I recall watching Maria Shriver on Oprah last year promoting latest book on motherhood. She said that what she remembers most about growing up was not what she was given materially, but what her parents taught her about life and thinking.
Dinner time was not about "What did you do at school?" Since Dad founded the Peace Corps, it's not surprising that it was about "How can you use your talent at changing the world?"
Shriver drove home the point that sitting together at the table is more than food for our bodies. It's food for our souls.
Take last night for example. My son dropped a green veggie in my water. I thought it would be a great opportunity to school him on saving the planet, but settled on teaching him bad jokes.
Me: "Hey, don't pea in my water!"
Him: (Confused look)
Me: "Get it? 'Cause it's a pea. And you shouldn't pee either. It's a double entendre. A joke! That we say at home - never at school. Especially not during circle time. Or when you're practicing the sign of the cross. Jesus and veggie jokes - not a great combo. Though it worked for Veggie Tales. But I digress."
He looked at me in a daze. Oh well. He'd understand later.
I got up to get water. Just when I thought my material was going to be wasted, Rex sits down. Stink drops a green veggie in his water.
Stink: "Hey, I peed in your water, Papa!"
Stink: "Get it? PEEEEED!" Guffaw, chuckle, hee hee heee.
Papa: (Serious) "Very nice. But no toilet jokes at dinner."
Stink: "You mean you didn't flush before touching your noodle?"
(I showed amazing restraint at that one.)
Papa: "I mean no talk about pee, poo, or anything related to the bathroom."
Pip: (Suddenly piping up, huge brown eyes, all earnest) "And no talk about diarrhea either?"
Stink is now hysterical and Pip, though not sure why, joins in the merriment.
Papa, to quote a book I just read, morphs into Ward Cleaver. "No talking about anything that exits from any orefice. Which means hole. As in your body. ENOUGH."
There's quiet for a minute.
Stink: "But if we really have to pee, that's okay, right?"
Rex is speechless now. But he had to admit, Stink did have a point.
I'm not sure if this was the kind of "thinking outside the box" Shriver was talking about, but it's a memory for me, that's for certain.