Today at dinner I instituted seven minutes of silence. The kids munched on their dessert while I drank tea and read Paul Krugman. I could feel the tensions of the day, of the dinner, sliding off me. I could breathe and enjoy my tea the way I used to when I lived all alone. When it was over, I told my two children (ages 5 and 4) that I'd found the silence refreshing. "Me too!" my five year old daughter said. "I feel rested." So that's that. We're going to have five minutes of silence during every dinner.
I dread mealtimes with children. I feel like I spend the entire time yelling. "Stop messing!" "Stop screaming!" "Start eating!" "Stop talking and eat!" "Eat faster or you'll miss your bus!" Before I know it, I'm channeling Pink Floyd: "If you don't eat your meat, you can't have any pudding! How can you have your pudding if you don't eat your meat?!" Cue David Gilmour's voice, and stick in this line: "The kitchen is closing in five minutes and you've only had three bites. How do you think you're going to make it through your day on three bites of oatmeal?!"
But tonight, I had a moment of peace. And I believe that teaching my kids to practice silence will extend into mindfulness, meditation, prayer, and, frankly, better eating because they'll be chewing instead of talking.