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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.

This article was originally published on May 13, 2015

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