I like to be one of those moms whose children behave well in public. It would be nice if people saw me and thought,
"My my, she has a few kids but, they are all so gentle and sweet- and clean to boot! What a wonderful home life they must have....."
On occasion I may actually pull this off... in public. It is probably rare, but makes me feel good when it does happen. But dinner time, at home, alone.... this is quite a different story.
Flashback a few years, pre-kids. Dinner at a friends house. They had four young children. We were eating outside. I don't remember if the kids even joined us at any point and sat down. They ran like maniacs in the yard, stopping occasionally to eat a bite. They had the most awesome mellow parents who never batted an eye and just enjoyed dinner with the other childless adults.
I won't admit to thinking judgmental thoughts, I have enough bad karma heading my way as it is. But, lets just say for the sake of argument that I thought something like this:
"When I have kids they will be much better behaved at dinner."
If I ever did have a thought like that, I wish I could rent a time machine, travel back to that moment, and slap myself silly. Because that is what I deserved for that thought.
Instead, the fates have given me a much more amusing lesson. Enter....dinner at the Mama Birth household:
Mom - Dad- Four kids gathered around dinner table.
Chaos starts with a prayer, irony of ironies. Open eyes and giggles begin.
For a brief moment all are actually seated at the table. It ends quickly.
Somebody needs a drink. Someone else drops a spoon. The four year old gets distracted and ends up dancing in the family room. The two year old briefly disappears with dirty hands into their bedroom. (I am just grateful she isn't in MY bedroom. Is that wrong?)
At some point during dinner everybody is standing on their chairs. There is a lot of laughter. Poop jokes. Invented fart songs. (I have three daughters- why oh why does this happen?!) Poop is a part of your life, apparently forever, if you have a son. He makes up songs about poop. The other kids think this is infinitely amusing.
The two year old is a dancer. Inevitably during dinner she stands up, turns around, grabs the back of her chair and does what we call the "booty dance".
Did I mention that she is naked? When she comes home she makes herself real comfortable. I don't even know where the clothes are. (Tip for new moms- never finish a child's food if they were naked while eating it.)
Maybe you are thinking, "Silly woman, her two year old should be strapped in a high chair!" Well, I would like to tell you that she learned to escape from the high chair, and it became simply safer for her to be in a regular chair- which she was begging for anyway. No- I don't have some misplaced attachment parent phobia of tying children down for meal time, they are like magicians!!! Escape artists!!! I blame the children's ability to get out of high chairs for most of the dinner time chaos.
But back to the chair dance.
I used to think that children should never be laughed at for doing something that they are not supposed to do. In fact, I still think that. It is just much harder to do this in REAL LIFE than in imaginary world. Especially if you have the world's most hilarious two year old who has an enraptured audience of five people.
Good luck on that one.
Mom says, "You guys have no table manners. We need to really work on this." (I had parents whose kids BEHAVED at the dinner table, I swear I did.)
My husband starts to point out how they can improve their manners while he talks with his mouth full. I could point this out....BUT the man is holding the baby so that I can eat with BOTH HANDS.
I look over to see that the four year old is playing with her food. Did I mention we are having enchiladas (a fabulous recipe, I should really share it with you). Then she says, " I need to wash my HANDS!!!!"
Mom: "You wouldn't need to wash your hands if you were not playing with your food!"
More wandering ensues. Children who get up to wash their hands or get some more water or go pee inevitably forget where the dinner table is and must be retrieved.
Around this time I have managed to throw back as much food as possible in as short a time as possible, so there will be no Act III.
Did I mention that my husband has discovered Pandora and so half of dinner was set to the soundtrack of The Breakfast Club? Yes, my life sounds like an 80's movie. I only wish I looked like Molly Ringwald.
To sum up- Humbling moment # 375- Dinner with children is much harder than it looks. Sometimes I am just grateful that we all attempt to sit around the table together every night and eat a meal. Hopefully someday they will actually learn some manners, but probably not today.
(No, I do not need tips on how to be a better mother and have better behaved children at the table. Well, maybe I need them but I don't want them right now. I just hope that knowing there is somebody else out there whose kids run amok at the trifecta hour of dinner time...you know, when the triple threats of tiredness- hunger- and end of day mom intersect, makes somebody feel a little better when their plans for perfect harmonious dinner fall flat. Flat on the freshly mopped floor.)
Eat in peace! Eat together! Enjoy the chaos!