the best thing about blogging

This week, I think I figured out the best thing about blogging: how much you learn from the readers who take time to respond.

I posted on family dinners earlier this week– to wit, the lack thereof in our house– and thought I’d hear a few “amen, sister” type comments. Instead, I heard from many of you about how you DO have family dinners in your house, how you make them work against all odds, and why you think they matter. This wasn’t at all what I was expecting- which made it all the more exciting. And stressful too, since I actually asked if there were mothers like me out there, and heard from exactly zero of you in response.


You all have inspired me. Two nights ago, I sat down to dinner with all three of my children. “We’re trying something different tonight,” I said. “We’re all going to sit here nicely in our chairs, and talk about our day. None of us are going to get up, even if we’re done.”


Seamus got up.


ME: I said *don’t* get up, Shea.
SEAMUS: But I need a spoon.
ME: I’ll get it.
SEAMUS: No, I want to get it.
ME: No. Sit down, I’ll get it.
SEAMUS: No, I want to get it.


We were off to a great start! I was ready to dunk my head in the sink. But when Seamus was once again seated and fully spooned, the heavens smiled upon us:


SEAMUS: I’ll say grace.


Grace? I grew up saying grace every night in my house. (Still do, when I’m at my parents’ table.)   But I didn’t even know my kids new what saying grace was.


SEAMUS: We say grace at school.
CONNOR: I want to say it!
SEAMUS: Let’s both say it.

And gol’durn it, they both recited the sweetest prayer about thankfulness and appleseeds and the Lord. It was like Rod and Todd Flanders walked in. 


Not that that lasted too long. There was a considerable amount of bickering, and sliding off chairs, and poking, and spilling, and an infinitesimal amount of eating. When Maggie asked if she could get down, and I said no, she just asked every five seconds until I said yes.


But I did manage to have several pleasant minutes of conversation with her brothers, and now I know who likes who in second grade, crucial information I might never be privy to otherwise.


It worked a little bit. I’m so glad I tried. I’ll be doing it again. Thank you all for inspiring me.


The other best thing about blogging, as Courtney said in the comments, was that this was a judgment-free conversation, which is a lot harder to find on Urban Baby or what-have-you. No one was saying their way of doing things was best; in fact, one Anonymous wrote that this discussion just proved “there are countless ways to show love and have family togetherness.” I think that’s true. I hope so, since the boys and I are only on page 34 of Harry Potter Part Four, which means I’ll be reading it out loud until Valentine’s Day if I’m LUCKY. I hope, when they grow up and can’t claim a family dinner each evening, that they’ll remember: I did an awesome Dumbledore.


Further reading? Parenting.com happens to have two stories on family dinners on their website this week: the first (by Sandra Gordon) on why they’re so important (I know, I know), the other (by Erin Zammett Ruddy) on why it’s not so easy when you have two kids under three. I enjoyed them both! 

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Anonymous October 2, 2010 at 12:04 am

Thanks for your posts. We do eat dinner together every night, but, with a 2 and 4-yr-old, there is a fair amount of chair sliding, bickering, getting up, spilling, refusing to eat, and what not. Some nights I wonder whether it's just us. But it is nice to know it isn't just us for which dinner time, though we do see the value in it, isn't always as idyllic as the magazines would like you to believe 😉

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Ellen Painter Dollar October 2, 2010 at 12:14 am

I love that you followed up your family dinner post with this, and also loved the lack of judgment in the comments to the first post. I hesitated to add my comment at first because I didn't want you to hear "This is how we make family dinners work" as "If you were a good mom, you'd do as I do," which is what so often happens with mothering topics. All around, a great conversation with honesty and advice but no judgment. That's quite an accomplishment these days.

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Katie October 2, 2010 at 12:45 am

Thanks for the posts Amy! Family dinners were very important to my parents growing up and I hope to make it a routine in my house when my son is older (he's 5 months now). It's just not practical right now with my husband's work schedule and now that I'm back to work full time spending time as a family has become very challenging. Family time can be spent in so many different ways, and one of my fondest memories as a child (way more than family dinners of grandma tricking us into eating our fish and vegetables!) is when my dad read to us every night. I know your kids will look back on your Harry Potter nights fondly when they're older!

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Mommy on the Spot October 2, 2010 at 1:58 am

Thanks for the posts. I think it's awesome that you are trying something new. I also totally agree with you about the best part of blogging. It's so nice to discuss things without being judged.

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amountainmomma October 2, 2010 at 5:03 pm

Amy, I love your follow up on this topic and comments on judgment. For me it seems that motherhood and judgment go hand in hand. Whether it is me judging myself or feeling the judgment of others, verbalized or not. I have had enough of the Mommy Wars and just hope that doing my best is enough and I ignore those who feel the need to comment on my parenting skills, or apparent lack thereof, try to keep my family happy and healthy.
Great blog, I just love it!

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Veronica October 3, 2010 at 5:12 am

Yes, great post and comments. The "mommy-bloggers" are really doing a public service by sharing. I struggle with this too and have had too many dinners with my daughter in front of the TV. Oddly enough last year when she was six she started asking if we could say grace. I'd love to know the one your boys said with the appleseeds.

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Anonymous October 3, 2010 at 4:46 pm

Hmm, somehow my last post was deleted… do you only keep the ones that you agree with?

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Amy Wilson October 3, 2010 at 4:56 pm

Hi Anonymous (2)- I definitely did not delete your post. Have I ever deleted a comment? Yes, once or twice when it's been some random spammy thing. But I welcome robust (and civil) disagreement…

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Sheila Baum October 3, 2010 at 6:42 pm

We also have family dinners, for most nights of the week. My husband is an adjunct professor at a local technical college, so many nights he eats after my daughter and I, but we often sit at the table with him and catch up. It's not how often you actually eat together, it's spending time with each other. Table time is talking time — that will link you and your kids forever.

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Courtney October 4, 2010 at 2:22 pm

There's a ton of judging on other blogs and parenting magazines, which is why I don't read most of them anymore. But I love your blog. You try and fail, and try and fail, and you admit it! I have one friend who only admits to being a little less than the perfect mom, and I know she's not, but she won't admit any faults! Which is why we aren't as close as we used to be. Life with kids is chaotic, and dirty, and not perfect, and wonderful!

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Driven Mama October 5, 2010 at 4:25 pm

I love this blog and it's humor – I need those laughs out loud!

I have to say that I struggle to get dinner on the table each night and I probably only 'get it right' four times a week. As a single working mother, who works the unpredictable schedule of a performing arts administrator, having dinner with my seven year old son and without electronics is a challenge. But when we do sit down for a hot, healthy meal I feel like I've accomplished a lot. In fact, those moments are the ones that keep me sane and centered and they serve as a lovely reminder of What Really Matters. Even when he is sliding down in his chair. And trying to sneak food into his mouth without utensils. And putting his elbows on the table. And forgetting to say grace. And…..

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Amy Wilson October 5, 2010 at 4:53 pm

Hi Veronica- here's the grace my kids say, which they learned at their Episcopalian school. I grew up going to Catholic school, so this may be a common grace-I just never heard it before:

Oh, the Lord is good to me
And so I thank the Lord
For giving me the things I need
The sun and the rain and the appleseed
The Lord-is-good-to-me!
Go ahead! You may eat!
Bon appetit!

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Amy Wilson October 5, 2010 at 4:55 pm

You're right, Driven Mama, it's a huge challenge. I don't know if I'll ever get to family dinners seven nights a week. But it is worth it to try, isn't it? Even when it's imperfect, I'm learning that there are moments of togetherness that make it worth the frustration. Sheila is right: table time is talking time.

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