Gathered Around The Dinner Table

When mom dictated that we were having a “family meeting” my heart would sink.

This never, ever, boded well for the kids.  Me.  Suddenly of the eight of us who were old enough to understand what this meant-eyes would start shifting.  Who ratted someone out?  Who did something that the rest of us would get in trouble for?  What the hell did we do this time?   Okay, I never even thought “what the hell…” when I was a child.  I didn’t know that phrase.   But looking back and adding my vocabulary of now to my childhood then, that’s what I would have said.

It was always in the evening.  And it was always sitting around the dining room table.  In the fancy shmancy dining room.  The one with the gold and black striped wall paper.  This is not a family meeting photograph.  This is my first communion celebration dinner.  I think we had turkey.  Shown here only to give you the proper setting with the wall paper.

I'm the adorable one with the flower in her hair.

I’m the adorable one with the flower in her hair.

So gather around the table we would.  Somber.  Oh so very somber.

Mom always facilitated.   Again, this is my adult wordage.  As a child I probably more thought of her as the ‘leader’.   Or boss.  Or the mad one.   Truth be told I don’t have any recollection of dad talking at these meetings.  Sometimes he wasn’t even there!

And I don’t have any recollection of the meetings  being called for a good reason.  These were not celebratory meetings.  They were ‘oh shit’ meetings.

I remember how nervous I would get.  And what do I do when I get nervous?  I laugh.  Of course I laugh.  And what happens when I laugh?  The others sigh in huge relief.  Why do they sigh in huge relief?  Because once I start to laugh the attention is on me and they don’t have to worry about them laughing.  Oh sweet relief when ever one child was focused on.  The other seven would get a small reprieve.  Of course, in my head, it was me that usually did the relief giving to the others.  I remember mom saying “COLLEEN THIS IS NOT FUNNY”.   I tried so hard to not laugh as I said in total seriousness ” I know it’s not!”

One common topic was our fighting.   I’m sorry.   But who who WHO has eight children and thinks there will be no fighting?   We would have our ethics questioned and morals laid out before us.  Our behaviors would be questioned.   And our attitudes adjusted.  Family meetings seemed to have a heavy agenda.

I don’t remember much discussion.  I remember praying I wouldn’t laugh.  Feet dangling from the chairs.  Or wanting to lay my head on the table.  My arms hanging down on my lap.

If we had been an unusually huge drain on our father we would have to march upstairs, one at a time, and go in and tell dad we loved him.   Dad worked very hard and I think he would feign extreme tiredness to get out of the family meetings.  He was a wise one dad was.

I’m sure there was a purpose to these gatherings.  Obviously I remember them.  Even though I don’t remember the  agenda topics or the specifics.  I remember the total dread of that moment when “family meeting” came out of mom’s mouth.  But there’s no dread in what I brought forward from childhood, and surely from those meetings.  The residual effect of my parent’s parenting, family meeting and all, seem to have a lingering impact.   If respect, responsibility, accountability and dependability were part of the agenda I’m pretty sure the purpose was met.  And I’m grateful.  Now, thinking about those family meetings, my heart no longer sinks.  But laughs.

Thank you Reocochran for our shared comments leading me to think of this.  🙂   

56 thoughts on “Gathered Around The Dinner Table

  1. Funny (now), I think. It was always my Dad who set the stage for these somber sessions. My Mom would feign a need to be in the kitchen doing something. She hated these quasi-military briefings. Then again, she wasn’t particularly fond of my Dad, either. 🙂

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    • Oops! I let a chuckle slip there Eric. 😉

      I know dad was at some of them but I mostly remember the times he wasn’t. He was a tired man. Ran his own business and always worked two and even three jobs at times. I guess I shouldn’t have said “feigned” exhaustion. But I’m pretty sure that sometimes that excuse came in handy!!!

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  2. What a lovely story! And is that the same Mother who promised to make me some of her famous cookies? I’m not very good with attaching faces to people. 😦

    But at least your family meetings ended up well…with eating! Dang, that’s a LOT of food to prep. And you were a cute-sie!!

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    • It is the same mother. She is just barely in the picture on the left. Close to the camera.

      The family meetings did NOT end up with eating!!!! I meant to add a little post script to the post and forgot. About how the kids may have been a little more in to it if there were milk and cookies/cake/pie offered as part of the agenda. Sadly….no.

      And thanks Koji, 🙂 there were some cute moments in my life. 🙂

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  3. So cute! Are you the only one smiling in the photo, too? Seems fitting, since you were always bursting into laughter at the super-serious meetings. I have a similar problem where I smile when I’m nervous or don’t know what to say, so a guy will be telling me about a tragedy in his life and I’ll have this big toothy grin plastered on my face. “No, I’m serious, my Nana just died.” I KNOW you’re serious, I just have NO SOCIAL SKILLS WHATSOEVER, I’m SORRY…

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    • Oh BeholdTheInfinite…..how I feel that. It’s a horrible affliction to have. I do believe I am the only one smiling. My brothers look like someone paid them to say “DUHHHHH” until the picture was taken. 😉

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  4. Colleen, We had a lot of those family meetings, they were usually set up with Mom saying “Wait until your Father gets home, then we’ll talk.” In our cases it was all about establishing guilt. Being the oldest, one of the 1st remarks Dad would make was “Bill, how could you let this happen, your the oldest, it is your responsibility to prevent this, blab blab blab” Justice would be handed out, end of meeting end of dinner until the next time. Smiling, the laughing and rebellion came after I joined the Navy and moved on, and there is a post in there someplace about how my brothers revolted. I said a lot to say I think your “family meeting” were kinda cute, and I think your dad was a wise man. And I know I would have loved to been the fly on the wall had you chose to lay your head on the table, during the “speech” part of the meeting. There might have been an uproar. Take care, Bill

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    • You will see my mom’s reply to this…..gah. It wasn’t about discipline so much with us….just setting us straight on our character and behaviors.

      And you would have gotten an earful had you been the fly on the wall if I had laid my head down! When mom spoke you HAD to listen, even if you did NOT want to. Not that that was EVER the case. Honest. (Remember, my mom is reading) 😉

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  5. My mother was the rule maker in our house and my Dad the softie. We never had meetings but we always ate dinner together and as we got older Sunday dinner was mandatory. All discussions took place at these dinners. I remember them as rowdy affairs but a lot of fun too.
    Happy days. We have continued the tradition in my house now, and yes their Dad is the softie.
    Love the photo. We had six children in the family and it’s lovely to look back on us as children.

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    • Oh the dinners! 🙂 My favorite dinners were the “breakfast for dinner”s when mom would make pancakes by the dozens. 🙂

      Dad would start to talk very softly when he was angry. And chew on his lip. Dead give away he was NOT happy.

      When my kids were born it was dinner at the table EVERY night. They used to come home from school and say no one they knew did that. 🙂 Made me feel good that we did.

      It is pretty incredible to look back, isn’t it?

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  6. Ok colleen let mother add a little comment here! The meetings were called 99% of the time because my little darlings were not showing love or respect to their siblings. Do you remember what I always told you at said meetings? ” friends will come and go but you will never have a better friend or anyone who loves you more then your family” always there tor you. Huh? Huh? Ring a bell my dear daughter? And was I correct?

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    • Oh bells are ringing all right.

      Let us not forget who you called your quiet child. That’s right. Me. Love and respect does NOT always mean hugs and kisses. Love and respect between siblings CAN mean other things.

      And I needed ice cream last night and I don’t remember any of my siblings ringing my bell to bring me any!!!!

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      • Colleen, I will be more careful what I say around your mom LOL. Had she been a fly on the wall at my home as a kid, she would have been totally surprised by the lack of respect and love we showed each other. My brothers and I have bonded well over the years, but long after the dinner table. I best not leave out the fact I have a sister who I speak to regularly. She and I have bonded as well. Take care, Bill

        PS — I will now be watching out for Anon when responding, take care Anon, be safe

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        • Ha! BIll she will enjoy this. And she would NOT be surprised at the behavior between you and your siblings. She was constantly on us for OUR behavior towards one another. But it was all done is siblingdom love. 😉

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  7. I gather you all here today to make sure that everybody knows that the purpose of our meetings is very serious. This is a meeting to impart the seriousness of our meetings. Got it?

    Kids dismissed.

    It is important for parents to lay down the rules, Colleen.

    And you were the laugher?! Oh, my.

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  8. Yes, you are the adorable one with the flower in your hair. You haven’t changed a bit. 😉 Both my parents were from large families: 8 & 9 siblings respectively. We had many large family meals with our extended families of dozens of cousins. ❤

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    • Dozens of Cousins sounds like a title Paulette….. 😉

      Large families on both sides of my parents as well. There were no small gatherings.

      You won’t catch me with a flower in my hair now. But I’m glad you think I haven’t changed. You’re my favorite today just for that. 🙂

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  9. Ha. Great mom you had. Funny what we remember: the emotions.

    At our house it was my father who called the family meetings. We were five girls. The fear of the unknown was the worst part. The punishment I can’t remember.

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  10. COLLEEN, THIS IS FUNNY! And a wonderful post at that. You have a great memory, and great memories. Kudos to your mom and dad.

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    • I don’t know how great my memory is. I tend to not remember things. Maybe it’s people I don’t remember. Or specifics. But some things I remember just enough to laugh about. 🙂 Thanks for the kudos to the parents. One of them will read that and be grateful to you. 🙂

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  11. Oh man family meetings *shudder* Did hear cursing? Did I see a bow and dress? 😉

    My Hubby is one of 8. There’s no discipline no boundaries for the younger ones and messed up ones for the older ones, can you imagine the chaos? The trouble they’re all in? Ugh

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  12. Thanks for a great read. A very heart warming and reassuring story. I think all would agree, those family meetings, were successful, most of the time, anyway. I’m sure you guys are still as close, “playful” and loving today as then, and that’s all that counts. I only wish the world had more families like yours and mine.

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    • Sadly we aren’t as close. Mostly due to distance. Though we are all in the same state….with kids/graduations/sports/college/jobs/extended families on both sides….it limits our time together. But not our affection. I suppose the meetings were successful. Seeing as how we didn’t do one another in! 🙂

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  13. Ugh. I hated the dreaded family meetings, but we were only four kids. I’m not sure what the take-away was either, unless it ended up with a loss of privileges. Because the call of the family meeting sounded so dreadful, while raising my kids, I made a gathering into a family meeting without them even knowing what I was up to. 🙂 I’m sure I wasn’t that sneaky, but I thought I was. The jury is still out whether they are going to be great adults.

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    • Mom had reminded me here it was about us not treating other so kindly. I don’t think there is any reason to think 8 children in a house will NOT fight on occasion. It was nothing serious…… 😉

      And parents do thing they/we are sneaky. But they/we are never smarter than the kids when it comes to this stuff. 😉

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  14. so glad All can be around during a meeting and one laughs. I like that. Us, 13, good luck getting everyone all together. We never did but just once when Mother died.

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  15. Good one, Colleen! Glad to see the family picture, that is one thing I love about posts with pictures. Ones that have a story behind the picture, like where you are the comic relief person! Who thinks one should contain laughter anyway? Parents do! Smiles, Robin

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  16. We had family meetings too, though usually my father facilitated and calling them lectures would be more accurate. Though I confess I love that you laughed. Laughter is such a good relief, and when stressed it is my go to behavior as well, when I can that is. Still I could also understand that you do not want to laugh at such meetings. 🙂

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  17. This is awesome! And just who is that darling child directly to your right? And you’re absolutely right, the goal was met ❤

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