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Autour de la Table

June 4, 2013


Translation: Round the Dinner Table

From lulling Margaret to sleep with Carla Bruni, to whipping up baby food purees in a Beeva maker, a Mustela snob at bath time, coveting everything on the site, to Sophie being the toy picked above almost all others, and the sweet and brave Madeline being a favorite read … without being fully aware of it, I’ve apparently gravitated to the French school of thought when raising a child. It could be because I’m drawing from my own experiences from childhood, particularly when it comes to eating.

I didn’t know it at the time, but my parents essentially raised us at mealtime. We learned how to debate, hold our own in interesting conversations, manners (don’t interrupt, napkin on the lap, asking to be excused), the proper way to set a table, try new things, and to finish what you start.

We ate dinner as a family nearly every night at a table my father made from a piece of reclaimed California Redwood, purchased in Chicago after my parents found out they were expecting twins. The table is still at my parents’ house, held up by two porcelain elephants found in Ho Chi Minh City (when it was still called Saigon), Vietnam. My father sent four back home to my mother—two brown and two green—originally slated as end tables. Only one brown and one green made it, so the mismatched pair was destined for a life together under that table. For seating, in lieu of chairs, were two long church pews that came from a chapel in-between Great Lakes Naval Academy and Ft. Sheridan in Waukegan, Illinois, just outside of Chicago.

The life lessons around that dinner table are not unlike those being taught in all of the of-the-moment parenting books written by expat authors touting everything from portion control to maintaining variety in what your kid is eating. I want all of that for Margaret. I want mealtime to be fun, be filled with a range of nutritious (and wonderfully tasting) foods and for us to be present as a family during that hour. I want to make these moments a priority—to unplug and really just be there. I hope I do as good of a job as my parents did.