In our house dinner time is family time. Laura and I try encourage conversation at the table. We ask the girls about their day and sometimes get information from them. More often our attempts are stymied. Typically the answer I get when I ask what their favourite thing was about their day at school is “recess.” Lately that has changed.
I tend to eat more quickly than everyone else. This has been true for as long as I can remember. I’m not sure when this started. It is partly because I don’t like to eat cold food that is supposed to be warm. Plus I am the primary cook and I want to eat and enjoy what I made at the temperature it is supposed to be. In recent years I have tried to be conscious of what I am eating and slow down when I am eating. I probably need to chew my food a little more and really I need to give my body time to tell my brain that it is full. As it turns out my slow is everyone else’s fast. I don’t think I wolf my food down, I just have a big mouth!
Over the past couple of weeks, perhaps since school started or perhaps as the baby-waiting game lowers my general tolerance for waiting on other things, I have noticed that my eldest daughter has suddenly turned in to my grandfather. She talks so much at the table during dinner that the food on her plate is barely touched when everyone else is finished.
My Grampy was a big talker and a big doer. At various times in his life he was an orphan, a merchant mariner, an immigrant, a plumber, a municipal politician, a union executive, a husband, a father and a grandfather. Based on stories I have heard about him I can also say that he was not always a patient or calm man. As my grandfather he was patient with me. He taught me to fish and tried to teach me to solder pipes. He taught me to look for a good bargain and to hang on to stuff in case I might have a use for it later. Through his stories and those that others told about him, he taught me to work hard and fight for what I believe in regardless of the people who might tell me it is not possible. I think I would very much enjoy being able to have conversations with him now that I have a better sense of the world. He is one of my heroes.
I have many memories of Grampy holding court at the dinner table and everyone waiting for him to finish eating – or for that matter start eating. He spent so much time talking that he didn’t get around to eating until his food was cold. He always had the TV on in the background so that he could catch the news during dinner. Perhaps he is the source of my information addiction. I think he would be all over Twitter if he were alive today. I learned a lot from those family dinners. As a kid and young adult I soaked up the politics and discussions about what was going on in the news. In university I changed my minor because I discovered that I had learned around the dinner table what was being taught in my Political Science classes.
My daughter isn’t always talking about politics and the news at our dinner table, although she does sometimes, depending on what she hears on the radio. Last night she spent her time talking about the imaginary house by the river that she had created in her room. She was talking about washing her clothes in the river because it uses less electricity and the system she had developed for doing the washing. She was lowering the laundry into the water in a bag so the water could flow through it. The girls have turned their new beds into play structures as well as beds.
It was pretty creative. That said, I felt just as impatient for her to be done so we could move on to dessert as I felt as a kid waiting for my Grampy to finish eating. I found myself repeating a bit of a mantra to myself that it was ok to sit and listen and that I had nowhere that I needed to be. Being patient is a challenge for me and requires hard work. Sometimes I am not very good at it. I’m sure she feels the same way when she is waiting for me to finish something so that she can do what she wants to do next. I hope that her chattiness at the table continues (so long as she eats her food too). In exchange I will focus on slowing down and doing a better job of listening so I can take advantage of the learning opportunities as I did when Grampy held up the dessert train.