RSWL: Family Dinners

Okay, this may be a stretch for a Random Stuff We Like entry, and may even be borderline TMG Philosphy.  I’m going to do it here, today, anyway.  

We recently celebrated a birthday dinner with my husband’s family, and then, of course, we were with family for Mother’s Day.   As I reflected on each of these dinners, I started to think about how special these family dinners are.   They may even be endangered. 

I’m not talking about nightly meals with those in our home.  I mean the dinners that bring members of your extended family together.  Though the occasion and participants vary, my husband and I have the opportunity to gather in this way at least once a month, if not more.  Whether it is his family, my family or both combined, we can count on these gatherings.   In our hectic and crazy busy lives, sometimes this opportunity feels like a chore, a burden.  However, I always get something out of the interactions, and am grateful that my children are now getting the chance to experience these family meals.  

We don’t just eat and leave.  We sit.  We talk.  We work together, cook together, laugh and sometimes cry together.  We even fight together for that occasional family drama encounter. Here, smart phones, tablets, television and social media don’t exist.  Here, we practice the art of conversation.  We ask questions, we listen.  With all the attention-sucking, hypnotizing gadgets being crammed down our throats, it is nice to sit around a table, practice our manners, argue over the last biscuit, and laugh at the same jokes over and over.  Here, family tales grow bigger.  Here, legends are told.  Here memories are made. 

A Family Dinner

A Family Dinner

Invariably, pictures are taken, capturing mouthfuls of food, children picking noses, parents yawning, awkward glances and hearty laughter.   These snapshots of time become a record of our family growing together.  These snapshots are shared with those loved ones not with us.   These snapshots capture time to be passed down to the next generations. 

Maybe, just maybe, these gatherings full of home-cooked food and love offer a reprieve from the rush of everyday life.  They might serve to offer extra support and love to family members that are hurting, or encouragement to those in need. Rituals are shared and taught.   New boyfriends or girlfriends are introduced and embarrassed, announcements are made, and identities are formed.  

In sharing our joys, stories, jokes, trials, frustrations, and even recipes, we share parts of ourselves with each other and deepen our roots.  That’s what makes family dinners and gatherings one of those things we love.  What’s for dinner? 

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TMG Philosophy: NO!

Because I have a very mobile, very curious, never-sleeping 18-month old boy (Nate), “no” has become a very regular part of my vocabulary.   “No, you can’t launch yourself off the top of the couch.  No, you can’t eat dog food (Although I’m starting to wonder if it would be that bad).  No, you can’t squeeze the baby chickens.  No, you can’t fish in the toilet.  No, you can’t use a hammer on the windows.  No, you can’t use a hammer at all.  No, you can’t stay awake for 24 hours.  No, you can’t have my beer (Although he may finally sleep…I’m kidding people!).  No, you can’t stick your crayons and cars and cereal puffs in the DVD player. No, Momma’s camera is not a toy.  No, no, no.”

Does "no" mean I should always take "no" for an answer?

Does “no” mean I should always take “no” for an answer?

Anyone who has spent even just a little time around a developing child will tell you that more often than not, toddlers, kids and teenagers (and quite a few adults) don’t take “no” for an answer. No they don’t.  I am learning that daily, even hourly.  As I have these battles with my son, watching him accept or test the boundaries being built, I can’t help but draw a parallel to life and echo Tim’s point from “Don’t Feed the Alligators”.   Yes, some “no’s” exist to keep us safe or steer us away from bad decisions.  However, I believe some “no’s” exist to refine us, to strengthen us, to make us fight harder to overcome the obstacle.  Some “no’s” challenge us to think outside of our box and step outside of our comfort zones. Isn’t it often our resistance to “no” that brings our biggest achievements, our greatest success, our strongest life?

How many cancer survivors do you know that initially heard, “no, we can’t help you.”?  What if Walt Disney had taken “no” for an answer after being fired for “lacking imagination”, and after numerous failed businesses?  What if the Wright brothers had taken “no” for an answer with each failed flying machine?   Imagine if Abraham Lincoln had quit trying when he experienced numerous defeats in his runs for public office?   What if Theodor Seuss Giesel had taken “no” for an answer when over 20 publishers rejected his first book?  What if Beethoven had listened to his violin teachers when they said he would never succeed in composing?

I could go on with that list, and we can agree the world would be a much different place had these individuals taken “no” for an answer.  Hopefully we have all been given a healthy dose of “no’s” to keep us safe and teach us respect for boundaries.  Hopefully we have all been given enough encouragement when we hear those “no’s” that mean “keep going, try harder”.  At 18 months, my son is just learning about safety and permissible behavior. He is learning that “no” is survivable. He is also learning that with a few extra letters and redirection, “no” can become “not this way…but try this.”

Next time you hear “no”, I challenge you to pause and think about whether or not it really means “no”. I know Nate will!

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