816 North Opinion

Susan Vollenweider: Careful what you wish for at family dinners

“I was talking to Trevor’s mom,” I said as I sat down. “Their family eats together each night and take turns politely sharing.”

“Mom. Look.” Noah opened his mouth and mumbled around the globby mess, “Sharing.”

“Half-chewed food isn’t what I had in mind.”

“This girl had a booger on her elbow

all day!”

Noah launched into an animated minute-by-minute observation of the girl’s activities. “I saw it in the morning … and then at recess ….”

I cut him off and tried a different tack. “When you all were younger…”

“… like Trevor and his sister,” Luke pointed out.

“Yeah, good point,” I conceded. “When you were younger we all sat at the table every night. There are studies that say families who eat together have kids who are better students and get into less trouble.”

“Mom.” Noah put his fork down to show he had something serious to say. “She had that booger on her elbow

all day.

Did you hear me?”

I sighed. Heavily. “Yes, I heard you. Are boogers dinner conversation?”

“You wanted to talk about our day, right?” Noah asked as Luke headed to the kitchen. We had only been sitting at the table for a few minutes but he was already getting up for seconds.

“This dinner is good, Mom,” he said from the kitchen. I heard the clink-clink-scrape of the serving spoon as he emptied the pot of rice.

Noah leaned over and whispered conspiratorially, “It’s not my favorite, but you will give me something else if I finish, right?” I hadn’t even eaten a bite yet and he was already negotiating dessert.

“We’ll see. Why don’t you tell me about your day without a mention of dried body fluids?” I suggested.

As Luke sat down and dug in (when I use that term, it’s exactly what he did — fork in hand like the blade of an excavator), Noah launched into a story about his PE class and the kids who didn’t seem to like to run. This quickly morphed into a monologue about the things that are written in the third-grade boy’s bathroom, second stall.

“But my teacher says it’s OK if we do that, or maybe I misunderstood, I was distracted.” He silently mouthed, “girl, booger” and turned his attention back to his dinner. “I don’t want that piece. It’s wrinkly.”

“Wrinkly? It’s barbequed chicken; it’s fine.” I told him.

Luke reached his fork over, stabbed the “wrinkled” piece and popped it in his mouth. “Yup, it’s fine.”

“Where is your sister?” I asked as he went back to his own plate, again almost empty.

“BEKAH! WHERE ARE YOU?” Luke shouted, over-full fork poised above his plate.

“Don’t scream,” I requested.


“Do we ever talk in a quiet voice?” I wondered aloud.

“WHAT?” floated down the stairs.

I took a deep breath and responded, “NOTHING BEKAH, STOP YELLING!”

I pinched the bridge of my nose. I am a hypocrite.

I also wanted to get back to those bygone family sharing dinnertimes. That night Luke and Noah were at the table with me, Bekah was missing and Brian was at the coffee table in the next room watching the news.

But Bekah had fed herself. That’s a sign of independence, right?

And I know that the boys have manners. They use them when we have company.

And we find lots of time to share our days away from the table.

Maybe the ideal isn’t what works in other families or what worked when the kids were younger, but what works for us now.

Boogers and all.