Sunday, April 28, 2013

Dinner Dreams

A few weeks ago Joy and I counseled about what was wrong with our dinner time. It was completely unpredictable whether either child would be done in 5 minutes or not for over an hour. If one decided to be done quickly and the other to dawdle, making mealtime family time became very difficult.

We counseled; we prayed; we studied Church materials on what the Point of mealtime was beyond nutrition and how to get there. We came up with a plan, which oddly enough focused on what I had to do differently:

I would make sure to give the kids smaller portions of each food and ensure they ate something on their plate before they got something else - that would keep them moving.
And I needed to prepare some conversation. Get a story or a few Ungame questions or a gospel topic or a book, something. That way if Superstar had wound down in talking about Mario, there was still something interesting going on at the table so they would be slightly more likely to stay.

Both parts have worked supremely well. The dawdling dropped immensely. One kid is still often done before the other, but it's not nearly so long.

It hasn't taken much time to plan dinner conversations/material. It's always hit and miss, of course, but I've gotten some pretty good hits lately:

  • Superstar is extremely interested when I retell stories from Lucy Mack Smith's history of Joseph Smith's life. This week I told them about Martin Harris losing the 116 pages of the Book of Mormon, and he asked me to tell it to him again another time.
  • Everyone loves Shel Silverstein poems, as you may have gathered over the few posts we've put up over last two months.
  • Sundays I'm translating from my German/missionary copy of The Little Prince
  • I told them the Southern Nigeria version of the Just So Stories for why the elephant has small eyes and why worms live underground.
  • We talked about what makes a good friend and how to communicate with others.
  • We spend a lot of time planning together what will happen over the summer so Superstar in particular is prepared. That will make everything ever so much easier.
It had never occurred to me that mealtime takes planning (beyond the food part). This reminds me of Boyd K. Packer's instruction that pricked my heart as a newly returned missionary and I continually relearning:
Give careful, prayerful, conscious thought and consideration to your family. ... Many men play the role of fatherhood just by ear. They only react to what is, rather than to strive with conscious, prayerful effort for what ought to be. (a link from 1963).
As a result, dinner has been happier, we've been closer together as a family, we rarely spend so long at the table we run out of Family Fun Time after, and life has just been better.