Discussion in the staff lounge. Woman who is trying to feed her kids something other than cereal - all they want. Another who talked about her family rule that everyone ate what was put in front of them, or went hungry. Another whose mother cooked a hot breakfast every morning. And I bit my tongue on my own family meal dynamics, since I immediately flashed on my father's shouting and so many meals with me in tears and my stomach in a knot. How critical he was of the food. How he took that enforced hour to criticize and belittle anything on his tiny mind.
Dinner rules. Well, I suppose with children, it's the place to learn how to eat around people. Close your mouth when you chew. Learn how to share, pass a plate, use a fork and knife. Culture, politeness, all that. Not trivial, really. Although formal dining has always been an upper-class pursuit, middle class aping, largely fallen into desuetude. I remember setting the table, which side the fork went on seemed such a fraught matter. Giving the bad fork to my father a matter of quiet pride.
I don't quite know when my parents decided to always eat in the living room on tray tables in front of the television, but I'm very grateful. Meals calmed right the fuck down. Can't say I enjoyed eating to "George Perot Presents", a local show, large elderly gentleman who chatted with rather dull men who showed their cheesy travelogs while narrating and trying to be funny. Soporific, but not upsetting in any way. Conducive to digestion. My mother and I, or just I would wash, dry and put away dishes after. Not my favorite task, but not onerous really.
Dinners with extended family meant sitting at the table, taking only what I thought I could eat - then eating all I took, staying at the table either until everyone was done, or I had asked for and received permission to get down off my perch and leave the table. I was asked to try new foods, but it was never that much of an issue. I had to drink a full glass of milk with every meal, at all times. This was the worst rule of all, since I always hated milk.
D and I often sit on the sofa with our dinner, watch something, snuggle in. Sometimes here, we sit at the table, with plates and utensils and beverages. I did up Christmas Brunch pretty well, although without most of the dishes and none of the glasses matching. But knowing how to do it could be learned in a few minutes as an adult. I don't really think children need that level of protocol ingrained into them. If it's to let the parents eat with all children in sight, that makes sense, but what's wrong with presenting it as such?
Or are rules around eating so culture-bound and emotional and unexamined that parents often don't even think about how they function?
I'm sure my childhood gut issues are closely related to my father's dinnertime emotional abuse, as well as lack of green vegetables (or fiber of any kind) and the mandatory lactose.
I'll go with the lack of rules, here, together. Moby wants to sniff what we eat, delicately, then turns away as if to say "that's not food." But he's welcome to decide for himself.