Family dinner: A minute-by-minute account

Take a deep breath, cover up your good clothes and join us for a typical family dinner with a toddler and a kindergartener.

June comments on dinner. Photo: Tammy Sutherland

June comments on dinner. Photo: Tammy Sutherland

Family dinners are an important part of the happy household landscape in my mind, so we sit down to enjoy a meal together as often as possible. Well, maybe the word “enjoy” is too strong. We eat a meal together as often as possible. OK, maybe “eat” is also overselling it. How about this—sometimes we consume edible products near each other.

I have two daughters. Violet is three and June is 21 months. This is my blow-by-blow account of a typical dinner with my husband, James, and them.

5:00: Get everyone to the table. It’s early, but animal hour is upon us.
5:01: Violet declares the dinner yucky, despite the fact that no food has come near her mouth.
5:02: Violet says she has to pee. She refuses any help and goes upstairs.
5:03: June shovels fistfuls of food into her mouth. After every third fistful, she stops to chew a few times.
5:04: Violet returns to the table and knocks over her milk.
5:05: Jamie asks if I would like a glass of wine. I say, “Yes!”
5:06: Violet takes a bite of food and then whines that she’s thirsty and has nothing to drink.
5:07: June dumps all of her food on to her high chair tray.
5:08: Violet drops her fork.
5:09: We take away June’s tray and give her a bowl with just two bites of food in it.
5:10: June dumps bowl of food over her head.
5:11: Violet slips under the table and repeatedly hits my foot while asking, “Whose foot am I hitting?”
5:12: Jamie attempts to feed June a bite of food. A power struggle over the spoon ends with food being flung to the farthest corner of the room.
5:13: Violet rejoins us at the table and explains she’s mad because her food is not in sandwich form.
5:14: Jamie makes Violet a sandwich of her dinner.
5:15: Violet is still mad. The sandwich is not big enough.
5:16: June is screaming for food, so we give her back her plate.
5:17: June drops her spoon.
5:18: Violet has to poop; runs upstairs.
5:19: June shakes the water from her sippy cup out all over her food.
5:20: Violet returns. I help her wash her hands, because I didn’t hear the sink upstairs.
5:21: I beg Violet to eat a little more.
5:22: Jamie sings our elaborate “hand and face wipe” song (based on Handel’s Hallelujah chorus) while trying to pick dinner out of June’s hair.
5:23: I continue to beg Violet to eat a few more bites.
5:24: June and Violet start making funny faces. I grab the camera.
 Dinner is mercifully done.

(Oh, and somewhere in there, we eat our food, drink our wine and pray for bedtime!)

 Read more: 8 tips for teaching your child table manners>

Acting managing editor, Tammy Sutherland, does her best to juggle family and work. Sometimes she gets it right. (But mostly she just gets by.) Read about life in a family of four where Daddy is seriously outnumbered. (Even the cat is a girl.) Follow her on Twitter @TSutherland75.

Stay in touch

Subscribe to Today's Parent's daily newsletter for our best parenting news, tips, essays and recipes.