This table make look like nothing special and honestly, it isn't. Just some wood, stain and varnish, right? Not our table. We have made out table something special.
In our house, we sit down, at a table, as a family for 4 nights out of the week. Sometimes we have to tweak our dinnertime to make it happen what with choir, and karate and the fire department and work. BUT we do it and we are far from quiet about it. No TV, no radio (unless it is a special night), no cell phones, just lots of talking. We learn so much about each other during this hour (sometimes less) and it honestly keeps the family lines of communication open and strong.
So what is our secret? Timing and routine. We tried the spontaneous approach but with a 7 and 4 year old, (and borderline OCD husband…Love you babe!) it just wasn’t happening.
Before dinner, we are all usually in the kitchen/dining area. Kids are setting the table. We have 2 special plates. One is a red plate that says I am special and that comes out for big accomplishments; report cards, star student, learning a fact they have been struggling with, etc. The other is the gold plate. The gold plate goes to the person who sets the table. You would be surprised at how often they WANT to set the table all over a plate that has lost its way from a family members set, into our closet. My husband or I make dinner, although if it were up to me, he would be in charge of cooking, you know, since he is a chef. Every once in a while one of the munchkins likes to help. The point is that we are all working together as a team.
Once we sit down, we go around the table and talk about our day. This started off as a Cubscout activity a few years back but we have continued it daily. While people are taking turns talking, we work on actively listening, asking questions and being engaged. We learn about math tests, who sat next to who at lunch, why so and so cried at school today and every thing else we possibly can. Our thought is, if we start this now and continue throughout their lives, we will always be in the loop with our kids.
Sometimes, it’s no that easy. Sometimes, you have to pry information out of their noggins. If we are struggling for info, we throw out a topic and discuss. Usually, they are random things like: What is your favorite color and why? What would that color sound like if it could talk? Etc. Every once in a while, it is something from current events. But we always find a way to talk to our kids.
My favorite is a tradition I started a few years ago. One night a week, my husband has drill at the Fire Station, so it is just the kids and I for dinner. So to spice it up, we started Dinner With A Musician. We go to the library (or I use Spotify) and pick a random CD to rent for the week. That night, I pull up info about the musician on the laptop and we listen to the CD while we eat. During dinner we talk about the musician and learn about where they are from, what genre of music, timeline, etc. Because of Dinner with a Musician, my kids are huge Johnny Cash fans. They have learned about Phish, The Talking Heads, and Elvis just to name a few.
The point is, make the most of the time you have. We all have crazy busy schedules but sometimes, you need to take a break, listen and laugh. Be with your family and enjoy them. Those kids won’t be little forever. And since they grow up to be teenagers, let’s make some healthy habits now, to help them (and you dealing with them) in the future.