Rebecca and I recently went to dinner with a party of 12 – all from one family. And by one family I mean one nuclear family: dad, mom and 10 kids ranging in age from 1 – 14. This dear family invited us to have pizza with them while Sean was out of town and I gladly took them up on their kind offer.
We headed to one of their favorite places and unloaded everyone into the small lobby. The mom did a great job of corralling everyone on one side to leave room for others coming and going. The dad told the hostess our seating requirements and we waited for a table to be prepared.
Want to see shock and awe? Tell a hostess you want a table for 14 with places for 11 kids. The look of horror is intense.
We were seated and the waiter took our drink order with fear and trepidation. I can only imagine how he thought the evening was going to go.
To his great surprise, things went well – very well. The kids sat and ate and the adults were able to have a conversation. As we were leaving, the waiter said he was very impressed with how great the kids were. He seemed genuinely amazed that a table full of little people could be so courteous.
This did not happen by accident, nor was it a fluke. It was a result of intentional, effective parenting by a mom and dad who communicate with each other and their kids. For example, when the kids walked into the restaurant, the mom told everyone where to stand. When we got to the table, mom and dad both instructed the clan on their seat assignments. When various kids needed to use the restroom, mom partnered an older with the younger ones. When the pizza arrived, slices were divvied up and kids ate politely.
You may ask yourself if I’d gone to dinner with robots. Nope. I had dinner with kids who had been trained to sit and eat dinner. This is a novel concept in these days of, “Oh, don’t tell little Johnny what to do – he needs to explore his world!” No, what little Johnny needs is to be instructed that the world doesn’t revolve around his wants and desires and he needs to sit at the table and eat his dinner.
Even as I type this I can hear people saying, “You’re just not interested in letting children be themselves.” Darn right I’m not. Children are selfish to the nth degree. We have to help them begin to conquer their selfish desires, because it’s not a battle that ever ends. I battle my selfishness on a daily basis. Sometimes it it’s a struggle to put other’s needs above my own. And lots of times I fail miserably. But it’s an important struggle and we have to teach our kids that from their earliest days.
Was the table messy when we left? Yep. There were 11 kids! Of course it was messy. Did some of the kids have lots of questions? Sure – they’re kids. Did the youngest need some special attention? Yes – it was later than her usual dinnertime and she was hungry. I didn’t say it was an especially quiet dinner, but it was definitely more than organized chaos; it was lively, fun and enjoyable.
When the last time you heard someone say that about a dinner with a bunch of kids?
I know there are several reality shows featuring large families, but I so wish this particular family could have a show. I’d love for people to see that you can train children without sucking the life out of them – that you can do what parents need to do and instill life in your kids, no matter how many you have. That’s a show I’d watch.