I have read, many times, that families should eat together. Lots of sociologists, psychologists, behaviorologists, lots of “ologists,” with published books and columns and radio talk shows, say so. I can only conclude that none them ever had children.
When it comes to "ologists,” I like paleontologists. They like to be outside, they like to dig in the dirt and they don’t make me feel as though I missed some well-attended parenting lecture last month.
Despite that lapse, I do know some things. I know that family dinners are overrated, and I know dinosaurs.
We have 37 plastic dinosaurs, 19 dinosaur magnets, three automated dinosaurs, two remote-controlled dinosaurs, an extensive dinosaur library of children’s books (including dinosaur board books for toddlers), one dinosaur sleeping bag, dinosaur T-shirts, DVDs, puzzles, three sets of dinosaur pajamas, a deck of dinosaur flash cards and a T-Rex plushy. We also eat a lot of dinosaur-shaped chicken nuggets.
I put four nuggets each on three plates and a bottle of ketchup on the dining room table. I walk back into the kitchen wondering if they can do it. Can they eat a meal, a single meal, without fighting?
At the point when my youngest is screeching like a Pterodactyl because her brother is on top of the table trying to take the last Stegosaurus nugget from her, and the dog is lapping up the spilled milk, and my oldest is screaming at her brother not to hit the 2-year old, I intervene.
“Okay, everybody freeze," I say. “William, get off the table. Sarah, calm down. Emma, give me the nugget.”
My voice gets even louder: “Sit down. Everybody. Now!”
I pause. I look each one of them directly in the eyes. But for the sound of milk dripping on the floor, all is silent. It’s my move. I have no idea how to handle this. I’m not sure what to do. So I go back to the paleontologists.
“Okay, Allosaurus vs. T-Rex, who wins?”
My son pauses, my older daughter reflects. I can still hear the milk drip, drip, dripping as it hits the floor. The 2-year old quiets and furtively glances between her older siblings as she sucks the breaded coating off a Pterodactyl’s head. I can see my son’s mouth begin to slowly form to speak the “All” sound in Allosaurus.
Still, they pause.
Then, my son starts screaming “Allosaurus! Allosaurus! Allosaurus!” My older daughter points at him and fires back that no way could an Allosaurus take out a T-Rex because an Allosaurus is at least 25 percent smaller. My daughter declares herself the T-Rex and the winner.
My son then jumps on the table and tells her he is faster and more ferocious. He throws back his huge head filled with serrated teeth, bars his sharp claws and roars.
“You sound like a lion not a dinosaur.”
I declare dinner over, and we all start marching up the stairs impersonating a crazed T-Rex to the theme from Rocky.
After the two younger children are in bed, my daughter says to me, “You know Mom, there is no way Allosaurus and T-Rex could fight, because Allosaurus lived in the late Jurassic period and T-Rex lived in the Cretaceous period.”
“I know,” I tell her. “I know dinosaurs.”
Maraya Steadman, who lives in a Chicago suburb, is a stay-at-home mother of three children. She can be reached at email@example.com.