Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Viking Bottoms

Jamie and I were tired. It required all of our energy just to put fork to plate to mouth. As a result, we involuntarily let the children rule the table. The conversation spiraled at an alarming rate. Bathroom jokes, rude noises, selfish boasts. It was getting ugly. We snapped to. Energy or not, some things -- dinner conversation among them -- require daily guidance and training. They can't be allowed to run rampant.

Jamie and I eyed each other and took the reins once again. "I know!" I suggested. "Let's all share something new we learned today. We'll start with the youngest." Avery's eye gleamed, and each child squirmed eagerly for his or her turn. The lively banter continued, still focusing on and honoring the children, but strategically guided by the parents.

We were quite entertained by Avery's retelling of our history lesson. She had been very much impressed when learning that Viking boats had flat bottoms. (The word "bottom" is irresistible to this wayward child.) Aidan snickered, but added the reasons as to why this feature was advantageous to the Norsemen. Drew and Bethie, in turn, shared the details that stood out vividly in their minds, and we were all soon engaged in an animated discussion about this chapter in history.

We've had this insipid banter problem arise many times in the past. Jamie's solution is frequently a "Question of the Day." Someone comes up with a question for everyone to answer, such as, "If you could go anywhere in the world . . . " or "If you could meet someone from the past . . . ." Again, the conversation is always very lively, but because it is guided by the parent, the words are uplifting and mind-enriching.

Although it can be draining and just one more task in my long day, I know it's so worth it for me to keep a level head at the dinner table. It's an ideal opportunity to help my children practice life skills such as patiently listening to one another, asking thoughtful questions, and sharing wholesome pieces of information. Well, wholesome most of the time. I suppose there's always a chance we'll encounter those Viking bottoms again. Especially if Miss Kate has the floor.
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