So many articles directed towards parents emphasize the importance of sitting the family down around the dinner table. We, sadly, don’t do it enough, but we do make a big enough deal about it that our boys know it’s important.
When the boys were very young, getting them around the dinner table was a chore. Breaking them away from Legos, skateboards, video games, or the TV was unnecessarily excruciating. Making a dinner that everyone would be happy with – a wife who wanted low calorie, one son who thought salt was spicy, and another who would only eat carrots as a vegetable – tested my patience enough. The struggle of where we would sit often was more than I was willing to handle, which lead to ebbs and flows between eating at the table and eating around the television.
Now the boys are involved with after-school activities – music lessons and sports – which often leaves only 35 minutes after school before heading one child or another out the door to one activity or another. Sometimes the activities are back-to-back, and rarely do the activities of the two boys align in a way that makes a night go easily.
Curiously, however, when I am not buying a Jimmy John’s sub for one to eat as dinner in the car, and feeding left-overs to the other who is home, and am actually able to make a dinner for the family, the boys carry their plates not to the TV, but to the table. They’ve come to know it’s a time when we can all catch up, and talk, and reconnect, and get to know each other again after multiple days of running from event to event, and rarely all together.
Last week was one of those typical, yet unfortunately infrequent nights around the table. Maybe it was that we trusted it was not going to snow here in Minnesota again for a while. Maybe it was the phase of the moon. Regardless, we had a blast. Not just fun. Not just a couple of memorable quips. The entire dinner was filled with stories traded by everyone. Laughing. Poking fun at each other. Poking fun at ourselves. Serious stories. Really connecting.
And to top it off, the boys actually took their plates from the kitchen table to the sink. No, they didn’t wash them, but at least their plates made it to the sink. My youngest came up to me as I was placing plates in the dishwasher, and hugged me. He looked up and said, “That was a great dinner, dad. I’m going to remember it for a long time.” And I know he wasn’t talking about the chicken.