We’re pretty laid back in this house. Other than a brief period of time where I worried Hayley would never eat a vegetable EVER (now she’d rather eat vegetables than meat), I’ve never really stressed out about food or meal times. We DO have a few family kitchen rules though. See if any of them sound familiar.
Don’t talk with your mouth full so you don’t choke to death.
Seriously. No one can understand you anyway because all that pasta is muffling your vocal chords. Also, I really want to eat this meal too, and trying to do the Heimlich or calling 911 is going to get in the way of that. I totally want to hear a long explanation of the newest add-on to Minecraft but finish chewing first okay?
And while you’re eating and chewing and swallowing before you talk, let’s try to make healthy choices more often than not. If I’m being fully transparent, there are weeks where we are So.Damn.Busy that we buy frozen lasagna or Shepherd’s Pie from the store. It’s gross and doesn’t taste as good as fresh, but when you’ve got eight hundred activities in one week, homemade lasagna is NOT happening on a Wednesday night.
I don’t really care for food in a box that’s stuffed full of MSG shit because that’s not good for any of us. Luckily George starts and finishes work early enough that he can make some pretty tasty food most days and I fill in on the other days; we keep it to a minimum for the disgusting (yet strangely appealing) microwaveable meals.
For the love of all that is holy, use your cutlery, you are not a toddler.
Are we having chicken wings or ribs? Then by all means, go to town with your fingers and please try to remember to use a napkin once in awhile. But if we’re having steak or a quinoa skillet or spaghetti, stop picking that up with your hands, were you raised by wolves? Spoiler alert: No, you were not. Use a fork and knife!
Speaking of using your cutlery, how about using that fork to try something before you decide you don’t like it? We’ve always been lucky; neither kid is spectacularly picky but every once in awhile I have heard the, “I don’t think I’ll like that” whine. I am not the kind of parent who will force my child to clear their plate and eat food they can’t stand. If Hayley doesn’t want a pork chop but eats her potatoes, vegetables, and salad, I’m good. But I’ve always asked both kids to at least try a new food before deciding it’s not their thing.
P.S. If you already know you don’t like something, please stick with a “no thank you” or “I didn’t enjoy that last time.” There is zero need for “that is DISGUSTING” unless it’s organ meat, because that is DISGUSTING.
Practice basic etiquette so you don’t look like a wild animal if you’re eating in public some day.
Like I already said, we’re pretty laid back in this family. This isn’t Buckingham Palace. We burp and we laugh and we knock stuff over and that’s fine. We’re real people. But at least some basic etiquette is always appreciated. See point number one about not constantly talking with your mouth full. And chew with your mouth closed. (PLEASE. I do not want to hear you chewing.) And don’t wipe your mouth on your sleeve, that’s why we have napkins on the table*. I don’t care if neither one of my kids can identify a salad fork vs a main dish fork or knows what a “palette cleanser” course is. I do want them to be able to eat in front of other people without looking like they were just rescued from a deserted island though.
And once you’ve got those basic table skills locked down, maybe expand on the “try it first” rule and swap it out for “try it again”. Sometimes you need to try something more than once to decide you like it. Now, I tried blood pudding once and I 100% assure you that one time was plenty and no, I do not want any ever again, thank you so much. On the other hand, I used to think I hated mashed potatoes. What was I thinking? I must have been in a weird childhood phase because clearly mashed potatoes are delicious and go with any occasion. Had I never tried them again I would have missed out on one of the best food ever. (Also, I’m part Irish, what was wrong with me?!)
This rule has backfired sometimes though. My kids didn’t like scallops but then they tried them again, and now I have to share my damn scallops with them. Sigh.
*We may not actually have napkins some nights. That’s when we bust out a fresh roll of toilet paper. Classy.
We aren’t your personal servants, get up and clear your plate.
Seriously. I am your mother. That guy over there is your father. Neither of us is paid to be your wait staff. Last time I checked, you have two functional arms and two functional legs, EACH. Clearly there is no reason for you to be unable to get up, clear your plate off, and deposit it into the sink. And hint: You can also put condiments and whatnot back into the fridge just because you want to help, you don’t have to wait to be asked. Yeah.
The family pitch-in to help clean up after supper is doable because we also try really hard to have family dinners most of the time. Breakfast is sort of grab-as-you-can. George is usually gone to work before I’m out of bed, and during the school year Hayley prefers to eat something simple once she gets to school so Breanna eats cereal at the table and I eat toast while I catch the news. Our lunches are scattered too. But other than the occasional event, not much gets in the way of our family dinners.
When I first started working outside the home I got put in a 1 pm – 9 pm shift and it killed me to not have supper with my family all week long. Now that I’m on a 10 am – 6 pm shift I’m home pretty much every night to eat with everyone and we don’t take it for granted. Sometimes it’s loud, sometimes it’s silly, and sometimes it’s laid back, but I always love eating with my whole family.
Don’t hog the conversation (one family member is still working on that, won’t name names but it may rhyme with Breanna).
Those family dinners I mentioned are great but it’s easy for it to become some sort of situation where one person is practically holding court and no one else can talk. More than once I’ve opened my mouth to speak only to have someone steamroll right over me until I eventually have to shout, “hey, can I talk too?!” It works. Usually. But in all honestly, those times where we’re gathered around the table eating a good meal allow everyone to touch base. It’s where I share some crazy work story, George tells me about something ridiculous that was covered in political news, and the kids keep us up to date on school.
On the other hand, because we DO want the conversation, we keep a tight limit on device use at the table. Sometimes when George would be out in the past, I would announce a “read at the table” night where I would bring my eReader, Breanna would bring a book, and Hayley would watch something on YouTube on her phone. We don’t do it all the time, but once in awhile it’s kind of a fun way to just chill while you eat. Your mileage may vary but I strongly recall when I was a kid, sitting at the table alone with my meal and a stack of Archie comic books so I don’t mind doing it from time to time.
Those are our basic rules.
Some serious, some less-than-serious, but they’re all what work for us right now. If any of them stop working then we will re-adapt as we’ve done over the years.
To be honest, I get stressed out about way too many things (my bus commute, wondering about how insanely busy work will be, worrying whether my favorite Walking Dead character is going to die) to include meal time as one of them. I don’t want to yell and scream at my kids to eat every last speck on their plates. I don’t want to tell them to be quiet and let the grown-ups talk like we still live in the “children should be seen and not heard” era. And I certainly don’t want to look back and remember tense, angry, frustrating dinners.
We are far from perfect in this household but 95% of the time we laugh and have important conversations and create great memories, all around our kitchen table. Even if sometimes that kitchen table is serving up frozen Jamaican patties because we were too exhausted to make anything else.
What are YOUR basic kitchen rules? Let me know
in the comments below, I’d love to hear them!
In the meantime, please share this with your friends to let them know they’re not the only ones who are little quirky and silly when it comes to household kitchen rules, and then let’s keep our conversations going by signing up to receive my weekly updates below!