Friday, July 30, 2010

Faux Families

K3 writes:

I don’t get it. I just don’t get it. Have you noticed the “families” that aren’t? They make me crazy. Let me give you an example.

As a youngster, I had the opportunity on occasion to have dinner with a friend or two at their home. What they experienced as “dinner time” was completely foreign to me. The kids would all come to the designated eating place – table, kitchen counter, where ever and a plate of food would be plunked down that contained very kid friendly foods. Now I’m not one to argue over fish sticks and French fries, but then the mom (and it was usually the mom) would continue making the real dinner for the adults. Later on, the grownups would dig in to some other fabulous meal somewhere else while the kids were relegated to some other activity.

I didn’t get it…and I still don’t.

Personally, I thought one reason to have children was to have a family, not some kind of pet that you keep separately from the rest of the “real” people and trot out on special occasions in their clean and white starched outfits. Get a well trained Golden Retriever!

In my family of origin, kids were part of everything. If you lived in the house, you were expected to be a part of the household. Dinner was a family affair and everyone helped with something; folding the napkins, making carrot sticks, setting the table. Dinner was what dinner was and everyone ate it. My mom was an “early adopter” when it came to health food. We had the stone-ground, whole wheat bread with the rocks still in it on a daily basis. Some of her culinary delights included stewed soybeans with canned tomato, onion, celery and garlic and a dish that my sister named “hamburger ragazootsi”. I have NO idea what was in that, except ground beef and about a bazillion different kinds of beans. But having dinner together – and sharing a common meal did a couple of things. First, it taught children how to interact with adults. Face it, parents are adults and having conversations about work, and school, and politics, and family issues, and current events, and laundry, and pets, and homework, and , well EVERYTHING helped the kids in my family form ideas on life, the universe and, well, you get the idea.

Eating together also gave us the opportunity to develop a complex palate. Chances are, when you go out to a fancy restaurant, with that oh-so-special true love, chicken nuggets are going to be nowhere on the menu. Our house had the two bite rule. You had some of everything that was served and you had to try at least two bites – real sized bites – before you could declare your decision not to finish whatever it was. Believe me, it took awhile sometimes for that okra or eggplant to make that leap into my mouth, but I can say now with some certainty that I don’t care for lima beans and that braised tongue is not my favorite. My parents observed the patterns and after a significant amount of protestation and the unfortunate “return” of some egg plant I had attempted to stomach, I was not compelled to continue the two bite mandate when it came to that vegetable.

Travel was also a family affair. Now, I don’t begrudge parents wanting some “alone time”, but you also chose to have a family and introducing children to travel is part of that commitment, in my humble opinion. I used to hear of friends’ parents traipsing off to exotic places like Hawaii or Europe or Pismo Beach for long vacations without them. That was unheard of for me. I think if my parents had done that, there would have been rioting. We were family! The five Musketeers! All for one and one for all! We were in this together! Granted, we never took exotic vacations, but usually for the month of July, you would find the five of us plus dog, in the station wagon pulling a pop-up tent trailer. It was hot, it was cozy, it was our family reality and I was introduced to all kinds of things. I can clean fish, cook over an open fire, and create an evaporation cooler. I’ve seen national parks and monuments and learned history from actually being there. I went to plays and concerts and museums because that’s what our FAMILY did.

Sure, there were things that only parents did, and places only they went. Of course, there were things that only kids did and special places for them, but my parents made a commitment to have a FAMILY and bring their children up to be a part of the world and share with the people they encountered – not sitting alone at the children’s table nibbling on white bread and chicken nuggets.


  1. My family pretty much had the same rule for travel and dinner as your family. Its for family time and family fun. My wife and I have the same rule too, to a point. Our at home child is 29. While we invite her along on some thing, many times we do not. A trip to Maui or Vegas for a romantic week end or dinner at Saltys to enjoy time with each other and not have 6 weiner dogs wanting a bite is something we like to do alone. It is still hard to convince the 29 year old it comes a time in life to be a big girl and not whine cause we do not take your every time. Oh well, the joys of a blended family.

  2. So agree. After taking our kids to Europe for 3 months, I don't think they'd ever let us travel without them again. They now know how big and exciting it is and they want to be there! Truth is, we want them there too. Why? 'Cause we are family!!


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