There is nothing quite so sacred as the time honored family dinner. And because I recognize and hold this ideal close to my heart, it has become a goal – no, mission, to get my nuclear unit together for at least one square meal a day.
Because the evening meal is that portion of the day reserved for carving out quality time with those closest to us; time to share news of the day, our hopes and dreams, laughing and catching up, really connecting with one another just like in the commercials where everybody’s smiling and nodding approvingly at Mom for crafting such an excellent meal, right?
Who the hell am I kidding? It’s a cluster fuck.
To begin with, only one of the boys actually makes it to the table each night. Chances are pretty good that if Max comes running when I call everyone to the table, Miles will be AWOL, and vice versa. Sometimes Max saunters in just as we’re wrapping things up, because that’s how teenagers roll.
Of course once one or both of them actually appears, dinner is inhaled in record time so as to get back to whichever video game level or television show I’ve dragged them away from.
And so it goes that when Kevin and I are left with the dinner remains, and a distinct quiet hangs over the dining room like a cloud of introspection, I take that opportunity to discuss with him the reasons why I feel this time is so important and the ways in which we might better enforce the dinner ritual.
This goes over about as well as one might expect. As leaden as the as the meatloaf your mother made that you always tried to hide under the mashed potatoes. It usually leads to an argument over his lenience and my overbearingness, and proves inconclusive as we walk away disgruntled, silently clearing the dishes, if not our minds.
Until that great moment arrives when both boys magically appear and I realize that we are entering The Dinner Zone. I make sure they know how much I appreciate their presence, and just as soon as the foodstuffs are divvied up, I get straight to the question and answer portion of the meal. “How was your day?” “What’s new at school?” Boys aren’t much for bringing their work home from the office, so to speak. At least mine aren’t. They don’t really want to talk shop at the dinner table or when they cross the homestead threshold at the end of the day. I get it. But if not then, when? Still, I don’t press the issue. I let things take their usual path, usually toward destruction.
Like last night for instance. Hell bent on forgoing Taco Tuesday in favor of a well rounded, ‘all the food groups are present’ dinner, I toiled for a good two hours putting together a meal for a cold Winter’s night sure to warm my family’s bodies, if not their hearts.
Because really, I do and I do and I do for those kids. And what do I get?
Max: Why do we always have to eat poor people food?
Me: What are you talking about? It’s Swiss steak, mashed potatoes and green beans. What’s poor about that?
Max: It’s basically stew. Why is it always some kind of beef in a pot with gravy and vegetables? It’s the cheapest thing.
Me: You were expecting filet mignon? Who do you think we are, the Rockefellers?
All the while Miles is pretend shooting at his own reflection in the kitchen window as Max demands he cut it out.
Max: I can’t eat with him doing that. Tell him to stop it! I don’t wanna eat this crap. And he’s bugging me.
Miles: Yeah! I don’t wanna eat this crap either!
Me: Woah! This isn’t crap. (Eyes darting to Kevin, shooting him “the look”, usually the signal for discontent and/or the need for back up.)
Kevin: Yeah. It’s not crap. It’s delicious. It’s one of mom’s favorite meals. I like it too.
Max: Well if it’s your favorite mom, you can eat mine.
Me: (Spearing a piece a meat from his plate) Don’t mind if I do. (Kevin eyeing me as if to say “You sure you want seconds because you’re supposed to be on a diet.”)
Me: You really need to eat more guys, so you’re strong and healthy.
Miles: Yeah, but we don’t wanna get fat like mom.
Max: Ohhhh! I’m outta here. You’re done Miles. You’re SO gonna get it!
Miles: What? Mom ate a whole Payday bar and it was 600 calories!
Me: I thought it was 200 calories.
Kevin: But that was for 1/3 of the bar.
Me: I read the label wrong.
Miles: See? Don’t get fat like mom.
They both leave the table, discussing my level of fatness based on the accidental consumption of one jumbo sized candy bar.
Kevin: Wasn’t it great to have the whole family together at the dinner table?
Lord, give us this day our daily dread. And hopefully I’ll forgive them their trespasses.
But perhaps I should consider leading them not into consumption.