Sunday, September 11, 2011
Everything I Need to Know I Learned at the Dinner Table
“But I made it with LOVE,” I say, standing over a table full of sour looks and protests.
“Aw, not a love food again,” little brother whines. His big brother insists I stop trying to make homemade meals and just buy some chicken nuggets in a bag or the fish that come in stick-form.
“We don’t want you to hurt yourself doing all of this cooking,” my oldest boy announces.
At the dinner table one has to listen hard to keep up with several conversations. Tonight little brother is enthralled by his older sister, a feisty 6 year-old who likes to pretend she’s a snail.
He tugs on my shirt and pulls me down to his level to whisper a question in my ear.
“Can I marry Sissy?”
“I’m sorry, no. It’s against New York State law. You can marry another person when you grow up.”
Little brother frowns. Yanking me down to his level again he whispers, “She is a beautiful goy-il and she has a toy stuffed octopus. She’s the best!” he spits in my ear.
“What does “marry” mean, anyway,” I ask, wiping the boy slobber off the side of my face.
Little brother shrugs. His older brother interjects.
“Don’t you know, Mommy?” he asks, incredulously. “You and daddy are married many years.”
“Not that many!” I reply, defensively.
“Well- longer than my whole life and that’s a long time,” Big Brother says.
“Oh, right. Ok,” I say, checking his napkin for secretly discarded carrots. “So what happens after you get married?”
There is a long pause at the table. Meanwhile, Sissy is avoiding eating her soup by drawing flowers on her napkin with a pink crayon.
“Well, you just go home with your goy-il and she cooks for you. Then you play bad guys,” little brother says, matter of fact as I try to swallow a laugh.
“No- that’s not what happens,” Big Brother says confidently. “You go to work. Then you retire and move to a nursing home to live out the rest of your life sipping lemonade and playing Bingo.”
“Is that what you are gonna do?” I ask.
“Probably not. But you will, Mommy. And unfortunately for us, before you retire you are going to make a lot of years-worth of soup that we’ll have to eat. So, maybe, Mommy, you should just move on to the next step of life now,” announces my oldest.
Slightly shocked by the overly intelligent and heartless candor of my 8 year-old, I shout, “You want me to move away to a nursing home!?”
“No!” yells little brother, grabbing my arm, protectively. “I’m just gonna marry you when I’m a man,” he says, decidedly.
“Oh, yeah? What if you don’t want to get married, or if you meet a girl your age who likes octopus and even T-R-A-I-N-S,” I offer.
My youngest looks worried. He’s pushing the potatoes around in his soup with his spoon, deep in thought.
“Then I’ll just have to do a break up on her and marry you, cuz you’ll be the best at building my island of Sodor,” he finally says, triumphantly.
But my mind is stuck on the first part of that sentence. “Do a what?” I ask, incredulous. What’s a “break up?”
My youngest looks frustrated.
“Mom! That’s when you lose your goy-il and marry someone else!” he informs me.
“Oh, right,” I say, slightly stunned by his knowledge.
“You should already know that Mommy,” Big Brother says, adding, “Oh no. Our soup is cold. Call us when it’s snack time.”
As the table clears of children in under five seconds, I realize that getting these Christie kids to eat vegetables is the first of MANY future challenges.
Picture: the characters at my breakfast/lunch/dinner table
This post was reprinted in a column called "My Turn" in the Sept. 22, 2011 issue of Long Island Advance. It also appeared in the October 13, 2011 issue of Suffolk County News.
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