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Why I'm Banning Political Talk at the Table

"Are we Republican or Democrat?"

My son lobbed that grenade of a question smack in the middle of our dining room table at the onset of lovely Sunday dinner. Turned out there were several hidden land mines just waiting to be tripped.

My sister, aka, land mine No. 1, spoke first.

As she passed the peas, she asked if we saw the "hilarious" skit on TV last night, lambasting "presidential candidate x."

My parents, staunch supporters of said candidate stiffly replied, "No." Instead of leaving it at that, my sister pulled it up for all to see on her iPhone.

Ka-boom!

The older child appeared to be silently amused at the sight of their normally mild-mannered grandmother pointing her finger, raising her eyebrow and silently fuming.

Much to my chagrin, what followed was an explosive debate on the ability of both presidential candidates to solve everything from the current economic crisis to the nuclear showdown brewing in the Middle East—topics I don't even feel comfortable letting my kids watch on the evening news. And yet, like watching a macabre dinner theater, my boys couldn't peel their eyes away.

While my son never received a direct answer to his question, he at least came away with a better understanding of each party's stance on the top issues of the 2012 presidential campaign, and, more importantly, he now knows why I insist on not broaching this topic at the dinner table.

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I did worry about their reaction to witnessing their beloved relatives display their dark sides. The younger of the two asked to be excused as soon as they were done eating. The older child, however, appeared to be silently amused at the sight of their normally mild-mannered grandmother pointing her finger, raising her eyebrow and silently fuming over my sister's refusal to acknowledge the incumbent's role in her rising prescription costs.

As for me, watching tempers flare over a meal I spent hours preparing left me with no choice but to demand that a truce be declared before they could even think about getting any dessert.

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Happily, the promise of homemade chocolate cake was enough to silence the warring factions.

Tempted as I am to use the incident as a cautionary tale for my guys, there is something to be said for watching their relatives go after each other, then somewhat miraculously shelve their differences and return to their normal, affable selves.

As for our next big family dinner, I plan on starting it with a gentle reminder to please turn off all cell phones and electronic devices before we begin, and a stern reminder to leave the political grandstanding at the door.

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