Growing up we always ate dinner as a family, my dad when he was not traveling was always there and my mom had cooked. Thinking back on this, I crack up, what a perfect little family memory, I am sure my mom would have different memories of us hating what she cooked or fighting… etc. But at the core of our family life growing up we ate dinner together most nights of the week. This was our normal and created time to catch up on what happened during the day.
We have not been great at eating meals sitting down as a family, especially with 2 kids. We feel more like short order cooks serving the kids most of the time. When our daughter was born, (our first born) we would eat dinner after we put her to bed, we could not pull everything together and got into the habit of eating late. This habit kept on until we had our son and he starting eating solid foods. We would always sit with the kids and help them eat but we would wait until they were in bed to eat our meal. This habit could not last and what were we teaching our kids? I am a huge believer in showing your kids through actions in how to learn and behave. We were creating demanding eaters who got whatever they wanted on demand. Not what we wanted at all!
Our goal was to make more time for our family, this included meals. We all have to eat, right?! Makes sense but was harder for us as a family to get home from work, cook, plate the food and sit down together. Phew I am tired already thinking about it. We had to make of change in our daily routine to make this happen, and the change didn’t happen overnight. My husband and I both work full time so we usually walk in the house close to 6:00 everyday. This makes getting dinner on the table by 6:15 or 6:30 for the kids (and us) a major speed race or Olympic sport as I like to think! It sounds impossible, how do you get dinner cooked and ready in that short of time, well it has taken some time, but we have finally starting prepping meals on the weekends so we can quickly heat up the food and have it ready to go. Our kids are still going to bed at 7:30 and 8, so they need to eat around 6ish. This makes our prep time for dinner really short and we have to have food prepped and ready to go. Now this doesn’t happen all the time, but it is our goal to sit down as a family as many nights a week as we can. My husband and I both have commitments during the week at nights thoughout the month so we don’t always eat as a family. The nights when one of us home solo with kids we do sit down as the kids eat and then usually eat together later when we both are home. No matter who is eating, we do all sit at the table together. I would say on an average week we have 4 dinners all together as a family, this includes eating out as well.
Sitting at the table sounds very simple and very basic and I am sure to a lot of you, this may not sound like a big task or something to work towards, but it is important to us. I want our kids to have time to connect with each other and with us a family. I want to create a space in our home where they know we can connect as a family no matter how many different directions we are going. I want a place where we can invite others into our space as well, to experience our family and eating a meal together as a family is at the core of feeding your soul as well as feeding your belly!
I also believe we are teaching our kids life lessons while sitting at the dinner table. They have to SIT, they have to be engaged with each other, they have to wait to be excused. I really don’t think this is revolutionary but how can you slow down to eat as a family. We are all running from event to event, grabbing food to eat on the run, but to carve out time to sit down, eat and catch up with your family takes planning a dedication. We are raising little people and I want our kids to know our family as sitting down and eating together.
In full honesty our dinners as a family are not stress free and far from relaxing. Our kids, 5 and 2, can not sit still for very long so we rush to get the food on the table, sit down, eat, and then clean it up. Quick speed for sure, but we still make this a priority each week and it sets the ground work for our family.
Creating a family culture of connection doesn’t happen over night, I am usually the first one who starts the discussion at dinner, asking how everyone’s day was and what they did at school. Leading by example and having a mock discussion with my husband if the kids don’t want to talk. 🙂 Silly as this sounds, it is staring to become a part of who we are as a family! I sat down the other night, rushing to sit down before the kids ate their food and I hear a sweet little voice say, “How was your day?” Guys I was taken aback, did my 2 year old just ask how my day was? Yes he did!!! I tried to act natural, someone was asking about my day, not complaining about dinner, not screaming about how unfair life is, my brain was about to explode. He has seen us do this every night and is starting to get it!! This doesn’t sound like much but I felt like I had hit the mom lottery! I was so happy that our family dinner time was becoming such a regular occurrence that even our youngest child was understanding what we do. It is not easy, it is not always fun, but it is so worth the time and effort to see our sweet family connect over dinner.
We rarely take pictures of ourselves while eating dinner, so here are some great family memories around the table. Makes my stomach hungry and my heart full seeing these.