Welcome again to the Sunday Parenting Party, please link up your parenting posts (not kids activity posts, there are lots of activity linkies but we'd like this one to focus on parenting issues, advice and experience). This week I'm linking the following:
Some families sit around a table for every meal with no exceptions. I never really understood why. I always thought that the blog posts you see about how meal times are a time to connect, were aimed at families with older children. I understood why you might want to focus on meal times when you have teenagers that you only see for an hour while you eat, and then they're gone to do homework or play computer games or hang with friends. But my child isn't even four years old. He's with me all day, why do I need to make a big deal about sitting at a table to eat with him.
So we aren't one of those families. One of us is always at work when Goblin eats his meals, and neither of us have been particularly bothered about sitting around a table to eat. So instead Goblin would eat his meals in front of the TV or he'd graze while playing.
- I know some reading this will be horrified by the idea of that, but until recently its worked for us - Goblin has a good appetite. We are lucky that we have never had those arguments about him needing to finish a meal or eat another bite. So meal times have always gone without drama. And I have always felt that forcing him to sit at a table would be an unnecessary point of confrontation.
Then we went to a family wedding and suddenly realised why other families make their kids sit at a table to eat their meals.
Goblin couldn't sit still. Not for two seconds, and the wedding meal was about 2 hours long. I'm not saying that all the other children were able to sit quietly and nicely for 2 hours but they certainly lasted a lot longer than our little feral boy. He decided to eat two mouthfuls before running circuits around the room while the speeches were being made. As we cringed and froze in indecisiveness about whether trying to catch him would be more distracting than letting him carry on, we realised that Goblin had had very little practice at sitting still. Sitting at a table to eat was alien to him.
When we got home we decided to let him practice. We rearranged the furniture and brought out the dining room table that had been covered in clutter in the corner of the room. And we explained to Goblin that we were going to eat all our meals at the table. To our amazement there has been very little resistance to this.
Goblin sits and eats with which ever of us is home. We have some games and puzzles to entertain him (one step at a time right). But we have no TV and no getting down and running around.
Firstly I have realised that this is a time to connect (like all the posts always said). Its an undistracted opportunity to sit facing each other and talk.
Secondly, and I'm ashamed to admit this, its given me an opportunity to teach Goblin how to use his knife properly. I've shown him in the past. But with me actually eating as well he's been able to mirror my actions and its made a big difference to his approach.
Finally, I have noticed that it punctuates the day. The three meals give a routine to the day that helps implicitly signal other things that are coming up, like nap time. We have had less argument about naps since its been preceded by a meal and a natural cessation to any games or TV.
Its taken me a while to get there, but now I understand why so many families make a big deal of meal times. It is more than just eating at a table.