My husband was talking with some friends today about our family dinners. They were surprised that we sit down together at least five to six nights a week.
“How do you do it?” they asked.
“I tell them to be at dinner.” Brad said with a smile.
One friend lamented how hard it is to get everyone together.. Schedules, meetings, athletic events, etc. make family meal time a thing of the past.
“With such crazy schedules,” he asked, “how do you get them all to the table?”
“I tell them they have to be there.” Brad said again.
It’s really that simple. When my daughter had ballet practice from 6-7:30 we ate before or after, but we ate together. When my son has tennis practice or lessons we plan the mealtime accordingly. The meals aren’t fancy, but even if it’s cereal we eat it together. We don’t have many non-negotiables in our house, but dinner is one of them. Why?
I could tell you that family dinners are a priority because statistics show eating together will increase the chances for healthy, happy and academically successful children. I could say that it saves money (eating out is expensive and fattening!). I could quote the statistics that revealed a startling fact: kids who eat dinner with their family at least five times a week have a dramatically lower chance of smoking, drinking or doing drugs. But, although we’re thankful for those benefits, they aren’t the motivating factors.
We have dinner together because we’re… a family, not 4 people pursuing individual lives who happen to live in the same house. It’s our time to stop the motion, look each other in the eye and listen, really listen, to what’s going on in everyone’s life. It’s the only time during the day it happens and it’s worth fighting for.
It’s never too late to start having family dinners. Whatever you’re doing now, increase it by one dinner a week. Don’t freak out about the dinner prep. Remember, you can have cereal! Talk about how everyone’s day went. What was the best part of the day? What’s happening tomorrow? What did you learn in school? Just start asking questions and let the conversation take on a life of it’s own.
Our kids are only around our table for a few short years, but what happens around the table will stay with them for a lifetime.