The family dinner is both a uniter and a protector. Sitting down to shared meal not only provides an opportunity for family members to talk about their day, it creates a point of connection and support after a busy or stressful day. Family dinners impact children. Recently, yet another study indicated that the the benefits of the shared meal stretch far beyond the kitchen table, helping keep kids off of drugs.
So why aren't more families gathering around the table to eat and (hopefully) share a few laughs?
I wondered this myself when my boys were younger. For most of our married life my husband has held jobs that get him home at a decent hour with plenty of time for family meal. We always ate together.
But that changed when my boys entered elementary school and started sports. First it was a dinnertime soccer practice for one that made us miss a meal, then it was soccer for both. At one point we added baseball and karate practices, both of which have since fallen by the wayside.
But here I am with boys 10 and 12, at ages where staying connected is increasingly important and challenging and I can barely coordinate the logistics of a family meal.
Mondays my younger son has a theater class from 4:45 – 5:45, AKA dinner time.
Tuesday are good for now, but our week falls apart on Wednesday, when both boys have an after-school practice (Science Olympiad, rather than sports this time). In addition, next week my older son begins bar mitzvah tutoring after dinner. Assuming we have a mild winter and the roads are clear, we’ll have about 30 minutes for family dinner.
Thursdays the boys come home from school and grab a quick snack before they are whisked off at 4:00 to Hebrew School. By the time they return around 6:30, they usually eat a rushed dinner before diving into (or whining about) homework.
Fridays used to be the most important family dinner of the week until soccer took over back in 2007. In 2010, it’s especially dicey as both boys have an after school practice (Science Olympiad again). I get the boys home around 4:45 and then my older son has an in-home piano lesson from 5:00 – 5:30. As soon as that’s done, we’re off to the soccer fields for my younger guy until it’s too dark to see the ball.
By the time we make it home around 7:00, we’re ready to call it a week. At least I am.
When my boys were younger, family dinners just happened. Now all this running around means I need to be more mindful in my approach to a dinner (and maybe break out the crock pot). It’s going to take a bit of planning and maybe a few convenience foods to get us through this school year, but the good times and shared experiences will make it all worthwhile. Right?