I've been thinking a lot about Family Dinner lately.
School is starting in just one week for us, and I keep thinking that this year, our dinnertime is going to turn out exactly as I've imagined it to be.
Alia is helping me to create a weekly menu and do the grocery shopping, I'm setting up a good morning routine where we can make dinner early (and avoid trying to prepare something during the "witching hour"), and I'm talking with Eric about how we can create fun and meaningful discussion topics each night--so we can teach our children on a daily basis, even in the midst of our busy schedule.
This morning as I was sorting my computer files, I found this article I wrote for The Sandbucket magazine a few months ago. (Have you heard of The Sandbucket? It's beautifully done.)
I thought I'd re-post it here as a reminder that even when Family Dinner is a disaster, it's still worth the effort.
We sat down as a family for dinner tonight. Curry chicken and potato wedges.
I was expecting it to be a lovely gathering, full of meaningful conversations, laughter, and maybe some hugs as we all thanked our 13-year-old, Alia, for the lovely meal she’d made.
Instead, we had an adventure that looked something like this:
The children argued over who got to sit by me.
They also fought over who had to sit on the bar stools.
Ethan gobbled up the potato wedges, but because the curry chicken didn’t appeal to him, he started coughing violently and insisted he couldn’t finish his meal.
The girls also coughed throughout the meal, but that was because they’d been home from school earlier in the week with fevers, and they were just starting to get better.
Throughout the choir of coughs, our five-year-old, Spencer, cried because he didn’t want his potato wedges. The crying only subsided when Ethan kindly snuck some away from him—to eat in place of his now-room-temperature curry chicken.
There were requests for more milk, some cranky discussions, and to be perfectly honest, I sat and stared at our table of chaos and wondered why on earth we ever tried to achieve the “ideal family dinner.”
But as I thought about it, the answer became more and more clear.
We don’t have family dinner because it turns out perfectly. We have family dinner because it brings us together.
Sure, the eating process might border on insanity, but then a spectacular phenomenon starts to happen.
For example, tonight Grace turned on our favorite Kids Bop playlist, and the family danced together as we cleared the table.
We laughed together when I noticed I’d spilled food all over myself . . . again. (This happens just about every day, and it’s totally embarrassing.)
Spencer asked if he could do his siblings’ dishwasher jobs in order to earn a “hand” for our special “Give-‘em-a-Hand” wall. While he sorted silverware and stacked plates, we talked about his kindergarten “Barnyard Moosical” that was coming up and helped him learn to spell “E-I-G-H-T,” in preparation for his test tomorrow.
Then Alia told us all about her choir concert coming up on Tuesday, and Ethan pulled out a puzzle he wanted to piece together after dinner.
Once the clanking of the dishes subsided, our family activities settled down to a low hum centered in our little family room.
My husband Eric started working on the edges of that puzzle Ethan had been so excited about, and Spencer lined up six colorful Hot Wheels on the ottoman so he could “drive them” before bath time. I put my feet up and leaned back in the recliner, and Grace snuggled into my lap for kisses and arm tickles. Alia opened her books and binder to finish up some school assignments—choosing to sit close to us while she worked.
Being a part of that scene reminded me of a framed quote hanging in our kitchen that reads,
“Having someone to love is family.
Having somewhere to go is home.
Having both is a blessing.”
This is why family dinner is so important.
I think we’ll do it again tomorrow.
Do you do anything specific in your home to make Family Dinner work?