I am very guilty of buying a non-fiction book and never finishing it. I kind of like to use those books as a reference point–someplace I can return to when I am once again intrigued or inspired by what it has to offer. About 2 years ago after my son was born I happened to discover a book titled “The Family Dinner: Great Ways to Connect With Your Kids One Meal at a Time” by Laurie David. Dinner time with the family??? What a novel utopian idea, right???
After I bought the book, my daughter, 2 years old at the time, and I would read a little bit together every night and talk about how we ate dinner. And what I learned was that we were really bad about it. Growing up, my family sat down at the table and ate a home cooked dinner together very night. That wasn’t happening with my daughter. A new baby in the house, a husband working an erratic schedule and me feeling overwhelmed with both a toddler and new baby made the simple task if sitting down to eat a meal together nothing short it daunting.
“Imagine sitting down and connecting with your children every day in a cheerful, significant, and meaningful way…..The importance if dinner time should not be underestimated, and when done well it will rock your world.” Doesn’t that sound awesome??? The book goes on to talk about kids who eat meals with their families eat healthier, are healthier, is a powerful tool against breast cancer (no-really), and teenagers are less likely to fall into perils such as drinking, smoking, drugs, etc.
So I set a goal—eat as a family once a week. I didn’t care what meal it was or what we ate–just as long as it was together. It usually ended up being a weekend breakfast instead of a dinner, but it was together. Now, a couple years later here we are with TWO toddlers and a new baby still trying to just reach that one weekly goal happen each and every week.
In my utopia we would eat all meals together as a family but I know that is just not possible. Early mornings, kids who need to be fed, bathed and in bed at nightfall—it all makes it seem difficult. I know I am not alone. in fact, i think we keep our schedule and routine pretty simple and basic and it is still difficult. Many families and kids are over scheduled, stressed, obliterated by technology and so on and so forth. Meals are eaten on the go, in the car, at kids’ sporting events and sometimes not at all. On the go meals often come in the form of purchased fast food.
While we are still a family on the go, I have tried to adopt a few simple things to keep trying to get us to that family dinner place. Meals on the go are portable and I try to make them healthy–a Baggie of Cheerios or fruit in the morning on the way to school work well. I do ask that they sit at the table and eat what they can at home. The rest can travel with them. I try to be home by 3 pm every day to get a snack for the kids and get them settled in and ready to start their evening and dinner routine. If my husband will not make it home by dinner, I sit and eat a small portion with the kids and them again with my husband later in the evening.
You can do some simple things to get started. Pick one night a week and have pizza Fridays, taco Tuesdays, cheeseburger Mondays—whatever it is, start with a simple goal—one weeknight meal together as a family. Keep it consistent and stick to it. Make sure everybody in the family knows to be home that certain day and time for dinner–no exceptions. Then build upon that and add a second meal.
Have “ice breakers” and ease everybody into the conversation. We do the favorite part if the day game an everybody takes turns. The ideas out there are endless.
What do YOU do to get your family gathered around the dinner table??? Leave your comments below and be entered in a chance to win a $100 gift card to Great Wolf Lodge!!!!