Time with the family is delicious anywhere

I just grandma-sat for the week for two munchkins. Fixing, setting and sitting for three meals a day was a bit of challenge for this multi-genarian. When I was a child, my family always ate dinner and breakfast together and often lunch even in the summer. So, I valued this and always tried to do the same.

These little girls often have “layered” meals — everyone eating at different times. Working parents, one child in elementary school, one in day care, meetings, activities etc. It’s really hard to all settle down at the same time but not at grandma’s.

A recent New York Times survey found that only 42 percent of American families eat together every night. Some families eat together only on weekends. Even if families try to eat together life often gets in the way. But not at grandma’s.

When my family ate together, my parents taught us many things. We learned to use utensils properly. We learned the proper manners. We learned about listening, talking politely and taking talk turns. We learned about life. I learned what it was like in my older sister’s high school before I went there. I learned what the doctor thought of my grandmother’s heart. I had input into what flowers got planted next to the porch. I learned to be quiet sometimes and to share sometimes. We all learned to accept each other. The meal was great but the being together was the best part. I value that.

So then should grandma recreate those family meals again this week?

No chance. I decided not to.

I decided that I didn’t want to waste one second with these sweethearts fussing with meals. I didn’t want to figure what they liked or didn’t like. I didn’t want to stop on the way home from camp, swimming, hiking, seeing the “Lion King,” to go to the grocery store and figure out what to have for dinner. I didn’t want to stop squirting the hose or playing school at the Farmer’s Museum to go get dinner ready.

Yes, I could do both — teach them to cook and have fun with that.

Nope, I say. This is the third set of grandchildren I have had at Grandma Camp every summer for many years. I don’t want to be the teacher anymore. I want to enjoy my grandgirls and have them enjoy me.

So, I said to these nine-year-old and four-year-old beauties, “While you are here, we are going to eat out or take out every night.”

They just looked at me. No cheers. Nothing. Eating out is not unusual for them. They live in Manhattan, the food-ready capital of the world. But… but they don’t eat out at grandma’s. Grandma does the table setting, the napkins, the courses. Grandma does the real meal. Well, I laughed, times have changed. This week is different.

So, after I convinced them they didn’t have to call their mother, they smiled and the excited questions started. Can we eat at McDonald’s? Do you have sushi in Johnstown? Can we eat out for breakfast? Can we dress up? Yes, yes and yes, I said. I love saying yes to grandchildren.

So, I decided not to cook, but I still wanted to create that time together at dinner. I just decided to create it before and after the meal too.

So, I didn’t get completely out of my grandma suit. I made it clear that this was still be mealtime and not play time. We would wait until all were seated to begin eating. We would stay at the table until all were finished. And they couldn’t go to the playland before grandma unwrapped her burger.

So, we used manners. We used napkins and utensils properly, (even plastic). We didn’t talk with our mouth full, or chew with our mouth open. We tried not to slurp, wiggle, giggle or shout. We talked. We talked about life, about school, about cousins, about movies, about YouTube, about beauty tips, about their house, their friends, and about grandpa. The little group of three sat at Romano’s long after the check was paid.

Time together is valuable no matter where it is. I let go of guilt and decided that eating together doesn’t have to mean fussing with the food. If you must get together for pizza or not get together at all, then ‘go for’ that pizza time.

Comments? Anita@anitaalacarte.com