5:15pm: Dinner Time
After I’ve greeted my husband, we sit down for dinner together as a family. Fortunately, our schedule allows this to happen almost every single night. If it’s at all possible, I encourage all of you to do the same. (With no technology at the table, either.)
We also prefer to eat dinner more formally than the other meals. For example, the children attempt to set the table set properly. You know, with forks on top of a cloth napkin on the left and spoons and knives on the right, etc. And no, this is not always done well, depending on which child is setting… We do have seven messy children. But I’ve noticed that manners improve when form improves.
Also, if there is a salad to be served, I generally have that on the plates prior to the Table Prayer, so that we’re not passing around multiple dishes. After the Table Prayer, we sit down and eat the said salad.
When everyone is finished, my husband commences dishing out the main entree. Again, we have the same format, when everyone is finished, and if there happens to be something for dessert, it will be served then, and we enjoy it together. The point is, we attempt to take our time.
By the way, we also strive to uphold two other rules:
No talking with your mouth full. (I’m especially bad at this one.)
No using your fingers. Ever. Learn to use your knife to get that food on your fork. (Unless it’s pizza or some other finger food being served.)
Lest this sounds too idyllic, let me remind you, that generally I have a baby or a toddler (or both) crying or throwing food or creating whatever mayhem they might. Well, I’ve just made up my mind not to be deterred. Table manners are worthwhile attempting.
6pm Dinner Cleanup
When everyone is finished eating, my husband leads us in a brief After Dinner Prayer, which goes as follows:
We give thee thanks for all thy benefits, Almighty God, who lives and reigns forever. And may the souls of the faithful departed rest in peace. Amen.
Then chaos generally ensues, as everyone clears his place at the table. Ideally, my obedient little children would immediately place their plate, cup, and silverware in the dishwasher and begin their next cleanup task: The Eldest washes, Child #2 dries, Child #3 sweeps the dining room and kitchen, Child #4 straightens up the back entryway, Child #5 throws the dirty napkins in the hamper, and Child #6 plays quietly on the couch with a doll. And this whole process would take ten minutes.
Ha! This whole process actually takes about an hour because the children are so busy gabbing and laughing and wrestling and giggling. You’d think they were all under the age of 12. (Well, I guess they are.)
And during this loud, chaotic time, I generally hide in the laundry room and fold the last load of laundry for the day. My husband, blessed saint that he is, corrects the Eldest’s math, which she must fix after washing the dishes, if she has any mistakes.
If time allows, my husband and I will sometimes enjoy an after dinner drink. In the warmer months we amble on outside and sit on the deck.