Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Supper time, supper time, sup sup supper time.

When i was growing up, we ate dinner all together, pretty much every night. While i can't say it was always that great of an experience (what with the lima bean* and the table manner fights) it is what i thought families did, ate together, every night.

So i brought that expectation into my marriage, without even realizing that it was an expectation.

I held on to that expectation for a long, long time. The Mister tried to accommodate me, but after we had Em, things changed. (Understatement of the Century.) He worked a lot, and i was home. So he would tell me what i wanted to hear, that he would be home by, say, 6:30. And then he was late, almost every single night. That made me mad. So i was mad at him, almost every single night.

After we were separated, and then weren't, i realized that i would have to give up my image of our family having dinner together most nights. Because being mad at my husband almost every single night was not good for our relationship (duh).

Giving up that expectation has freed me. In fact, the sad thing is now that i kind of prefer it when the Mister isn't home for dinner, because Em and i will eat pretty much whatever is around, and if the Mister is home, i feel like i should make an actual meal.

Although i am happier without the family dinner expectation, i still feel that it's his loss.

*We used to drive my mother wild when she served those awful frozen lima beans for dinner by popping them into our mouths and swallowing them whole, like pills, thus avoiding the need to chew and actually taste them. I thought it was brilliant, my mother, not so much.


thailandchani said...

As it's been said, there are 84,000 different paths.. and that seems to be true for everything. :)

Lynn said...

We used to eat dinner together every night (unless my dad got home late). At least that's how I remember it. Or maybe we ate dinner together as a family, only on the weekends. Or maybe my mother hypnotized me into remembering our whole family eating together, and we really didn't.

DH doesn't usually get home till 7:30 and the kids are 'starving' if they have to wait till then, so we just eat before he gets home, during the week, and all eat together on the weekends. However, when DH is having some "guy time" with his friends, the only thing I make for dinner with my mom and the kids are reservations. (much less stress)

Anonymous said...

Somehow my family always managed the 'eat together' thing too. My brother and I, Mom and Pop. And like you, when the little one came along and we were both working it made things near impossible. I hate that we (that includes you, Meno) have had to lose that tradition, but I'm glad to see you found a workable solution.

ms chica said...

My family had the same tradition as yours. Always ate together, and at the dinner table. After my father passed away, we ate together in front of the TV. Not the same. I'm sorry your Mister is missing out out too.

I like eating dinner with my better half when he isn't out of town working, but cooking is far less stressful when I'm cooking for only myself...I can make dinner out anything in the fridge if it will postpone a trip to buy groceries.

furiousBall said...

I'm most happy that you and your hubby found a way to make it work. That is admirable and a tradition that is more important. Good for the both of you.

Mrs. Chili said...

I used your lima bean trick for peas....

Marshamlow said...

We try to eat dinner together as a family at the table a few times per week. We are usually all home and I always cook, but sometimes we end up eating separately. Sometimes my Lily is acting up. Sometimes my Mandy is acting up. Sometimes I am acting up. I feel like we are very close and loving, but that sometimes we just need our space and I don't want to impose the you have to sit at the table or else. Sometimes I feel bad about that because I grew up eating at the table with proper manners. I don't think my kids have proper manners.

QT said...

We ate dinner together most nights when I was growing up, and certainly on Sundays. As we got into the teen years and everyone had different basketball, track, or whatever schedules, it started to fall apart.

Isn't it funny how hard it is to LET GO of something that is seemingly so important to you, and not another?

flutter said...

We only really every did that on sundays. I miss it, too.

Anonymous said...

I think those days are long past for most families these days [or maybe that's just the over scheduling thing.]

Gordo said...

We always ate together as a family, as did my wife's (depending on farm chores). We got into the habit of couch eating very early into our marriage and weren't able to get back to the table for dinner again until our first was born. Of course, we're lucky: Bridget and I both work predictable hours and are able to make it happen. I think we're a better family for it.

Anonymous said...

Expectations will fuck almost everything up won't they?

meno said...

chani, that's a lot of paths. But it seems true enough.

lynn, it does make for much less stress when we eat in shifts. Mostly because everyone is on their own, and i'm not in charge. The Mister could never understand why we couldn't just snack until he got home at 8, and them eat.

irrelephant, yeah, it was easier because my mom never worked and my dad was in a carpool and so he had a regular schedule. But i do miss the family dinner too.

ms. chica, it really is his loss, as he's the one who eats alone the most. i will practically eat ketchup soup rather than shop, well, almost.

furious, well, our way of making it work involved me giving up. But there are advantages.

ms. chili, we thought we were so clever.

marsha, my child has bad table manners too. I just didn't want to make dinner into a battlefield, so i gave up. I regret that now.

qt, we stopped doing it when us kids all became teens also. I just thought that this was what families did, ate together.

flutter, every freaking night at our house. As a child i would gladly have skipped it, but i still thought that this was how is had to be when i had a family.

maddy, too bad, kinda. We aren't overscheduled, just the Mister.

gordo, i think you are too. All those studies show that it's better for the kids too. A time when someone is listening to them.

franki, especially since i didn't know that there was any other way.

Joan said...

When we were very young, mom fed us early and then she and Dad would eat together when he got home from work. Once we were school age, we all ate together as a family every single night and our conversations were always the same..."How was your day at work/school/home?" followed by "Fine." Not very stimulating, that's for sure.

SUEB0B said...

Dang, I wish I would have thought of that with the lima beans

Liv said...

oh, honey. we are twins. psychic twins except for that you're taller than me and you're still married. you just wrote my life. i always wanted the dinners, the gatherings, the million kids running around. hmmm.. maybe next time.

Anonymous said...

We used to always eat dinner together but now my hoosband gets home late and wants to work out and the kids are STARVING (just what I said to my mother to annoy the heck out of her - "You are NOT STARVING," she would declare indignantly). I now try to make it so one of us is eating with the kids, or at least sitting there while they eat. Or don't eat. Or jump up and down around the table while talking enthusiastically and dropping food. Enthusiastically. I find myself pointing at their chairs all the time. Sit. Stay.

I will be sad when they're gone. Is it weird that I feel their impending absence so deeply? I mean, my youngest is only 7.

Andrea Frazer said...

We eat together almost every night, but if James works, fxx it. We eat without him. About once/month we'll eat in front of the tv. Flexibility of schedule, and the mind, is always a good thing.

Lucia said...

Isn't it wonderful to grow up and find out there are 101 ways to do almost anything and they're all OK!

Anonymous said...

We had family dinners when I was growing up. My dad got home from work early enough. What I remember most about that was being banished from the kitchen because my mother didn't like to be bothered while she was cooking, and that my father always got the best (whatever - piece of meat, usually, or selection of leftovers).

Tony works late. I'd be so steamed, watching the neighbor men come home from work while it was still light out and get all their yard work done during the week, never mind the whole dinner idea. Most of the time, I feed the kids, then we eat together later if I'm not too hungry to wait, but it's not exactly a romantic dinner for two - it's either what the kids had, reheated, or leftovers, or something cold. Conversation is non-existent, but at least it's not "sit down, another bite, don't spill that, legs in FRONT, please...."

TTQ said...

The best part of dinner and growing up? No lima beans. Together as a family or otherwise.

Kellyology said...

I think one of the hardest parts about marriage is deciding what works from your pasts and what doesn't.

Unknown said...

At least you ate them! When I was growing up, we had to eat at least 3 bites each of everything served, and while they didn't have to be BIG bites, they had to be real bites, otherwise it didn't count. I ate a lot of 3-bites by chewing as little as possible. :)

Candy said...

So well said, and what IS it about men who feel they have to ask forgiveness instead of permission!? My husband spent the first ten years of our marriage doing the exact same thing. I stopped caring if he was going to be home for dinner years ago, and in fact, it's freeing when he isn't.

urban-urchin said...

My mom would get totally pissed off when I would hold my nose trying to eat lima beans- it got to the point that I would pocket them and then excuse myself and flush them down the toliet along with any other nasty thing she made us eat. Once she told us we could only have 10 grains of salt at a meal. 10. grains. flipping lunatic.

Bob said...

we had family meals growing up, I don't remember there ever being any decision being made to do so, we just did.

We're much more loose about that in my family. Kris is at college, Zack usually shows up for dinner, but not always - so she and I eat whenever it's ready. I call if I will be late and she eats when she's hungry.

basically, though, if you brought expectations into it, it was probably up to you to make sure hubs knew it - and agreed. If he agreed and still ditched - then you had every right to get mad.

Wayfarer Scientista said...

This sems to be a re-occuring problem for families nowadays in the USA. I wonder if other places this is also true? Or if it is something North American?

meno said...

joan, in my family then it wasn't much fun either, but they aren't much fun. Em and the Mister and i have fun, usually when we eat together.

suebob, it's a great trick. I also had a dog who would eat Brussel Sprouts. A real godsend that.

liv, um, the million kids? Not so much. You still have time though.

capacious, i am keenly feeling the sadness of my daughter being gone. Less than a year left. My heart is heavy.

mamap, it's been a long streak lately of fuck it, eat without him.

lucia, when you grow up with something sometimes you just think that's how it's done. It is refreshing to learn that that's bull.

de, that sounds so 50s, that thing about getting the best of whatever. Family meals seem to have gone by the wayside.

ttq, what? You missed a time-honored torture method. I'm sending you some Swanson's frozen lima beans right now.

kelly, and figuring out that there are many other ways to do things. Colored lights vs. white. Christmas eve vs. Christmas morning, and so on.

andrea, we had no choice but to eat them. My mom was a member of the clean plate club. I remember sitting at the dinner table once for hours because i wouldn't eat my lima beans.

candy, i stopped caring too. If i was my husband, that would make me sad, that no one cared if i was home for dinner, and that they preferred it when i wasn't.

u-u, hi stranger. 10 grains? Did she count? Does she have OCD? That is crazy.

bob, he would pick the time, and then be late. So that's why i had to stop caring. It was easier for him to tell me what i wanted to hear, even if i really would rather have the truth.

wayfarer, it partially has to do with our ridiculous work ethic, both parents working, afternoon activities....... And probably about 6 other things. It can't just be in this country, but i don't know for sure.

OhTheJoys said...

K and I are totally invested in family dinner time, but I hear it get's all screwed up when the kids get old enough to have soccer practice and what not.

Mother of Invention said...

We had dinner every night at 6:00 sharp in the 50's but not many families do now...they are too busy driving kids around to their million and one activities. All we ever had was brownies and some had piano or skating. It is a bit of a loss I think not to sit down and connect at at least one meal a day.

Sienna said...

We kinda (tyranny of distance and isolation) get to have big family feast meals, if everyone is here it's like the Waltons :)

....but I kinda like the winding down from that too, if I'm home alone I get lost outside with the camera or stuff, forget to eat, I like that choice too.

Your picture of Lammie and Em is so beautiful, I love that photo, and my heart swelled with pride about her school parent-teacher news too, you brag away!!! Top stuff.


Lynnea said...

I thought I commented. I'm going insane. What's new?

When there was no one but me and the oldest kid, we ate pretty casual - on the floor (who had money for a table?), giggling over spaghetti, watching tv. When the man came along we started doing the eat together thing because we both grew up that way. Now we're adjusting to letting go. We still try but his work keeps him away from the table a lot of nights. I have a secret confession though: sometimes I enjoy it because I get to sit on my feet at the table when he's not around ;)

Tink said...

Hoop and I eat together... In front of the TV. I'm big on nice meals though because I know that will all change if there are ever kids. No more pork chop marsala with pan cooked mushrooms and broc. in wine. *Sigh*

Anonymous said...

I've started to get this more as someone who lives alone than I ever did in either of my family settings. There's a delicate ritual and presentness to all of it that, when I'm able to do it, really helps ground me. .

amusing said...

How ridiculous is it that there are tv commercials now telling us all how important it is to eat as a family -- and relating it to preventing drug abuse no less!

meno said...

oh, the Joys (may i call you Jess?) i used to be invested in in too, but it was just too hard. Not because of Em, but because of the Mister. How sad is that?

moi, i agree that it is a loss, but in this case it's not my loss.

pam, it is nice to be more flexible about meals too. Good night Mary Ellen, Goodnight Pa, Goodnight John-boy.

maggie, lay off the wine, will ya? Yes, i enjoy when the Mister isn't home too. Em and i can eat popcorn sitting on my bed for dinner. What's not to like about that?

tink, you made me hungry.

popeye, it's even harder, at least for me, to make a real meal when i am alone. That's too bad i think.

amusing, i haven't seen those. Something else to feel guilty about, great!

heartinsanfrancisco said...

I endured a lot of childhood torture over lima beans but don't swallow pills well, even small ones, so I had to chew them.

They were usually served with liver and cauliflower, both of which I also hated.

Our family dinners were often quite unpleasant because of such bullying over food, and yet I also entered my first marriage with expectations of shared meals. Considering that we basically shared almost nothing, it seems odd that this was even a factor.

Anonymous said...

I feel that losing expectations help win in relationships. It frees you up for the better moments.

crazymumma said...

Years ago, I thought we would always eat together. mr mumma came from a family that always ate togeter and I came from a family that did not.

I wanted the eating together to create the 'perfectfamily' scenario, and he did not.

Now we just go with whatever is best that night.

frees up alot of mental agonizing.

Mermaid Melanie said...

its always interesting how freeing giving up expectations is. I don't know why I still have them. ;-)