Finding Time for Family Dinnersby Blythe Newsome
Rushing home from work, I call the children and tell them to have their cleats on and be waiting outside the door because I will be there in five minutes to pick them up for practice.
They excitedly climb in the car and instead of asking them about their day, I find myself barking out the order in which I will drop each child off and then pick them back up.
I don’t need a GPS device to tell me how to get to all the fields and gyms, I need a GPS system that can drive a car its own and help with the drop off and pick-ups.
By the time we get home it is usually after 7:30 and the thought of making dinner, helping the children get their homework done and making sure that everyone takes a shower (my little ones would be happy to go for the world record in not showering so I have to stay on top of them), makes me feel as though I am teetering on the edge of insanity.
When my children were little and not involved in all these activities, I was the queen of having nightly sit-down dinners. We ate every night at 6:00 p.m., and I had the meals planned out one week in advance.
These days I find myself having a planned meal one night and then running so late on another that grilled cheese sandwiches and apple slices are the gourmet meal du jour. There was a time when I could make homemade lasagna. Now I get excited when I see it on sale for $3.99 so I can throw in the microwave to cook while I bathe the kids.
But no matter how much guilt I might have over what I am serving for dinner, I am always amazed at how excited the children are to sit down as a family.
As busy as life can be and as much stress as all parents are juggling, family dinners can make a huge impact on a child. The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse has done a lot of research on family dinners and the impact it can have on children, especially teenagers. They found that eating family dinners lower a teen's chance of smoking, drinking, and using drugs.
I was surprised to read that 72 percent of teens think that eating dinner frequently with their parents is very or fairly important. That really caught my attention because so many times it seems as if teenagers would be willing to do just about anything but sit down with their parents.
But I don’t need a research study to show me how important it is to eat together as a family. All I need to do is sit at the table, take a moment to breathe and listen to what my children are talking about. There are times when they share more at that dinner table with each other than they are able to when they are just passing each other coming and going to and from school and activities.
Let me use the other night as an example:
I was tired and stressed and nearly tempted to grab something from a drive thru to avoid facing making dinner and cleaning the dishes by hand (the joys of having a dishwasher that is broken). But I stepped up, threw together some pasta and a salad and sat down with the children to hear about their day. We went around the table and shared things about our day.
My older daughters shared things about their friends in high school and their classes. My daughter Aidan shared what she was learning in her morality class, which led to a good debate and me thinking I should head to confession very soon. My son and daughter, who are in middle school, shared their stories. Moira talked about the upcoming school play audition, and she went over a few of her lines which are to be said in a British accent. Then came the unanimous decision that for the rest of the meal everyone would talk in a British accent. My son did a fairly good job with his accent while telling us about the upcoming district championship football game. Then the girls suggested that he get the entire team to talk with a British accent just to psyche the other team out. They cracked up talking about him going out on the field and asking the guy on the other team who will be blocking him, “How are you doing, you bloody ole chap?”
My 9-year-old informed us that flowers pass gas, but not to worry because it is the kind doesn't smell bad. And my youngest son shared that today when he saw the class fish poop, it reminded him of the wrinkle on my forehead and made him miss me. I am not sure if I should take that as a compliment or not.
As the children fell over in hysterics, I found myself thinking how precious and priceless these family dinners really are for us. I don’t need a study to show me that a family that eats together is brought closer from the talking that takes place.
Tomorrow night, the middle school district football games begin, followed by volleyball games, and the high school soccer season will soon be kicking into full gear. While sit down dinners are not logistically possible every night with so many different schedule of activities, I will continue to do everything I can to make it happen as many times a week as I can.
Now does anyone know of a magic cream that take could take care of this wrinkle on my forehead that reminds my son of fish poop?
To share your dinner time stories or suggestions on how to incorporate the routine into the busy lives we all juggle, email to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also share your ideas at www.tlhmoms.com or on facebook at www.facebook.com/tlhmoms.com.