Before I even had a family of my own I knew that I wanted to have dinner as a family as often as possible. From almost the moment our couple grew into a threesome we instilled a family meal time. Each and every night, without fail, we gather around the table to eat our dinner together.
We have evolved from a bouncy chair sitting right on top of the table keeping us company while we enjoyed our meal, to a high chair pulled up alongside us, peas and carrots scattered on the floor.
As our family has grown, our meals may have changed but what has remained constant is that we are all together for dinner every single evening. No TV. No phone. Not interruptions. It is the one time in the day that we can all be together without rushing.
It’s amazing what you can pry out of children while they noshing on their favourite foods. We have discovered Mr. T’s frustration with one of his classmates over homemade chicken soup and freshly baked bread. We learned about some of Ms. J’s daycare worries over pizza. We have a little tradition where I ask the kids about their favourite and least favourite part of the day. It gets them to open up and start talking because, as any parent of a preschooler knows, if you ask “how was your day” all you are going to get in return is “good”. I learn things about them. I get to know them. The entire day may be spent rushing around, getting from here to there but we all know that for at least 30 minutes to an hour we will sit together, eat a home cooked meal and enjoy each other’s company.
There are times when dinner is plagued by whining, complaining about what we’re eating and maybe someone needs to be excused for a time out in their room because spaghetti is not meant to be thrown against the wall, but we continue our daily ritual regardless.
Sometimes we even learn unexpected tricks. After noticing that we were spending a lot of time struggling to get the kids to eat we decided to try allowing our kids to serve themselves. The deal was they could serve whatever they want as long as they eat what they put on their plate. Miraculously the struggles stopped! They were thrilled with the independence and we stopped having to fight about eating their vegetables. For some reason, if they made the choice to put it on their plate they had no problem eating it.
Family meal time is so important to us that we have made the conscious decision to build our lives around it. We ensure we are home in time for dinner every evening, the phone doesn’t get answered and even work is put on hold during that hour. It is such a big part of our day that our kids understand supper time rules and will remind us of the no tv rule if we somehow forget to turn it off before sitting down at the table.
It makes me happy to sit down and be surrounded by the people I love most, especially after a long day. It’s some guaranteed stability even when schedules get crazy and hectic. I think each of us look forward to it for our own reasons. I hope that one day our kids will continue the tradition and will make sharing a nice home cooked meal with their family a priority in their busy lives.