Growing Together – March 2014 edition

Tips on Parenting & Relationships

By Ross Fields, CPE and Kathleen Fields, CPE
Munjoy Hill Observer, March, 2014

Grandpa Al’s Pizza Night

Does your family have a special time when everyone comes together to prepare a special food, or play a game, or both? Does this special time have its own name? Like Family Game Night or Kids Make Dinner Night? Bestowing a name on such a time gives it an identity, even possibly leading to the creation of a family tradition. I created such a time in our family and awarded it the title of . . .
. . .wait for it,

Grandpa Al’s Pizza Night !

When I was growing up, my dad would create a fun family evening by making the most wonderful, best tasting, thin crust pizza (from a box, no less!). Unfortunately, he was killed in an accident long before my daughters were born. Creating Grandpa Al’s Pizza Night not only brought those wonderful memories of my dad back to me, it also helped the girls hear about the grandfather they would never get to really know.

Dad (Grandpa Al) swore by Chef Boy-Ar-Dee’s pizza mix. It came in a yellow box and had everything you needed; pizza flour, yeast, sauce and cheese. Dad would start with the basic cheese pizza and add his own toppings, like little balls of hamburg precisely spaced (he was an engineer), or strips of Velveeta cheese laid over the whole thing. I think Velveeta cheese was its own food group back in the day.

So when I decided to initiate Grandpa Al’s Pizza Night, I made a beeline for our small-town grocery store in Lyndonville, Vermont, and was overjoyed — and a bit surprised — to see Chef Boy-Ar-Dee smiling at me from almost the exact same box. It was like greeting an old friend I hadn’t seen in a long time. I took one box off the shelf and then quickly turned back to grab a second, exclaiming to myself, “Let Grandpa Al’s Pizza Night begin!”

You may question my personal claims of “best tasting pizza ever.” Sure, the pizza had a role, but more importantly, it was how dad went about it. He had a certain ritual and a way of involving me, my sister and my mom, in the whole process. The kitchen would be electric with anticipation from start to finish as we each did our assigned tasks. From checking on the dough as it took its time to rise, to stretching it out by hand to the edges of the rectangular pan, ladling on the sauce, and toppings being meticulously placed. Finally the cheese was evenly sprinkled over every square inch of our team effort. After 20 minutes in the oven, the pizzas would emerge, edges golden brown and crispy, cheese and sauce bubbling. It was now time to cut, serve and enjoy – watch out for that hot cheese on the roof of your mouth.

The menu for Grandpa Al’s Pizza Night slowly transitioned from the box mix to home made whole grain pizza dough, with more refined ingredients than what I grew up with, but Grandpa Al’s Pizza Night continued on. From then on, when anyone of us spoke those magic words, “Hey, let’s have Grandpa Al’s Pizza Night” we knew it would be an evening of pizza, playing games, and just having fun together. It really didn’t matter what we were doing. We were doing it together, as a family. No TV, no devices. Just talking to, and laughing with, one another.

Oh yes, and guess what? Family times such as these are great for teaching and learning life skills: Leadership, followership, cooperation, consensus, and asking for what you want, to name a few. Family members can take turns at being “in-charge” of the whole event, like being the captain-of-the-ship. Specific responsibilities can be assigned for food preparation, clean up, and game selection. It’s also a great way for your child to feel powerful, by being able to invoke a family gathering by simply saying, “Hey, let’s have Grandpa Al’s Pizza Night!” or whatever name you have come up with.

So, what name will your family fun time be called? Deciding how this time will look, and deciding on a name, could be an event (family meeting) all by itself (like naming the family pet). Whatever you come up with, I know it will be just as magical for you as Grandpa Al’s Pizza Night continues to be for me.

And as always . . . with patience, education, and practice, you will become a more confident and effective parent.

It’s ALL about the relationship.

Ross Fields & Kathleen Fields are
Certified Parenting Educators (CPE) and
co-founders of Results Parenting, LLC