I believe in productive communication with my children through the art of conversation. And what better way to converse with children than over a delicious meal at home? I believe in the family dinner. By candlelight. I also believe in rules at the dinner table. No baseball caps. No elbows on the table. No chewing with open mouths. Smiling and laughter highly encouraged. No foul language. No bare chested boys or bikini clad girls. T-shirts and cover ups mandatory, even when enjoying barbeque oudoors by the pool (with citronella candles, of course). Freshly soap and water washed hands. No loud, intentional, crude, obnoxious belching. No telephone conversations. We wait until everyone is seated before eating, and we try to wait for everyone to finish before leaving the table. Most times, however, the kids eat quickly and ask to be excused about five minutes after starting the meal. That’s ok, though, because I believe in five minute meals. It’s amazing how much conversation can be had by a family of four in five minutes while enjoying dinner by flickering candlelight: Office happenings. The unfair soccer coach. The paper due in English next Wednesday. Don’t forget we’re having dinner with Aunt Betty this weekend. What did you buy for hot lunch today? I’m switching carpool with Annie’s mom on Friday so remind me to drive tomorrow. If we win the next game, we move on to finals. Can Shaun and Paul spend the night? They’re sooo weird! Can I go to Megan’s then? I know of families who eat in shifts because everyone is so busy, or don’t sit down to dinner until ten or eleven at night, if at all. I know of families who eat fast food or frozen, microwaveable meals while sitting in the den in front of the football game, more focused on the television than they are on each other. Don’t get me wrong, my family had just as many extracurricular activities. I simply decided that I would adjust and do what was necessary to keep family dinnertime sacred and constant. Today, my grown children live several hours away and have begun their own adult lives. When their busy schedules allow for a visit on weekends or holidays, they come home to the comfort and ritual of the family meal, as I have defined it for my little clan. They are special, meaningful gatherings and in this fast paced world, we all truly appreciate being together at the family table. Dinnertime with my husband and me continues to be a candle lit affair and the conversation is abundant. When finished, I stack the dishes in the sink for my husband to wash (a relaxing ritual he enjoys). The last thing I do is blow out the candle. In the trail of smoke that rises from the candle’s bright orange wick I see my young children clearing their own plates and can still hear them say “Thanks Mom!”
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