When my husband and I first got married, we talked about what kind of family life we wanted to have. Even though it was just the two of us and our cats that comprised our little family at that point, we knew that the habits we set before we had kids would be easier to keep than if we started them while in the throes of new parenthood. We wanted to value our family life above all else, and one thing that was important to us was to eat meals together.
In particular, we committed to having dinner together every night. It was rare that we had dinner apart, and so when Zinashi came along, it was easy to just continue that trend. When Elvie came home, things were a bit more complicated with her medical needs, but we still put her as close to the table as possible while we were eating. Though she was late to start solids, once she could sit up in her high chair, we had her sit at the table with us. Dinner is a time that is reserved for us to spend together as a family, and we all benefit from it. And in addition to the family time, Elvie has also learned a lot of her table skills just by sitting with us, where she could see everything we were doing.
At first, because Elvie wasn’t eating solids yet, she would just sit with us and enjoy being part of the conversation. Gradually, though, she started wanting to do what we were doing. Even though she didn’t want food to eat yet, she wanted to have some in front of her. So we gave her some. Then she noticed that Zinashi had a fork and a spoon, so she wanted those, too. Before long, she had everything but a plate and food. Those weren’t long in coming, though there was a period of time that we gave her the food without the plate, as she was too excited about what was on the plate to leave it on the table, pretty soon her place looked just like everyone else’s. Then the most exciting part happened – she started imitating us. She’d watch closely, and use her fork the same way we did. She worked on scooping things up with her spoon, and when she missed her mouth, she’d wipe her own face with her napkin. By making her a part of meals, she naturally learned skills without help from us.
Because she is a little bit stubborn, Elvie wasn’t really interested in our help anyway, and that continues to this day. If we can do it, she’s convinced that she can do it. Thus, she is now attempting to cut her own food using a knife and a fork together. As this video shows, she’s getting pretty close to mastering it. And it’s all thanks to family meals, together at the table.