Thursday, January 5, 2012

Spicing Up Dinner

In an effort to make mealtimes more meaningful, I decided to try something new. Truthfully, I am infamous for pulling little "tricks" out of nowhere to draw my children into something I feel is important, whether it's a system to encourage kindness, or a new incentive to make it to scripture reading, or whatever. Such was the case this time. A little light bulb popped into my head and I did what I usually do--I ran with it. Most of the time my ideas start out with interest and fervor, and then end up losing momentum in no time. Somehow, that doesn't seem to deter me from inventing more and more schemes to manage, encourage, and . . . okay, I'll just say it because it's probably somewhat true--coerce my children into adopting positive behavioral patterns and attitudes.

So, here's what I did. I told my children that although I didn't have questions printed out yet, I thought it would be fun at dinner time to take turns choosing a random question out of a jar and giving everyone an opportunity to answer it. Questions would range from silly and easy-to-answer, to more thought-provoking and intrinsic. All in all, we could find out fun facts about one another and maybe even learn more about what is deep inside each other's heads and hearts. Mostly, though, we would all stay at the dinner table for a while--together--rather than some of us getting up and down or engulfing our food in one bite and then disappearing.

Since I didn't have printed questions, I decided to simply pull some out of the air to ask my family. Diving right in, I started with a deep question. "What is one thing you have learned from the current prophet, President Monson, that has stuck with you?" Noticing immediately that my husband wasn't portraying the kind of excitement I hoped him to, I decided to draw him in by directing my question to him first. "Dan?"

It was immediately apparent he had only been half-listening, but he reviewed the question and then tried to come up with an answer. Nada. Not off to a good start. I moved on to one of my children. My 10-year-old came up with an amazing story I had heard years ago and forgotten about a boy who had had his prayer answered. Impressive. And then my 12-year-old came up with a good answer (although she wasn't entirely positive the counsel was from the current prophet). My six-year-old gave her usual "Sunday school" response--"Read your scriptures," and my five-year-old . . . well, he was losing interest in our game already.

To be safe, I decided to lighten things up. Next question: "How many kids do you want to have?" Again, I started with my husband. I knew this was sly trickery but I couldn't help myself. He gave me the deer-in-the-headlights look as if to say, Is this a trick question? Then, he wittingly pointed to each child and counted up to five as he did. "Five!" I smiled and moved on.

My older children both said, "four or maybe five," and then when I got to my six-year-old, she immediately and matter-of-factly answered, "two!" I was impressed that she was so certain, so I asked her why she wanted two children. That's when she said (in a voice as if to say, "duh!"), "Because I have two names picked out!" I love the way children think! Of course! You can't have more kids than the number of names you've picked out!

Lastly, my five-year-old son said, "I want to have 10 kids."

Ten? Wow! Again, I probed further. "Ten kids is a lot," I said. Then, thinking myself quite clever I asked, "What will you do if they are all naughty?"

"Have you teach them to be nice!" he answered. What a solution! That's when my oldest daughter looked at me and said, "Well, Mom, I guess you've got 10 more kids to raise!"

Feeling a little tired at this point, I decided to end with one more question: "What is one goal you have to improve yourself this new year?"

"Dan?" I asked, catching him off-guard once again.

This time he had a good answer. "Well, keep exercising, keep reading my scriptures . . . and study more of what the prophet says so I have an answer the next time you ask me!"

I chuckled right out loud. I wasn't sure how anyone else felt about our new family dinner tradition, but I had found it very enlightening! It turned out to be one of the most insightful dinner conversations I'd had in a long time.

So, if anyone is looking for a way to "spice up dinner," you could give this technique a try. Just a little warning--be prepared for anything. You never know what answers you might get!


Julie Thurgood Summerhays said...

Love it...Now if I could just MAKE dinner, we could totally do it:)

Taffy and Tony said...

I clicked on this post wondering if I was going to get a new recipe or two (although I thought that wouldn't really go with your blog?!). I'm glad that I got something much better! Thanks for the post.