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Sunday Sauce: Traditions Matter to Kids

Growing up in an Italian family one thing was certain. Every Sunday we ate pasta. The meal started at 3 P.M. As a single working mom, JD and I eat most of our meals together in our condo or out at a restaurant, just the two of us—a team. I pick up a lot of food off the floor. I make a lot of airplane noises and I negotiate many bites (if you eat this piece of grilled chicken, you can have a strawberry, next.) We also talk about our day and go over the colors of our food and practice manners and drinking from a cup. But on Sunday we go by my brother Carlo’s house.

He makes Sunday sauce, meatballs, pasta, salad—the works. I chat with my sister-in-law, stealing sips of wine and JD plays Candy Land with my niece and mom. Here’s the thing, though, yesterday I was exhausted. I wanted to serve JD leftovers (eat cereal later on when I got hungry), go for a walk, give him a bath, read some books and watch Desperate Housewives. Wa-Wa-Wa!

This particular weekend was one filled with work. I just had a lot of writing to catch up on and a revise due to my editor on Monday at 9 A.M. Our Saturday was packed with soccer, brunch with family, shopping for a kitchen table (I have an awesome granite top breakfast bar and stools in my condo, but since JD is over the high chair and too small to sit on a backless stool, I had to finally purchase a kitchen table—cha-ching!). Then there was the park where JD had an impromptu play-date with his bud Zach (they looked for buggies and got thick bands of dirt under their fingernails—whatever!). When we got home, JD wanted to paint (not rest). It was nice out, so we sat on the balcony and painted several pictures of the sun. Then it was time to cook dinner, go for our nightly stroll, stop for “bella ice cream” [vanilla] and “grinkles” [sprinkles]. Then bath, books, bed and I got to work.

We woke up on Sunday, stopped for coffee and bagels and went to the park (because JD wanted to climb the jungle gym). Then we stopped at the farmer’s market to buy our weekly fruits and veggies. “I want so many oranges,” JD said as he held my hand and toted his basket around the fragrant space. After JD ate lunch, he took a nap and I got back to work. I texted Carlo I might not make it to dinner. He wrote back: “It’s Sunday. You better come.”

When JD woke up he didn’t ask for juice or potty like he usually does. “I go eat macaroni by Uncle Carlo,” he said. (He talked to Carlo on the phone earlier in the day about spaghetti and meatballs—“meata ballassssss.”) I looked at my computer and the incomplete assignment, then I looked back at JD. He was already collecting Matchbox cars to bring to Carlo’s house, holding a pile between his hands, up to his chest. “I bring the pink caddy for Juliette (his cous).”

“OK, bud. Let’s go potty first.”

I’ll remember the Sunday dinners with my son and family years from now--the sauce smeared on JD's cheeks and mouth; how he stole black olives out of my salad. The chocolate chip mint ice cream we ate last night for dessert--JD said it tasted like toothpaste. Not the assignment that I needed to finish—the one I finished on time anyway because I set my alarm for 5 A.M. this morning.

Do you have family traditions? Do you gather on Sundays for a meal? Do your kids keep you on track when it comes to family traditions?

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