Thursday, February 11, 2010

And how was your day?

"Mom, Mom!" she interjects, as I take a break from telling Pynchon about something I read in the paper earlier to take a bite of my salad.

"Mom! Is it my turn to talk?"

"Sure. What would you like to talk about?"

"Um ... um ... Today-I-went-to-preschool-and-I-played-and-played-and-then-we-had-snack-and-when-we-went-outside-I-fell-down-but-it-was-okay-I-laughed."

She pauses. Takes a bite of cheese. Reflects.

"Tell me about your day, Mom."

We eat supper together almost every night, and we've consciously been working on table manners: asking for more milk by saying "please," using cutlery, waiting until everyone is seated before you start, wiping your fingers on a napkin instead of the table. I'm surprised to discover that at the same time we've been teaching her a more subtle set of skills. Munchkin is learning the give and take of conversation, its rhythms and pauses, the scripts that orchestrate who gets to speak, when, and about what. At dinner, we all take turns speaking. At dinner, the main topic of conversation is "your day" and speech is invited by direct questions to that effect.

So sophisticated is her understanding of the operations of mealtime that she even knows that breakfast is something different: at breakfast, everyone reads the newspaper, including Munchkin. If by 'read', you mean demand the section of the paper that has the most interesting picture on it, and have it propped up nice and high in front of you so you can make up stories about it.

Wow. And that's what family meals are for, I guess. Civilizing our barbarian toddlers while ingesting home cooked meals that feature some kind of green thing along with the cheese, the barbarian toddlers somehow and suddenly learning how to divvy up the morning paper and how to listen to mommy rant about her students.


Bon said...

i really like the "daddy, how was your day?" schtick. the "i don't LIKE broccoli that it is usually intersected with, not so much.

but you're right...teaching of kids, for millenia, would've traditionally centered around food, sustenance, survival. and then on differentiating from the uncivilized by virtue of how food was prepared and eaten.

i guess Posey throwing her chili off the tray is a fail on that front. more work to do.

Omaha Mama said...

We've had fewer family meals in the past couple weeks of busyness, so tonight I INSISTED. I love meals around the table. We pray. We eat. We laugh. Someone usually cries or yells. It's family and I love it.
Great post!
So glad it wasn't about obesity or real food or organic food or high fructose anything or red dye #7. So thanks.

Jenifer said...

The girls and I eat together most nights as Daddy gets home too late. These are important moments, these times where we set the groundwork for hundreds of future meals.

There are moments though where it is all I can do to not shout, "chew and swallow" please! My oldest can have something on her fork for many, many minutes before it ever gets to her mouth.

I do like to think though that my girls are great dinner guests as a result of all this dinner time talk.

Jennifer (ponderosa) said...

Can you please come to my house and teach my children the give-and-take of conversation. Oh and my husband, too. Thanks.

: )

Sounds like your life is slowing down at last. It sounds really lovely!

Lisa D. said...

Sometimes I get frustrated with mealtime and 4 children, but this post was a reminder of all that is important about that family time.
I am constantly marveling at all the subtle things that my children learn without being taught. I think 18 months to 3 or 4 years old is my favourite time because of all the new things they are learning - you can see it in their faces when they have discovered something new, and almost every conversation has new vocabulary, better pronunciation or newly learned grammar. I love to try and trip up my 2 year old with he/she, her/him. She always corrects me when I've used the wrong pronoun.

Kyla said...

When KayTar and I have royal tea in her bedroom, she always says, "So tell me about your day?" and interjects, "Oh really??" here and there and inquires about my coursework and such, I love it. Dinner is more about BubTar and KayTar teaming up to be twin goobers...but it is a work in progress. LOL.

WarsawMommy said...

Oooh, I cannot wait until my 3-year-old sits with us at the table every night. At the moment, it's a sporadic affair. Sadly, mornings are too rushed to truly do the 'family' meal thing, so we do it at every meal on the weekends. And I love it!

Beck said...

Oh, I feel guilty. We actually always eat dinner in the living room. It's the life of a hobo for MY kids.
(but I hate eating at tables. HATE! I don't know why.)

Magpie said...

Yes! Civilizing our little barbarians.

My trouble with the morning paper is that she's beginning to ask me to read it to her, like for real, and sometimes, I just don't want to, because she's only six.

Denguy said...

I want to teach the stay-at-home moms from the coffee shop how to do that!

kittenpie said...

It's a long process, it seems. We are still hard at work. Our success ebbs and flows.

ewe are here said...

Family dinners are so important... I eat with the wee ones daily.

I just wish it wasn't so hard to get the boys to tell me what they actually *did* at school/nursery! Like pulling teeth sometimes.