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The benefits of eating together as a family – the list goes on…..

“Be careful what you wish for.”

This is what my mother said to me yesterday as I was recounting my conversation with my younger daughter’s (age 5) teacher yesterday at pick up time. “She is jawing my ear off.” This is the exact phrase the teacher used to describe a rather drastic change in my daughter’s demeanor at school. (I think I am going to have to start using this term – “jawing someone’s ear off” – I like it.).

The funny thing is we have been noticing our somewhat shy and soft spoken daughter turning into a chatterbox at the dinner table as well. The other night we had to ask her to stop talking for one minute so she could eat some food from her plate, as the rest of the family was nearly finished, and she had barely touched her meal. Because she couldn’t stop talking, asking questions, telling jokes, etc.

As background, my younger daughter falls in the middle of my three children – she is 5, her older sister 7, and younger brother 3. I never gave much credence to birth order until I had three children myself. My children’s personalities could come directly from a textbook. My oldest child is diligent, eager to please, sensitive, and takes care of her younger siblings. My youngest is loud, sociable, hilarious, ahead for his age (as far as interests mind you – well, particularly television. No Elmo, only Sponge Bob. It saddens me. What 3-year old boy wants to watch Zooey 101? Oh well.) My younger daughter, the sudden chatterbox, is sweet, thoughtful, helpful, well behaved. She is the one who goes under the radar, and has always been soft spoken, which is an understatement. When she was little, we would say she sounded like she had a mouthful of marbles. She has improved some, now in Kindergarten, but some adults still need translation assistance.

Then a funny thing happened. As I have written in previous posts, my family has just started eating together on a regular basis. Yes, this is sad and I am ashamed, but it is the truth. With kids so close together, we were in the trenches for quite a while and out of convenience would serve the kids (yes, serve) dinner early in the evening –  traditional kids’ fare – and my husband and I would eat after the kids went to bed – traditional adult fare. With the kids getting older, we decided it was time to throw the mac and cheese out the window and eat one meal together as often as we can. In just a few weeks – since the start of school – revolutionary changes have taken place. My kids love roasted broccoli. They like cormeal-dusted tilapia. Turkey burgers made with dijon mustard, garlic and breadcrumbs on wheat rolls are declared “the best dinner ever.” And they love the time we all sit together, particularly my 5-year old daughter. She wants to say grace every night. She chats up a storm, telling us about her day, constantly asking if she “can tell us one more thing – it’s important.” She has an amazing memory as she asked my husband the other night, “Daddy, remember over the summer in the car when you were mad and made this face (makes face)?”

Clearly this short time we spend together on a consistent basis is helping my daughter to thrive, and it is carrying over to school. Now if she would take a breath to eat her dinner. As my mother said, be careful what you wish for. 

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