Sunday, December 11, 2011

Advent Calendar - Child-Friendly Dinners

My mother started two special dinner traditions.  The first one certainly made the holidays easier for us as parents.  Because young children often need naps, especially with the excitement of the holidays, Mother started having dinner begin at 4:30 or 5 instead of 2 to 3.  This began with my two children, the first two grandchildren.  Oh, did this help.  The children could have their naps and wake up when they were rested.  AND they had time to wake up before sitting down to dinner.  So no grouchy, tired children.  This is still the tradition, as some of my other siblings had young children and came for dinner. 

The second tradition was that the youngest people were always served first and we went up in age.  This worked especially well when a parent, or parents, needed to fix plates for the young ones.  So, the children’s plates were fixed and the children sat down. They chose which table they wanted to sit at.  Then the adults served themselves and sat in empty seats.  This avoided a “children’s table” and an “adult table.”  And the adults who sat with the children enjoyed the time talking with nieces, nephews or younger cousins whom they hadn’t seen for a while.  The children learned to carry on conversations during dinner and had good examples as to table manners at a holiday dinner.  Also, there was an adult or two to help cut food, get seconds, etc.  And it was a lot of fun.  (I often chose the “children’s” table after my children were grown.)  After all, I could always talk with the adults, but to get a child to sit down and talk to me when there was lots to do and many things to play with was more difficult.

Even now, with all adults, the youngest at dinner serves himself first.   And now often the youngest adult is over 40.  We do this even when we visit and it’s not a holiday.