Sunday, October 25, 2009

a dinner party for them (updated with difficult words)

So it was an experiment.

This is how it worked. Rosie, Sadie and my sister Maia all got to invite a few friends. I cook dinner. Fancy like the grownups do it. Simple, right?

Thirteen kiddos. Paper instead of tablecloths. Crayons instead of candles, but most of the rest was the same as we do it after they go to sleep.

Except maybe the dinner guests under the table. Lucky one of the sixth graders brought face paint.

The girls choose the menu. Fancy individual baked mac and cheeses. Green Beans. Puff pastry canapes with home-whipped cream cheese and little tiny vegetables. And sparkling pink juice.

I know this all sounds really- well, I don't know, how does it sound? Crazy? Wonderful? You tell me. It sounds great as I'm writing it. And it was, at many moments. Every guest left happy, and that is the sign of a great dinner party, I think.

But who would I be if I couldn't be entirely honest here? It's been a hard week, and although I was so looking forward to putting this one on, I have to admit that in some ways I was very much not up to the task. If it weren't for Marya sticking around after she dropped off her daughter, I don't even think I would have any photos to show you.

And there was something else. Maybe it was all the excitement. Maybe it was the chocolate sauce. But the somehow the day brought out a very difficult challenge for the family. The day was work, and that was good- it's the kind of work that I like. But throughout the work, the girls chose more often than not, oh, how do I say this...

they chose not to be helpful.

In fact, they chose to be specifically unhelpful.

This is not the first time this issue has come up. If I have to be truly honest with myself, I'd say that Joey and I have let the girls down here.

So many times, we've had the conversation that begins with these words: "We all need to work in this family. It's the good thing that we do to make everything run."

And yes, my children are Montessori children. They clean, they cook, they help the younger kids.

At school.

But at home, there seems to be less time. And although they know what is expected of them, more often than not, we do it for them because it is easier and faster that way. But that is unfair.

They are wonderful, competent and creative children. As we know so well, they are empowered by the skills they have in their own environment. We're just not living up to our part of the bargain.

It's so hard to say this, but in moments like these, I think we might be raising children who are (oh, can I get this word out?)

We're not spoiling them by throwing a fancy dinner party for them. We're spoiling them by excluding them from the work involved in creating the party. In cleaning up from the party. In feeling gratitude to their friends for coming, and to their parents for cooking and serving.

We had a big talk. We've had the talk before, but that's okay. The girls really heard us, and I'm working on some changes that will help me live up to my side of all of this too.

I'm realizing in retrospect that I never had my dinner party preparation glass of wine last night. I think that might have been a bad idea.

I'll note that one for next time. Next time? Yeah, they might actually be real grown ups by then.


  1. What a good mother you are! They will get might just take a few tries to have it sink in:)

    As the mother of mostly grown children, I really worry now when they seem selfish, or self-absorbed, or whatever. But the other day my son gave his fiancee a lecture about being dependable and reliable that could have come from my own mouth. How many times I must have said those words...

    So he must have been listening somewhere down the line!

  2. Alana, It was a blast. I have to say, you impress me - not just as a chef, but as a mom. I raved to my own mom and other friends how awesome the experience was, what I envied, and what I want to imitate. BTW, you and Joey are such a team! And our kids will be kids. Must say you are the coolest parents - you let the kids throw around the couch cushions!