The Yelling Contest

Five people around one table.

A meat, a veggie, a starch, and a fruit.

No utensils in the dishes…no passing…fend for yourself.

brothers on one side, me and mom on the other, dad at the head.

The kitchen is warm–so warm that the large front windows behind my brothers are foggy with steam.

There is the usual grumbling of what we each see that we are not a fan of.

There is the usual reassurance by my mom that we do, indeed, like those things.

“How was school?  What did you do? How was your math test?”

grumble grumble grumble grumble.

Discussion becomes just between Mom and Dad.  Work.  Boring.

Bored siblings start in on each other.

“Did you wear that shirt again?”

“Yeah, what’s it to you?”

“It’s stretched out.”

“So is your face.”

giggles.  “So is your MOM’S face.”

milk out of someone’s nose.

“you’re so stupid.”

“you are.  loser.”

“kids…that is not nice.  That is NOT how we talk to each other.”

“But mom, he wears that shirt every. single. day.  And he wipes his nose on it.”

“I’ll wipe my nose on YOU!” He flares his nostrils of doom at me.


“Gross dad, food came out of your mouth.”


Everything is quiet except for the scraping of silverware on plates.

“I need the butter.”

“your MOM needs the butter.”


“oh guess what!  We did chair tryouts today and I moved up to 6th trumpet…from 10th, but I’ll probably still sit at 9th because Holly is still 10th”

“that is dumb”

“you’re dumb”

“that is great, honey”

And suddenly everyone is talking.  One louder than the other.  Competing for their space and recognition.

At the time?  I hated being forced to sit down five nights a week at five o’clock in the evening with no TV for dinner with my annoying family.

Now as adults?  My brothers and I beg my mom to have family dinners.  We miss the times together.

Are we any different than we were 20 years ago?  Not at all.  The same tired insults and come-backs fly from our mouths.

We still laugh at the ridiculousness of each other.

We still pick on each other.

My brother still makes jabs about how my mom makes a salad (but he eats it anyway…and I suspect she keeps making it that way because otherwise what would he bitch about?)

My mom jokes that it is hard for her to believe that we are all adults because dinner time?  Has not changed at all.

Dinner with my parents and my brothers make me happy in a way no one can really understand.

To an outsider–we are yelling and hating on each other.  Just ask Cort about the first time he sat down for dinner with my family.

But now when my brothers bug him about cutting up all his meat into little, bite-sized pieces before eating?  He slings the mud right back at them.

And we all laugh.

I hope to give this to my children.

I hope family dinner time is something we can keep up.

Because sitting face to face with your family and knowing what is going on in each other’s lives builds something.  It builds family.  It builds trust.  It builds togetherness.

Even when you’re busy picking on your brother’s weird nostril flare.

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About Katie

Just a small town girl...wait no. That is a Journey song. Katie Sluiter is a small town girl, but she is far from living in a lonely world. She is a middle school English teacher, writer, mother, and wife. Life has thrown her a fair share of challenges, but her belief is that writing through them makes her stronger.


  1. I love love love family dinners. My mom’s family is really close. We all get together at LEAST once a month. Not all the cousins, but my mom and dad, her sisters and their husbands and parents do. I usually go out with my kids once a month too. It’s the most fantastic time. We don’t hate on each other, but some of my absolute favourite memories are sitting around that table talking with my aunts, uncles and grandparents. Even now Emma who is three asks “can we go to the cottage this weekend?” They are the best

  2. Oh I love this.

    I wrote a post about silly conversations at dinner for Nichole, once upon a time.

    They are hysterical.

    And often…unexplainable.

  3. i actually laughed out loud… b/c that is totally our family dinners too!!!! seriously. and yes, back then it was a little more… um… real. and now, we love recalling those memories and making more. in fact, we call it “the circus coming to town” when we all get together.

    shoot, i wish i could write this prompt/post… but you already said it all.

  4. Growing up in my home, the only time we had a family meal together was on holidays. Same for my husband’s family. When we got married we made it a point to sit at the table together and eat.
    It’s probably one of my favourite times of the day.
    Even if we argue about who gets the last drumstick 😉

  5. So, so true! I am trying to instill this with our family and DH is the biggest opponent to it. Love it!

  6. I love our family dinners but don’t have a lot of recollection of mine growing up! Hubs remembers his being exactly like yours….but more arguing!

    I hope our kids continue the tradition when they have their own families.

  7. We had the occasional family dinner when I was growing up but my hubby had it every night at 6pm. I would love to instill this with our family now but for some reason he is against it. After reading this I think I might try harder to get my way 🙂

  8. This brought back so many memories of dinners with kids around the table! Between my dad and stepmom and everyone in between there were 6 of us at the dinner table at night (plus 2 adults!). I love it! =D

  9. We sit down as a family every night and eat dinner (just like we did when I was a kid), and my kids are already starting to hate it. Oh well. One day they’ll appreciate it.

  10. Excellent. Love it. Holidays are like this at my house, though it was just me and my brother. It’s expanded to include my husband, my SIL, her mother, and our girls. 🙂

  11. What great memories of togetherness.

  12. I love it. Growing up, my sister and I ate in our bedroom watching television. Having dinner at the table with my kids all attempting to talk over one another really just makes me happy. No matter how stressful the days been, we reconnect over the noise, the bickering, the silliness, the mutual hatred of all green vegetables. Sigh.

  13. You just described OUR dinner table growing up! Brought back so many memories!

    And now? We try to do family dinners at least once a month, usually more often. It’s so much fun to see our kids all together and we still fight like we did when we were kids, too 😉

    I’m including this again on my Saturday faves!

  14. We’ve had some good ones – and I’m looking forward to sharing more with my own family.

  15. I remember family dinners. They were a chore. Eat fast. Get away.
    Now we get together not so often. And we cling to the table long after the food is gone.
    And yes, it’s a free-for-all memory fest.
    So much fun!

  16. Lovely story, lovely writing, as always.

    I was an only child. This was so NOT my childhood dinner table experience. There was, however, laughter and lively conversation, but it was just between me and two adults, thus the conversation was more… adult. We ate together nearly every night. We played word games, told stories of our day. It’s one of the things I feel so sad about, how few family meals we are able to conjure in our family. My husband works late, odd hours. With Jacob’s autism he does not so much converse but repeats questions and statements over and over and over again, so he either dominates a “conversation” or he is left out of one, left behind in the dust as Ethan and I discuss a subject, and withdraws into his own world. Sigh. Most nights the kids eat while watching TV so they don’t fight through the whole meal. This is so NOT what I had pictured family time to be. I am happy for and envy you your family life.

  17. I laughed out loud. This is so my family dinners too.

  18. Some of my fondest memories memories sound like this except not with my family…lol…

  19. Oh I pray my family dinners will be like this but I guess as a mother I can’t tease like a brother or sister could. Darn.
    But yes, the last time the entire family got together, it sounded very much like your dinners. And it was wonderful.

  20. LOVED this! What a fantastic photograph of a family dinner.

    Ours were always noisy and messy and filled with at least one or two, “GIRLS!!” And they still are. 🙂

  21. I just love this, I was the only brother too and we had many, many fights at the dinner table. Loved the rhythm of your writing that followed the banter of the dinner table. Excellent as always. Now my brothers need to move back to Michigan for one more family dinner.

  22. I grew up with just one brother and divorced parents. I used to actually dream of meals like this and always hoped someday I would have them with my own family. Maybe someday.

  23. Love it. My brother and I had a thing for a while where we would lick the leftovers as a way to claim them. As if we were starving and that was the only food to eat… Now we both have two kids each and there was only 1 slice of our grandmother’s recipe jam cake that I made for Thanksgiving this year and my 46 year old brother licked it. I almost peed my pants laughing. This is the great stuff that makes up a family. Once, I hid pizza under my bed…I also hope to give this to my kids. Right now, I’m just trying to keep my 2 year old from killing the 10 month old. I would fawn over your writing, but I hate to be deriviative. Well done.

  24. That would be “derivative”. Trying to type while keeping the baby off the 2 y/o’s potty. sheesh.

  25. heeheehee

    “your MOM needs the butter.”

    I love it.

    I am perhaps as mature as a thirteen year old boy…

  26. I laughed as I watched the scene at the dinner table. I am an only child and growing up I wouldn’t have had it any other way – no fighting for my parents’ attention, all the presents, all mine. But your story made me wish for a sibling or two.

  27. Awesome scene. Love your gift for dialogue and the way you’ve captured the chaos of these dinners.

  28. Great depiction – the funny thing is, I’m reading it from the mom side now. My kids are 25, 22, 19, so it hasn’t been that long since we were forcing them to sit all together at the table (no reading!) and “your mom” jokes were being slung left and right. sigh. I miss it. Good to know it might make a come back.

  29. awesome!! Ive been at a dinner table just like that a time or two myself 🙂 This was a really fun one to read!

  30. Okay, I can totally see this. I love these lines, especially:
    It’s stretched out.”
    “So is your face.”
    giggles. “So is your MOM’S face.”
    milk out of someone’s nose.




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