Friday, May 29, 2009

Value Meal

A little while ago, Sarah and I were at a store looking at a rack of t-shirts. One of them showed a line drawing of a family around the dinner table with the words, "Value Meal" written above the picture.

I just loved that t-shirt, not just because it was a clever play on words but because that is how we view dinner time around our house. It's a time when values, knowledge, joy and camaraderie are ingested right along with the chicken casserole. It's also a safe time and by that I mean it's a time when no corrections are allowed.

Unfortunately, it hasn't always been that way.

I remember a meal last year when Nathan was eagerly telling us all a story about something that had happened to him that day. His face was lit up, his voice was animated, and he was really getting into the telling of the tale. Halfway through his story, he said something that wasn't grammatically correct and without even thinking about it, I corrected him.

I'll never forget the sight of the joy leaking out of his face. I'll always remember how his voice faltered just a little. I can still hear the way the rest of his story ended up sounding a whole lot less enthusiastic than the beginning.

Although Steve and I had already made the agreement that we wouldn't discipline the children at the table (for not getting the lawn mowed or the homework finished, for instance) I had never thought that something as simple as correcting grammar could rob dinnertime joy, too.

And so our table has been officially deemed A Safe Place. Although it sometimes takes me holding on to my self control by my fingernails, grammar is no longer corrected at the table. If one of my children wants to insert the word "like" four hundred and twenty-two time into their dinner time narrative, I will not say a word. If Nathan wants to say, "Me and Michael" instead of, "Michael and I," he's free to do it! Even if one of them were to (gasp!) use the word, "ain't" it would be okay.

The bottom line? No joy-smushing in any form is allowed at the dinner table.

When Sarah was going through speech therapy, part of our job at home was to listen to her talk on a casual basis and occasionally point out if she was sliding over "S" sounds or talking too fast and jumbling her words.

Dr. Jones said, "Just be listening as she is talking, maybe at dinner or in the evening before bed and mention any corrections that need to be made in her speech."

At first I thought, "Well, I can do that. No problem."

But then I remembered about The Safe Place. No grammar correction. No posture correction. And no speech correction.

I ended up telling Dr. Jones about our family's dinnertime policy. He seemed quite impressed by the whole concept and was very understanding of the point I was making.

Now this is not to say that dinnertime is a free-for-all where anything goes. Steve and I are not so much into unconditional parental love that our dinners turn into wild sessions of burping, slurping and pea throwing!

However, there is some sense of dinner being a free-for-all in the area of giggles, friendly arguments and frequent dashes for the dictionary.

Last night for example, we spent twenty minutes discussing how driving speed affects gas mileage and how a tail wind or a head wind affects the progress of an airplane.

Then we discussed how important stereophonic hearing is in being able to locate the direction sound is coming from. This led to Steve clapping his hands in different areas around the table while Sarah closed her eyes and turned her head toward the sound of each clap.

That little illustration was followed by a discussion of how monocular vision affects depth perception. We conducted experiments where Nathan closed one eye and tried to reach for something across the table; he was surprised by how much perceptions change when both eyes are used.

Naturally, at one point a call for the dictionary was made, although I don't remember at the moment what the word in question was.

What I DO remember, though, is that grammar went uncorrected, foibles went unmentioned, and laughter was served as the main course.

It was a value meal, indeed.

10 Had Something To Say (Just click here!):

Adena said...

:) I luv your dinnertime policy. The point about monocular vision is a great one too...I've been seeing with one eye at a time since roughly age 9. I can't do 3-D movies, 3 dimensional pics on paper, or those weird visual illusion pictures where something is supposed to jump out at you eventually. Nothing jumps!!! I've had a few interesting experiences where it is obvious I don't see the same way as some peeps...but it is difficult to put into words what you don't see....we experience the world from what we DO perceive, not from what we don't. BTW, I don't recommend trying to play the net position in volleyball with one eye....just get hurt and kinda tick off the more serious players...incoming....incoming.... THUD!!!!! LOL. Anyway, TMI, huh? :)

Jennifer said...

What a great idea!! that's it just Hubbie and me at dinner, things are so much quieter! Relish in those moments of family meals together!!

Sue G said...

Wish I had had your wisdom when my children were young. I think dinner would have been a lot more fun. Instead, it was that rare time when we were all together so all the stored info/corrections were unleashed But it was a tad better than the dinner table of my childhood. That's when my mom would unveil a litany of complaints about my behavior during the day to my father, who simply wanted to eat in peace and quiet after a long day at work. Needless to say, there were many tears, some physical attacks, and a whole lot of resentment on my part.

Amazing I turned out to be the delightful adult you have come to know and love, right? :-)

Debbie said...

My children are al grown, married and have children, and I miss family dinner most I think. It was always a good time.

Good luck for Steve and the new job? Is it in your area? Would you still have to move? Maybe I missed that post, I don't know..

God Bless~
Debbie Jean

Anonymous said...


great dinner time policy!

mrs pam

Sue G said...

I'm thinking that you're probably at the church and signing right now as we, as I write. Praying for your voice to rise in joy and love for the Lord. Praying that you will feel renewed in your spirit. Praying for travel mercies for the trip home.

Shout to the Lord!!!

Sarah said...

What a great dinnertime policy!

I think I will always appreciate the fact that my family ate dinner together every night. I think it made my family closer (and made us eat a little bit healthier too!). It was always nice to catch up and hear what everyone had done that day (although there were time when I thought I was going to have to eat my own arm waiting for someone to get home). Regardless, family time dinners were always something that I valued - something that so many of my friends never really got to appreciate.

Chill said...

Good stuff my friends. This is THOMBU1, I have this new humor website. Hope you guys can check it out and have a grin, or two. Love you guys. Miss you at Trinity

Anonymous said...

Well might want to let Steve know that Yes, there is marijuana that only has FIVE leaves.
This morning I went out to the paper box to get the paper and right there on the front page was a colored marijuana leave...and it had FIVE leaves on it. It was a article on growing marijuana for medical purposes.Apparently depending on what species of marijuana you are talking about depends on how many leaves it has.
Actually, the leaves on Steve's shirt looks axactly like the one in my newspaper.With that being said, if Steve still likes the
shirt and is as handsome as you say he is in it, then he should wear the shirt...I am sure it will be a good for conversation anyways.
Hope your families week is a good one and you hear very exciting news about the new job.

MaryH said...

Hope the singing went well, Becky. Can't wait for the report. Wish there would have been the "value meal" policy when I was growing up - probably why I never insisted on many meals at the table when I was raising my girls by myself. Avoidance is the safe way out! I will suggest this idea to my daughter who is getting closer and closer to that baby being born - strangely, she will insist on sitting at the table for all meals - seems to intuitively understand how nice it is to share some food and be able to look around the table at the people you love and discuss whatever comes up!