Monday, November 26, 2018
Family Meal Times: How We "Found" an Extra Couple of Family Hours Each Week
Once upon a time, I had four children under age six. My husband got off work at 5:00, and was home exactly 5 minutes later. The table would be set, the smell of delicious hot food would fill the air, and we would sit down by 5:15 to eat a hot, homemade meal.
Then the kids got older. And they jumped into sports and activities. And the priority of family dinners got shuffled around a bit. At my core, though, I really valued that family time around the table. It is something that I placed a high priority on, and something that I wanted in our lives even with the addition of sports and activities and big kid stuff. I wanted to establish a family meal time when our children were young, so that when they were old, it would still be a regular family "thing". I wanted my children to have a place where questions and conversations were natural and welcome. Sports and activities were throwing a wrench into my plans.
What took me a while to consider was that the priority was on a family meal time, not necessarily a family dinner time. Who said that meal had to be dinner? We began utilizing family breakfast or lunch times. Lunch was more natural for me as breakfast meant I had to be up extra early (uh, not happening).
Our life has been a little more full lately. We spend a lot of our time at our martial arts gym training and teaching. All four of our children, plus my husband and I take classes, putting us home later in the evening. We generally do simple meals on our later nights, but it felt so "rushed" as of late, and I really wanted to reclaim some of that family meal time. I hated rushing home, throwing food on the table, eating, and sending them off to bed.
Recently, I began to set the table for dinner early in the afternoon, before we even leave for our evening classes. A cute centerpiece, candles, dishes and cutlery, etc. Just the simple act of preparing an otherwise plain table began to draw my children to the kitchen. When we come home from the gym, we kicked our "watch tv or play until mom's done prepping dinner" habit in favor of a "sit around the table and talk together" routine. Our kitchen and dining table are connected, making it easy for me to prep food and talk with the family. I put the finishing touches and prep on dinner, my family sits at the table or helps out, and we enjoy the time together while dinner is getting ready.
This one tiny little change has given us an easy extra two hours or more of family time a week. Our dinners have been more enjoyable, our kids are staying at the table longer, and the conversations have been more relaxed. The stress of getting home late and eating quickly has mostly diminished, and we are once again enjoying our family dinners together.
It seems like something so silly and simple. And it is. But silly and simple solutions that yield positive family time are my kinda solutions.
If you are in a similar phase of life with activities or evening things that may be threatening your family meal time, I highly encourage you to think outside of the box. Is there another meal time that would work for your family? Is there a way to spend more time in the kitchen or around the table together? Dinner isn't the only opportunity for time around the table with your family. If it's a priority to you, get creative and make it happen!