In between bites

I’ve only just picked up my fork when I hear, “Mama, may I be excused please?”

This is a typical dinnertime in the toddler stage of family life.

One child launches noodles like rockets from the blasting board of her high chair tray.

One child eats four inch-worm sized bites and declares herself so full that her “stummy hurts.”

Two adults glance at each other over forks raised mid-way to the first bite of dinner.

I love food.  I love making it, eating it, and especially sharing it.  I love how food begs us to commune with the world around us.  With the stories of the lives that have prepared the recipes shared in blogs, on Pinterest, in the pages of Food Network magazine, between the spice lists of Penzey’s catalog.  With the hands held around the table at the meal’s blessing.  With the pages of a book that we read in the calm solitude of a meal for one.  Food, like music, can be the soundtrack of a life.

If so, our meals are “The Flight of the Bumblebee” these days.

After weeks and days of anticipation from the moment I begin meal planning, to the hour or so of meal preparation I spend in the kitchen olympics of the toddler-mess long-jump, the celery-to-compost-bucket javelin throw, the hundred meter dash to burning-stovetop finish line, the freestyle eat-anyway-you-wish-just-please-eat snack scraps I throw at the children, I spend a lot of my day’s time on food.  We eat.  Then minutes later, I face the wreckage of a kitchen that oozes, drips, stacks, and slouches like a lair of a particularly conniving Oscar the Grouch.

Is it worth it?  All this time slaving in the kitchen only to face more slaving in the clean up?  The hours tallied up in preparing and cleaning far outweigh the minutes spent in eating.

I think it’s worth it.  I think all that time is worth it for the moments–precious moments–spent in between.  In eating.  In communing as a family.

We sit around the table on the back deck and feel the first cooled breezes of the day dance through the trees overhead.  We trace the white scars of planes on the blue, blue sky.  We talk about the business of the day.  Of friends played with.  Of decisions made.  Of houses cleaned.  Of diapers changed.  Of meetings unending.  We eat a few bites.

For these dinnertime moments, the food knits us together to a single place and time.  These moments come in-between other hectic, swirling events, but the in-between pause is more delicious than anything I spear on my fork.

Then a noodle launches into space and a bottom scoots of a chair to race to the swingset.

We fast-forward to what comes next.

This post is shared with Lisa Jo Baker’s Five Minute Fridays.

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3 Comments

  1. Sarah said:

    Oh, girl! I totally know the feeling, and it’s got to be worth it, right? I read something somewhere about how children remember their time at the dinner table with the whole family being together, and though it’s tough, we are building foundations! I’m in it with you :)

    June 28, 2013
    Reply
  2. Jo said:

    From the “looking back” perspective, yes, those meal times DO matter., Thanks for the beautiful
    reminder, Beth.

    June 28, 2013
    Reply
  3. caroline said:

    Love it! I love, love, love your descriptive of meal time. When they are all little, it is just that. Nuts. But stand strong, Mama, the end is in sight. Or, maybe not the end, but a new beginning. I am only a few steps ahead of you on the Mama-timeline. Mine are now almost 9, 7, and 4 1/2. Our meals are still chaotic, still nuts. But, my floors are a smidge cleaner after all. And, the moments are still as precious. Different, but precious. Now, we talk about character lessons from poor choices…how to treat the bully at school…why it’s important to memorize Scripture…and of course, baseball, and karate, and gymnastics and more. These moments are precious. Enjoy, dear one, enjoy! Love, love.

    June 30, 2013
    Reply

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