Accidentally Victorious

originally published in Abilene Families magazine

Ever knocked a fork off the kitchen counter into its correct spot in the dishwasher? What about dropped your keys into the cuff of your pants or a shirt pocket? You think to yourself, perhaps even say out loud, “I couldn’t do that again if I tried!”

One of my greatest successes as a parent happened basically that way. Nothing I set out to do or felt called to do, I have accidentally created some grand memories in my home by eating around the dinner table every night. When I got married, I could cook spaghetti, taco meat, and baked chicken. Period. I tried to make breakfast for Troy our first Valentine’s Day and melted the spatula. Betty Crocker I was not.

When we had a baby I quit my teaching job. Finances required that I figure out what those knobs on the stove did and start cooking. Yes, I wanted that little blue-eyed precious to be healthy along with the parents, but it was mainly finances that made the decision to fire up the stove every night.

Besides simply cooking at home, we made a decision to then eat that meal sitting together as a family every night. If I was going to go to all the trouble of figuring out what in the world ‘julienne’ meant, then actually doing it, by golly we could sit together to eat it or finger paint with it, depending on the age of the diner.

Over the years as lives and schedules changed, I just never put much more money in the budget for eating out. Since my children started elementary school 8 years ago my grocery budget has almost doubled, but our allotted money for eating out is basically the same. I even left it that way for a few brief years that our budget wasn’t quite so tight when I was employed other places.

As basketball and little league practices began to encroach on our evenings, I have changed how or what I cooked for dinner, or what time we eat. Dinner may be anywhere from 5:30 to 8 p.m., but it includes all family members in town at the time, and it is always around the table with the television off. I have used the crock-pot to my advantage, or dinner may be a sandwich (the family thinks it’s big doin’s if you stick the bread under the broiler to melt the cheese and have ‘fancy sandwiches’), and there have been a few desperate times that dinner is Sonic’s 5 hamburgers for $5.95 (Tuesdays after 5 p.m.) but we gather at the table to share the burdens and victories of the day.

I frequently wonder why I torture myself so. Generally about 30 minutes to an hour of prep time for a meal that either no one likes or they scarf down in 6 minutes, then another 15 to 20 minutes of clean up. Really, why bother?

Recently, one child and I were at odds all day. Nothing I said was right, no response that I got was kind. My request for help to get dinner on the table was met with slams of cabinet doors and sighs and, I’m sure, eye rolls, though I refused to look.

By the time dinner was finally on the table I could hardly take a bite my teeth were clenched so tightly. The kids began talking about the day, laughing. Soon, I was included in a shared memory of something funny we saw that day. The pressure of the day was completely diffused and I became part of the family again instead of the meanest mom on the planet.

Creating memories, reconnecting, becoming family again. That is why I bother.


What about you? What have you gotten right as a parent? What is one thing your kids won't bring up in the hours of therapy they will be in for all the other things you got wrong... oh, wait, that's only my kids. Share the victories!


dad said...

I know that I made lots more mistakes than good decisions as a parent, but I was sincere in frequently telling my kids that they couldn't mess up so bad that they couldn't come home again and be loved. Since you have even blogged about this, it must have resonated with at least one of you. Another conscious act was to put my book down, or turn off the TV, when you came into the room to talk. I wanted you to feel that you had my attention.

Roxanne said...

We eat together, sit on the porch together, ride bikes together, and one of us reads to them at night. I remember my mom (this is like Mike) would stop grading her papers when I went into her bedroom to talk at night. Always.

Anonymous said...

Dinner is my absolute favorite time of day. (Not because I am a super fantastic chef or that I love to eat, which I do.) I often wonder what my kids will remember from their childhood that will be a "favorite."I think there may be memories of vacations and other bigger things, but I have an inkling that those times where we are laughing so hard that we are crying (or choking) at the dinner table, thanks to a couple of comedians in our family, will be high on the list.


Anne Francis said...

Sweet, sweet thoughts and we went through some of those same problems. Recently, we had a phone call from out of state, "You raised the most wonderful son in the world." A few remarks like that and we'll have to switch from buttons to velcro. We think he made the choice to be how he is.

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