Sarah: Do you think we will ever have a pleasant family supper?
Brian: Yes. When they've left for college.
I have these memories of lovely family meals. Meals in which people minded their manners and there was laughter instead of sobbing. My parents are probably reading this and rolling their eyes. But I have this vision, this vision of a pleasant family meal, and I really don't want to give up on it.
I felt pretty good about supper tonight. It was healthy, I threw it together with food on hand, and I knew I had incorporated ingredients my children will eat. But it was a nightmare. At one point, Brian and I walked out of the house, practically pushed out by the screams that followed us and were most certainly audible to those walking past our house, home to their quiet, well-behaved children.
Why the screaming? Well, our two-year-old decided the cucumbers were the only edible part of his meal. And when no more cucumbers were available, he began to scream. At the recommendation of his new speech therapist, we are trying not to jump-to the minute the ear-piercing begins but calmly ask him to communicate in a clearer manner, signs at least. But no amount of, "Are you done? Sign all done. Do you want down? Sign down," elicited anything more than a vehement shake of the head and more screaming from the mule-child.
And our five-year-old? Well, thoughtful girl that she is, she doesn't like anyone to have to scream alone. We had actually gotten her to successfully ingest the minimum three bites (beyond the cucumber), but then, then, she spilled a drop of water on her shirt. And her life collapsed around her ears.
That's when Brian and I left. We stood on the porch for a minute, collected ourselves, and without even consulting each other walked back in with the same plan in mind. I took hold of Maggie and headed to her room. Brian took hold of Leo's hands, signed all done with them, and removed him from his seat. We read them bedtime books, tucked them in, and said goodnight. It was 6:00.
We do occasionally have a lovely meal. But more often than not, it resembles this one. Most of the time, I can tell myself that this is normal, but some nights, I'm just exhausted. I stayed up too late last night, it's raining and will be for days, I have pressing deadlines and and piles of laundry to do, and a night like this just did me in. And all the beer was warm. Is it too much to ask for a cold beer at a moment like this?
So, tell me, if you're reading this, what does dinnertime look like at your house? Does everyone say please and thank you and eat the food served gratefully? Or (oh, please, oh, please) does it look like ours? Do you sometimes just want to run from the house? Or stay and show them what screaming really looks like? I could, you know.