When I started this blog in November, my youngest daughter had just turned 2 years old. Most of the time, she went to bed about 7pm. Then, the rest of the family had a reasonably relaxed dinner without her. It was nice. My husband and I could chat up the older kids about their day, then we could talk ourselves and linger a bit after the meal. Sad to say, but we all enjoyed dinner more when the baby was in bed.
I knew this wasn't going to last. I didn't want it to last too long. I firmly believe that you need to set eating habits early in kids and that eating together as a family is a big part of it. Though I was relieved to have a few relaxing moments at dinner, I felt guilty for excluding her.
Well, the baby got wise in late December. Maybe she realized she was missing something. There was no school, schedules were relaxed, and everyone was staying up later anyway, so I let the routine slide. Whatever the reason, it became impossible to put her down before dinner and she's been a regular feature at the table for the last month or so.
Frankly, she's been an absolute terror. She would never actually eat. She would stand up in her high chair or climb all over my husband or I. She occasionally threw plates off the table or food to the dog. There were many spills of juice, water, or milk, since she would insist on having the same kind of cup as her older siblings, ages 9 and 12. Often either my husband or I would not actually eat as one of us tried to manage her. The older kids would roll their eyes or gape at what we were letting her get away with. All this typical toddler behavior was understandable on some level: she was overtired and not particularly hungry since she had "her dinner" already at 5:30 or 6 o'clock. The words "You will not be able to have dinner with us if you act like this" were spoken many times, they didn't seem to have any particular impact.
So, last night's dinner was something of a miracle. My dear toddler sat in her chair (mostly), ate her dinner (mostly), and had no spills (luck and the willingness to take a sippy-cup). She even got into the conversation, saying, "How was your day, Daddy?" and "Tank-u for making dinner mommy" in muffled toddler-ese. I'm not sure why this change came yesterday. There have been musical chairs over the last week as she has continually changed her mind about where she wanted to sit. So maybe she finally found the right spot. Clearly, she saw the value and status associated with sitting at the table with the rest of the family. She wants to be a "big girl." We'll see what tonight brings, but (fingers crossed) we are happy to have her at the table.