I love planning and preparing for big events. I love pretties. I’d love to work for an interior design company someday. But my favorite is setting a lovely table. The beautiful dishes, the sparkling glass, the fancy folded napkins, the creative and festive centerpiece, and of course, the candles — it wouldn’t be complete without the candles. When people sit at my table, I want them to relax and feel welcome. I want my “spread”, whether elaborate or simple, to say, “Welcome, you are special.”
I used to have a lovely dining room that allowed my table to stay full length. It was my favorite part of the house and many times I would set the table just because it looked nice. But I don’t live there anymore. And now, the reality is that I have kids under my roof — and at my table. I don’t think there is ever a meal that someone doesn’t spill or drip. So I use a practical tablecloth that gets washed — a lot — and doesn’t require ironing, topped with simple everyday dishes, paper napkins and mismatched hot pads. But I still use candles — yes, on a table with a six and three-year-old! Regardless of the young ages around the table, I want to make mealtime a special time, a time we get to enjoy one another.
Conversation is usually light: what we did during the day, things we learned, giggles and smiles. Sometimes our talk turns to important things, heart and family matters. I hope that as they get older, those conversations around the table will get deeper and longer. But I know that when those times come, it will feel natural to sit around the dinner table together. And so, those candles will stay on the table, even when my little ones don’t seem to notice those small, extra things done in an effort to make dinner a special time.
As last winter approached, I was thinking about having a special brunch for my friends. I knew that my budding little lady would want to help, but I didn’t think it very kind to let her help and then send her away with the boys while the ladies enjoyed a special time. So I altered my plans to include her in the whole event, and we hosted a “Mommy and Me Tea.”
When I told her that she could help make special invitations, invite the friends of her choice, assist in the menu planning, table setting, meal preparation and share in the hostess responsibility, she was thrilled! What better way to teach her how to arrange for a party and make special memories together at the same time? She loved every minute of it — and so did I. She helped me go grocery shopping for the special things for our tea. We made little treat bags for our guests, which she organized all on her own. She made the placecards with her friends’ names; she chose the background music. It was so fun to watch her prepare something special for others!
Needless to say, our tea was a huge hit! The other girls and their mommies loved our special time together. (It was neat how it worked out — all the girls had only brothers so they all enjoyed a time of girly fun with their mommies.) We enjoyed fine china, yummy food, candles, and beautiful music in a lovely atmosphere of sweet friendship.
I used to be timid to use nice things, like china, for fear of little hands breaking — but how else will they learn? It was so fun to see the girls (ages 5-8) sit so properly and use such care. Just the atmosphere suggested manners, and all of them rose to the occasion.
How often do little girls get to practice being little ladies? How can we expect them to act ladylike when they get older if we never give them opportunity as they grow? How else will our girls learn how to be ladies if we as mothers don’t model and teach them? Since I’m not counting on the world to have too much positive influence on my daughter, I want to be proactive, constantly looking for places and ways where my girl can work alongside me, so she can learn by doing.
I’m pretty certain we’ve started a new tradition with our “Mommy and Me Tea”! And maybe, in ten years, we mommies will get to enjoy a tea hosted by our grown-up little ladies.