course, had to remind my mom of that one the one time I tried to make tuna casserole….

    Reply

  9. Danielle Charlton Geer
    May 02, 2012 @ 16:25:39

    I raised three boys. By myself. Single mom.

    Mealtimes are HELL.

    I had the Mealtime Cryer: The child who hated everything, didn’t want to eat it, refused to touch food that was red, green, or white, and would sob over his dinner because he knew that if he didn’t eat it, he wouldn’t get dessert.

    Which created The Instigator: The child who would put the ketchup bottle or the guacamole right next to this child’s plate, so that he would get even more upset and cry even harder, and then eat dessert with his mouth open so the Cryer could see what he was missing.

    And my favorite, of course, was The Spiller: My precious youngest child who literally couldn’t get through a meal without knocking his glass over.

    Good times.

    I had a rule you didn’t mention, however, which leads me to believe your children are more domesticated than mine were:

    No Farting!!

    Because Mealtime Farting is a huuuuuuuuge laugh inducer, which in turn leads to giggling, laughing, dancing, knife and fork sword fights, foot touching, etc. etc. etc.

    Reply

    • mistyslaws
      May 04, 2012 @ 15:55:31

      I haven’t had too much trouble with that yet. I mean, they do it, but not usually at the table, thankfully.

      My oldest is THE ENFORCER. Ever since the rules were written, he spends most of the meal telling the youngest which rules he is breaking at any given moment. We have even added 3 more based on his own recognition of rules my other son was breaking. Sigh. I’ve created a monster! He spends more time pointing out what the youngest is doing wrong than eating. Crikees.

      Reply

  10. Carrie - Cannibalistic Nerd
    May 02, 2012 @ 18:40:34

    I break a lot of these rules on a regular basis. I need to get my act together.

    Reply

  11. weezafish
    May 02, 2012 @ 23:57:17

    I recognise all the dinner table behaviour you mention, but it doesn’t mention my main mealtime rule; “CHEW!!!”. I have a two year old who thinks he can swallow a whole sausage in one go.

    Reply

  12. The Real Dave
    May 03, 2012 @ 11:15:13

    You’d never want me over for dinner, because I would probably instigate tons of silliness with your kids.

    Reply

    • mistyslaws
      May 04, 2012 @ 15:57:48

      Remarkably, they are their best behaved selves when others are over to distract them. I think a lot of this is from boredom because they AREN’T being entertained. So . . . come on over!! 🙂

      Reply

  13. mark
    May 03, 2012 @ 13:37:11

    Great start – I can see this growing into something that rivals the tax code.

    Reply

    • mistyslaws
      May 04, 2012 @ 15:58:26

      My hope is to eventually have a bound book that I can just drop on the table with a huge THUNK to get their attention when they are breaking any of said rules.

      Reply

  14. atypicallyrelevant
    May 03, 2012 @ 15:00:24

    Your dinner time is an hour long?!? Do kids even have attention spans that long?

    /not a mom.
    //your goodies are in the mail.
    ///slashies!

    Reply

  15. Jeff Laws
    May 03, 2012 @ 23:36:26

    The more rules the better. We implement most, if not all of yours but these are the ones we have to say repeatedly

    My daughter – No singing or humming, eat over your plate, chew your food, eat everything or sit there till bedtime, and face forward.

    My son – Stay awake and quit playing with your food.

    Reply

    • mistyslaws
      May 04, 2012 @ 16:00:18

      Yes, some of these are repeated more than others, depending on the child. The feet thing is totally my youngest. TAKE A BITE applies to both, every single night.

      Reply

  16. Andi
    May 03, 2012 @ 23:52:46

    You had me at no singing, which I can recall yelling more than once when my kids were small. We have had the sillies here too, but we kept rules to a minimum due to the following:

    1) EVERYBODY has/had cups with lids and straws until they were in double digits. Trust me, all the rules in the world weren’t going to keep them from spilling.

    2) Many days, we don’t eat all at once — thanks to various activities, there is no attempt to get everybody to sit down at the table at the same time. When we do eat together, it’s usually a holiday or special occasion where there are several grown-ups running interference.

    3) My kids are pretty good eaters. Actually, these days my biggest challenge is to keep them from eating between 5 pm and dinner, because then they spoil their dinner. And THAT drives me BATSHIT.

    Reply

    • mistyslaws
      May 04, 2012 @ 16:01:15

      I keep waiting for them to get old enough to have that boy metabolism so they will just scarf down their food. When does that happen, like age 9 or so?

      Reply

  17. Becky
    May 04, 2012 @ 10:21:01

    This is the funniest thing ever. I thought I was the only evil mom who had to make ridiculous rules like no giggling during dinner. Yes I love my kids, but letting them get up and dance 3 times during a meal is just a great way to make me insane.

    Reply

    • mistyslaws
      May 04, 2012 @ 16:04:22

      I know, don’t you feel like such a hard ass when you are telling your kids they can’t laugh? I feel like the wicked witch on many an evening. But alas, that is my job, so oh well.

      Thanks for stopping by!! 🙂

      Reply

  18. Brett Minor (@brettminor)
    May 04, 2012 @ 18:10:22

    You are not being harsh. I completely understand. I used to make my son go eat in the laundry room if he couldn’t get his act together at dinnertime. He hated it, but it made him try harder to behave the next night.

    Reply

  19. wicked opinion
    May 07, 2012 @ 22:11:43

    I only have one girl who eats like a trucker so you can call me a bitch and mumble about me under your breath if you want.

    RE: shenanigans, singing, dancing, talking, lounging, feet (EWEWEW) touching, etc

    AS SOON AS bullshit ensues, the offender is to be sent away from the table for the night. Hungry or not. Game over. They already know the rules, but the rules are empty threats without enforcing them! Do NOT go over the rules, give warnings, etc. Don’t even show emotion. Just calmly inform the offender that dinner is now over for him and buh-bye.

    Now I know this is against every parenting instinct you have. AH KNOW. HOWEVER. It sounds like A) they are definitely not hungry anymore if they are fooling around and B) it’s become a game to see how long they can FUCK WITH YOU. You da mama. End it.

    As far as TV and turning around, that’s on you. I have yet to meet an ADULT who can rip their eyes away from a functioning television set. That’s just unfair expectations. And turning around to speak to someone who is speaking to you is natural AND good manners so I dunno about that one.

    Spilling? Eh. Covered cups with straws or no beverages at dinner.

    There’s a reason why families used to make kids eat a separate meal earlier. I personally think “the family meal” is HIGHLY overrated and I don’t believe all that After-School Special/Hallmark channel crapola they’ve told us about how it makes a family stronger and creates a “bond”. *eyeroll* I think it just makes everyone even MOAR STRESSED at the end of a long day.

    How’s THAT for an opinion? 🙂

    Reply

    • mistyslaws
      May 10, 2012 @ 13:49:30

      Damn, girl. That IS in fact quite the opinion. Might I say, even a wicked opinion? 😉 (Sorry, it was right there!).

      Now, as to your points . . . you are entirely correct about the TV. That is why we turn it off at dinner. But there have been a few exceptions, and my youngest immediately swivels in his seat to watch it. You may be right that it is just human nature, but it is still one of the rules.

      I have done the “dinner’s over” thing, and my kids know I mean it. Up to your room, do not pass go, goodnight. But, because the youngest knows I mean it and hates going to bed, he will immediately start shreiking like a banshee and throwing the most awesome of all temper tantrums, and god help me, I cannot stop giggling at the display. I just can’t help myself. He is a riot. Um, I mean . . . my heart goes out to his poor beleaguered sould. Yeah, that’s what I meant. But, it has happened, and they know I’m serious. But I do give a warning beforehand. It usually does the trick.

      Also, I’ll let you in on a little secret . . . ready? We don’t do the family dinner bullshit. Shh, don’t tell the mom police on me! The hubs and I are usually on some type of different diet at all times, so trying to match everyone’s eating preference of the week is just too damn hard. So, I make dinner for the kidlets, feed them, bedtime . . . THEN the hubs and I each make our own dinner and get to relax whilst eating it. Works for us, even though it’s totally against all “family bonding” rules. Eh, screw it.

      Reply

  20. Sars (@yougotsars)
    May 10, 2012 @ 13:26:20

    just a couple tidbits from the former child rearer yet never mom…

    re #10/11: why is the TV on? If it is not on the offense cannot occur. My sibs (the rearee’s) had no option about this, Thus sparing me hours of “you’re not our mom” fight. The nephew was easier in this regard because I don’t have a TV thus it is not available for watching and he hasn’t figured out the giant computer monitor is where the tv comes from.

    Where is the “no elbows on the table” rule? I got smacked with a wooden spoon for that crap. Also for singing and pushing my food around my plate. I learned when I was older to take only what I can eat and then didn’t have that issue any longer.

    thanks for the list. Should I ever be an actual and not just rearer… I will print and make a shrine.

    Reply

    • mistyslaws
      May 10, 2012 @ 13:50:57

      Yeah, the TV is usually off. The rule is there just for those special occassions (oh, say a Kentucky Derby?), when it IS on.

      We added the elbows on the table rule the next night after writing this. Also, no laying your head on the table. That one came about organically.

      Reply

  21. Kim Donahue
    Feb 19, 2013 @ 10:17:12

    I can identify with EVERYTHING on your list! But now that they’re older teens and civil conversation with them (or any conversation for that matter) is a gift from heaven, I’d give anything to hear them talk with their mouths full. And I’d also gladly prolong their time at the table to hear them talk instead of hurrying their biting and chewing. Trust me when I tell you that when they were your kids ages, I’d have done anything for a moment of peace and often played “The Quiet Game” which entailed me PAYING them to be quiet. Now? I’d pay anything to have them WANT to distract me with their silliness. Growing up is hard. For all of us.

    Reply

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