Dreading the Dinner Bell

Don't sound the alarm! Family meals can be great again

By Robert Beauchamps

My eldest daughter of three just turned 19. That's nearly two decades of nightly family dinners my wife and I have had to endure... Okay, "endure" is a little snarky, but any parent reading this has experienced their share of nightmarish family supper scenes reminiscent of a bad blend of The Godfather, Beetlejuice, and Christmas with the Griswolds. How to stay civilized and sane with children at the table?

Family time
Some nights feel like feeding time at the zoo. Just remember, you’re the zookeeper and the chef de cuisine. Not every meal must be Michelin-star quality. Mealtime should, however, be that part of the day for family members to express themselves and share opinions or ideas while breaking bread, not plates. Turn uncomfortable moments into life lessons teaching courtesy, culinary curiosity, nutrition, and basic table manners.

Separate suppers
Our girls learned early on that variety is the spice of life and supper. From day one, I promised to do my best to serve up nutritious and (hopefully) delicious food, but there would only be one meal option. I am not lazy nor indifferent, but since my daughters do not have any allergies or special dietary needs, I refused to make one meal for adults plus a "kid-friendly" version.

Deal with disappointing dinners
I distinctly remember my mother saying, "The only way to respond when someone puts a plate of food in front of you is to say thank you." Disappointment is part of life. Turnips and Brussels sprouts happen. Remember, Taco Tuesday will come around again.

Dinner decorum
Some nights, it's a war of attrition: you just have to endure plate-scraping silverware, shovelling food, and chewing with mouths open. To instill the importance of table manners, we used to make Saturday night dinners "Barbarian Night," where anything goes: Eating with our hands and the like. The rest of the time, my wife and I insisted on dinnertime decorum. The girls understood that, outside of the home, and right or wrong, people judge us on how we hold a fork or use a napkin. Why give a bad impression?

Veggie kids
If your child expresses an interest in a vegan lifestyle or insists on eating more vegetarian meals for moral reasons, you have two choices: stray from your aforementioned rule and make an extra meal, or... join them! Maybe it's just a phase. Maybe it'll pass. Maybe you join forces and becoming vegan is the best dietary decision you'll ever make. Discuss it around the dinner table.

 

Fall 2020, Vol 12 N°4

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Fall 2020
Vol 12 N°4

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