Both the bear and I grew up in families where mealtimes were sacrosanct, a time to sit down together and enjoy each other’s company for half an hour or so at the end of a busy day. This was not something I necessarily appreciated the importance of at the time, of course. I recall feeling much put out at my parents’ insistence that I stop watching Neighbours and come to eat. How dare they?! And my parents’ positively medieval attitude to phone calls during dinner (calls would be intercepted and callers politely requested to call back later) would enrage me. How embarrassing!
Nevertheless, with the benefit of a more mature perspective I can now see how incredibly lucky I was to have such a picket-fence kind of a childhood. My parents were teachers so had working hours that coincided with our schooling hours, which helped. And possibly I now have a rose-tinted view of those mealtimes as Walton-ised moments of harmony and togetherness. Even so, it is something I am keen to replicate in my own little family and as my old da always says: “The family who eat together bleat together.” Whatever that means!
The only thing is that the kids just don’t want to cooperate. In fairness, they are only one and three and therefore can’t reasonably be expected to engage in civilised conversation. However, there are times, such as last night, when I wonder why oh why I even bother. Picture the scene: children – tired and edgy after a day’s exertions at nursery. Timinou’s whinge-o-metre set to maximum; Tichoux with her angry, screamy face on. The bear’s jaw set to clench since a run-in with a colleague earlier in the morning… thank goodness at least I was my naturally sunny and eminently reasonable self 😉
As the bear and I struggled to hold a conversation with our ears under constant assault from either side, it occurred to me that trying to talk over the din of our offspring was a little like trying to sing one tune while listening to another. Enjoying the delicious fare lovingly prepared by the bear was also impossible as I was stuck forking butternut squash into two reluctant little mouths between alternate cries for sausages and cuddles. The bear was on the verge of being possessed by the macho French papa portion of his id and was forced to leave the table to recapture his cool. Ah, the joys of having young children!
Yet we will persist. As, I imagine, our parents persisted with us. One day in the dim and distant future we will be able to sit around and have a decent meal together that – if not perfect – at least has somewhat more in common with an Linda Bellingham era Oxo ad than with a wrestling match in a hurricane.