We are now in week three of back-to-school (actually week 2 of full weeks) and I have managed to catch my breath and get somewhat organized. Bathing suits are put away, sweaters have been put back into rotation, I have started combing my children’s hair (much to their protest) on a daily basis. My 7 year old daughter has started 2nd grade and after a 1 week grace period, homework has begun. Did I have homework in 2nd grade? I doubt it. My husband is challenged by my daughter’s spelling words – recess? celery? Yikes. My 5 year old daughter is enjoying kindergarten, although with reading right around the corner, still has 5 “tricky” letters as she says, and proudly spells “cat” for anyone who will listen and thinks she has mastered reading. My 3 year son (going on 8 years) proudly marches to preschool 4 days per week and his biggest thrill is that he gets to eat lunch at school – on a TRAY – does it get any better than that? As for me, my daily ice cream and french fry intake has come to a halt and I have decided to undertake an experiment.
Issue: My children are picky eaters and their manners are less than exemplary. This was made very clear to me as we had dinner at a rather nice restaurant (ie, not the local pizza joint where they kindly overlook the pepperoni that is tossed on the floor and straw wrappers blown about the table) and my kids were out of control. Elbows on the table. Talking with their mouths full. Jostling each other. Interrupting each other. Blowing bubbles with their straws in their milk glasses (my husband’s pet peeve). Getting UNDER THE TABLE (my pet peeve – I don’t care how nice the restaurant is – yuck).
I was reminded as to why we had not gone out with our children in six years – ie, when our 7 year old was the only child and typically sleeping in her car seat. My husband and I didn’t get to enjoy the delightful dinner, we were annoyed and embarrassed. But we had noone to blame but ourselves.
On the way home, as we told the kids how bad they were my husband had the brilliant insight that the reason they didn’t know how to behave at a restaurant was because we rarely ate dinner together. We had gotten into the bad habit of feeding the kids at 5pm and we would eat after they went to bed. (Kids’ dinner – some sort of healthy kids’ meal – spaghetti, chicken, quesadillas atc.; Our dinner – some kind of fancy grown up meal – salmon, risotto, arugula salad.) Our youngest is now three. There are no more excuses. There has to be a happy medium. So here is my plan:
1) Eat dinner together as a family at least three times per week. This means we all eat the same meal (no mac and cheese for kids, risotto for grown ups). No TV. No cruising around eating. No toys on the table. Hopefully we will eat together more days as allowed with kids’ activities. Regardless of being able to sit down together, I will make sure I sit down with them while they eat.
2)I will no longer be a short order cook. We will all eat the same meal, even if we are not able to sit together.
I will be sure to report back on my experiment and I am hoping by the end of the year I will see an improvement in my children’s eating habits AND manners. We have no where to go but up.