Life with kids can be hectic – forget that, life with kids is hectic. With three boys under the age of 5, there’s never a dull moment at my house; currently, my youngest, more than anyone else, makes sure of that. After all, having spent only 18 months on this earth, he has a lot of exploring and discovering to do and only so much time to do it in between nap and bedtime. Some of his most recent adventures include smashing a lightbulb into a million pieces (partially my husband’s fault) and pooping on my living room rug (partially my fault), not to mention the trouble his older brothers help him get into.
Having a day full of little moments like that can be exhausting – is exhausting, but when I look back at my day, one moment always stands out from the rest and makes me smile – dinnertime.
Having dinner together is about more than just filling their (and our) bellies; it often feels like the calm amidst the storm. Fortunately, I enjoy cooking and my husband is an excellent dish washer, so the preparation and clean-up aren’t too overwhelming. Instead, when I think of dinnertime, I think of sitting around the table with my family, looking each other in the eye, talking and just being together.
The family table is where we reconnect and listen to what each one has to say (some with more limited vocabulary than others). With the constant running around that seems to make up family and work life, dinner time has become a special, happy part of our day; certainly, with a few messes involved, but still, the best part of my day. I have to admit that it doesn’t hurt that my dining room set is made of beautiful, reclaimed walnut. That wasn’t always the case though. When my husband and I got married, we inherited my grandmother’s dining room table and chair set, which was great because otherwise the only thing in our budget probably would have been something made of particle board from IKEA.
I give my grandmother a lot of credit; I really don’t know how she did it. The stained maple table and chairs were absolutely impeccable – after 50 years of use! This furniture had stayed so beautiful throughout the decades, partially because my grandmother was a better housekeeper than most (certainly than myself), but also because of the quality. We’re talking about solid maple here. At the risk of sounding like a grandmother myself, I have to say that in general, furniture is just not made like it used to be. The downside to having these beautiful pieces in my busy home however, was that I was terrified to ruin in 5 years what she had maintained for 50! That’s why I ALWAYS kept the tabletop covered with the pad, plus an additional vinyl tablecloth I had specifically had made for the table (anxiety is real), and often an additional cloth tablecloth JIC.
I was right to be anxious though. Just guess the color of the cushions on the chairs. I’ll give you one guess. Yes, they were white. My grandmother, who only had two daughters, had had the good sense to keep those cushions covered in plastic, and I, with three sons, was not about to take them off either. I wasn’t just afraid of tomato sauce or red wine getting on them, but you have to understand that besides being a dining room table, ours also serves as an arts and craft table (just imagine the paint near those spotless cushions), and for a good part of the day, transforms into a pirate ship or Han Solo’s Millennium Falcon (yes, I now know the name of all the Star Wars spaceships).
Luckily for me though, this year my husband and his business partner/bff made us our very own solid, custom-made walnut table and chair set. Just like my grandmother’s set, the quality of ours is unbeatable, but, on the other hand, I don’t feel like it belongs in a museum. I know that the kids won’t destroy them and that one day, just like my grandmother, I’ll be able to pass them on to my own children in beautiful condition (minus the pads and plastic covering). I have to admit that the beauty of these pieces may add just a little bit to why dinnertime is my favorite.