The table is set, the lasagna is hot, I need only to say that single word that will bring our family together for that daily ritual of eating, sharing, laughing and encouraging one another.
“Suuupppppeeeerrrr!!” I bellow, standing at exactly the one location that everyone in the house SHOULD be able to hear me, both upstairs and down.
My bellowing is rewarded with the stampede of many footsteps coming from the far reaches of this little house, and everyone scrambles to pick a seat.
“Argh!”, says Middle Child. “I wanted that seat!”
I plunk myself into my seat, and say “Let’s pray!” with all the grace of a WWF Superstar.
Daddy prays, while the peanut butter jar lid quietly unscrews beside me. Without opening my eyes, I place my hand on top of the much smaller hand currently getting a jumpstart on dinner.
“Amen!” I hear, and I subconsciously echo it while giving the evil eye to the perpetrator.
“Do you want lasagna?” My soulmate asks, while putting some on his plate. He unceremoniously slides a piece on my plate while I say “Mommy needs some down time tonight.”
“I want to be a ghost!” says Little Sister
“I’m going to be a Creeper!” Big Brother chimes in.
“Okay guys, we need to talk about Halloween! We’re going to do something that honours God –”
“I want to be a GHOST!” Little Sister says, more insistent this time.
I attempt to explain that “Being a ghost is something that doesn’t –”
“But I WANT to be A GHOST!” she says, as she dissolves into tears.
Daddy comes to the rescue with “What about those costumes we have? Why don’t you be one of those?”
“You could be a princess, or a ladybug, or –”
The tears stop. “I want to be something that BOUNCES!”
“Like Tigger?” I suggest helpfully.
“Yes! I’ll be right back!”
“I just need the Christmas tree box for my Creeper costume –” Big Brother says.
“No, you can’t use the Christmas tree box! It’s not big enough for you any–”
Little Sister reappears: “Look! I’m a Tigger! I can bounce on my tail! How come I can’t bounce on my tail? Look, I can’t bounce. I can just jump. Hop Hop Hop!!”
I attempt to start a conversation with my partner in parenting: “So, I need to talk to you about something school related –”
“Okay. Boys, clear your plates.”
“Aww man!” is heard in stereo, as I watch the bottles, jugs, plates and trays slowly disappear into the fridge, cupboards and sink.
“So, conferences this year –” I start.
“Whoa, wait a second. Start at the beginning.”
“Parent-Teacher conferences are coming –”
“Aaahh! My leg’s stuck!” Little Sister shrieks.
“We go to them every year –,” I continue.
“I want to be a ladybug!”
“We usually go, all five of us together. This year –”
“Yeah, so what’s the deal?”
“Can you unzip me?” Little Sister asks.
Focused, I stay on the current topic: “They’re doing them during the daytime this year, because of the work-to-rule thing. We have to fit 3 meetings into a space of 35 minutes, unless –”
“Right. I’ll take one kid, you take another one. We’ll meet for the third.”
“Okay –” The phone rings. “If we can get that actual time slot –”
“Unzip my back!! I’m going to be a ladybug.” Little Sis says again.
The phone rings. “So we’ll do that right? Can you schedule it in like that?” he asks, double-checking.
The phone rings again. Daddy reaches for it, but it stops.
“Thanks for dinner, hon! Pass the cheese!” he says, as if the conversation is over.
The phone starts again. Daddy grabs it in time. “Hey!” “Yeah, so you’re in a rush?” ” ‘kay, see you soon!” He plunks the receiver back in it’s socket.
“See you later,” … and he’s off. Off to help a friend, because that’s the type of guy he is — always ready to help.
The kids disappear into the basement only to reappear with foam swords, a 5 foot cardboard tube, and quite a bit of pirate jargon.
I turn up the tunes, and get to washing dishes while sword fights and acrobatics take place in the playroom.
Such are family dinners in our house. One day I’ll miss them. For now, I can just enjoy them (… or at least, what little there is of them!).