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Family Meal Time
by Rochelle Valasek
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Family Meal Time
By Rochelle L. Valasek

Do you find that when you try to get your family to the table for mealtime you feel like you could pull your hair out and scream? If you do, then you most likely find yourself with thoughts of your childhood days wishing your mealtime would be at least a percentage of what it was back then.
Supper, or any mealtime for that matter, was a special time for my family when I was a child. A large number of my growing years were spent with my grandparents. My grandfather was self-employed and worked below the apartment. Being that they were diabetics, mealtime was always at the same time. Once the table was set and dinner was ready, my grandmother would open the door at the top of the steps and blow one of those high-pitched whistles that you use your two fingers. My grandfather would always holler up, “Yeah!”
“Time to eat!” My grandmother would yell back.
Grandpa knew why she whistled everyday, but that was their amusement. I can’t help but smile when I think of that.
As a matter of fact, my suppertime is pretty close to that same scenario. I can’t whistle, but I always yell to my husband and boys from the top of the steps down to the family room where they play.
Yes, they do yell up, “What?”
And I yell back, “Time to eat!” They too know what I’m yelling about, but it is like a game I guess.

My meals weren’t always the picture of a Norman Rockwell. Even when I was a child there were hurried schedules. Football games, gymnastics, drill team, dances. But I have many great memories that took place at the dinner table.

Mealtime is a time to get caught up with each other. A time to see what your kids have been up to out of the home, or a time when you can check in with them to see if there are any needs in there life.
It does not have to be at supper, it can be any meal together. Sometimes, the family can only be together at one meal. My favorite meal at my maternal grandparents was suppertime.
Now my paternal grandparent was a whole different mealtime. Sunday Dinner was the best. After church we would all gather at Gram and Papa’s house. There was my mom, dad, brother, aunt, uncles and cousins. It was a family time from the beginning of the meal to the end and hours after.
I would be able to smell the dinner cooking as soon as I got out of my car. My mouth would water walking down the sidewalk. Gram would be there at the door when we would come in, welcoming us with a loving hug, with dinner just about ready to serve. We ladies would help get the dinner in the serving dishes and onto the table. All the while talking about church and how our week went. The men would get the chairs and table leafs to build the grand dining table, having their own chatter amongst themselves.

Now this wasn’t the typical family dinner that you weren’t allowed to be loud or crazy. Many times my uncle and I would start singing a song together at the table. It would, of course, bring laughter, but the only time that we were scolded was if we weren’t eating and the dinner was getting cold.

I never did understand why people had to have everything quiet at the table. It was the time when we were able to talk and share thoughts, even sing. Life is busy and you sometimes have to take what you can get. Families hardly ever get together these days. Parents are busy being super-humans and kids being super-kids. Family time, especially mealtime is on its way to extinction.

There are numerous ways you can make it fun for your children at mealtime.
Fun Food
Having fun food is a major hit with kids. Anything that is “build your own” works wonders. For example: Build your own personal pizzas, baked potatoes, salads with meat (roast beef or steak chunks, chicken, even fish). It’s always fun to occasionally have dessert that you can build, Sundaes and parfaits, ice cream cookie sandwiches and trifles.

Conversation is for all ages. Kids love for you to ask them about their day. I know, lots of kids say they ‘don’t know’ when asked how their day went. It’s all in how you ask them. Ask them, “What was the most exciting time of your day?” or “Who sat with you at lunch today?” If you give them a specific subject to think about, you’re more prone to get an answer, and be ready, you might end up getting the whole day’s accounts. Don’t forget your husband. He also likes some conversation. He may be tired from work, but try to get him in on the talk with the kids.

The Chow Call
Like my grandmother and me, we love to make it a game with our families. Having a dinner bell like the old farms used to have to call the farm hands for meals is a fun way to still call your family. I have a little bell with a handle that my youngest son likes to use if my family is upstairs. Not everyone can hear it, but it’s amusing for him to help get everyone running for the kitchen.

Shared Responsibilities
Let them help. Many enjoy feeling that they are helping and taking part of a daily occasion. Have one person get the drinks and one set the table. If you have more kids, divvy up the setting of the table. You can additionally have them help clear the dishes and clean up the table. Everyone gets to pitch in and get done at the same time, makes it easier for the families that have the early finishers.

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