Wednesday, August 6, 2014

How We Solved the Family Dinner Dilemma

For literally years now I have been trying to figure out how to get family dinners to work. Because P. - and now Bo, too - would prefer to eat dinner at about 5:30 pm. I'm not that hungry right about then but I could eat. The mister gets home at about 6:45 pm, which is actually when Bo would like to be going to bed.

But heaven forbid you don't do the whole family dinner thing. Without nightly family time children are pretty much doomed to a life of drugs and crime and haphazard family planning. Or so NPR has told me. And that's not even considering family dinner's supposed impact on obesity!

I could at least take solace in the fact that I was not alone in our inability to figure out how to eat dinner together without tantrums and the littlest Terry falling asleep at the table. Bruce Feiler, a New York Times columnist and author of The Secrets of Happy Families, told the Splendid Table that, "A third of us are not doing it regularly; Americans rank 33 out of 35 countries in terms of eating meals together."

That sure took the pressure off... not.

Because I kind of did want to eat meals together. The whole idea seemed practical (and I am nothing if not practical) and elegant (and I aspire to nothing if not elegance). Preparing one meal with one set of dishes? Sounded good. Sitting at a table set with candles and wine in my mason jar surrounded by my family sounded even better. But see above. I literally had not been able to make regular family dinners work after three years of looking for a way.

Some actual good news came in the form of another tidbit from Bruce Feiler. Turns out that the research shows that the 10-15 minutes of measurable quality time that happens in between telling kids to chew with their mouths closed doesn't need to happen during dinner. Move it to any time of the day and it still has the same benefit.

And then it struck me. Hello, breakfast!

Who says family time has to be dinner time, anyway? Just because it's the most researched meal doesn't mean it's the best one to share. Personally I think eating and chatting with my husband and my kids seems like the best possible way to greet the day.

Now instead of worrying about family dinner I sit at a table full of candles sipping orange juice out of my mason jar along with strong hot coffee from the mug P. made for me a few years back. Sure, it's 6:30 am and I'm kind of not actually awake yet. I'm pretty sure that for at least 10 of those drowsy moments quality time is happening right there in front of our plates. Probably.

I'll let you know when I finally wake up.

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