Family Dinner has been studied, championed, idealized, and streamed for the silver screen. Somewhere along the way, it also became a serious source of guilt. There’s an image in my head of what dinner should look like — me with hair curled, presenting a piping hot casserole to table full of well-washed, well-mannered children.
News Flash. It ain’t that. Not at my house. It hasn’t looked that way ever. Not even once. Probably because that idealized version is based on June Cleaver, Carol Brady, that pretty lady I once went to church with who (I imagine) was nailing everything in her house that I simply couldn’t make happen in my own. You know … people who were never actually people. Unreal, fakey fake, scripted characterwomen. Which got me wondering, if we could see what real people were really doing for dinner, would it help us let go of the guilt born of unrealistic expectations, and allow us to settle in better and embrace what’s really happening in our lives?
So tonight, just as the dinner hour knelled, I sent out a cry via Facebook. I asked friends, blog readers, strangers, and fellow humans to snap a photo of their dinners. Pictures came pouring in minutes after the request went out. Single moms, stay-at-home moms, devoted daddies, relaxed bachelors, harried homemakers, empty nesters, and everyone in between. I was delighted to see frozen food, big bowls of homemade healthy eats, leftovers, take-out, and eating out. There was the rare tablecloth, a few matching plates, and a one smiling mom — but she thankfully didn’t have her hair curled and wasn’t carrying a picture-perfect piping hot Pyrex.
Turns out, it’s time to let go of that mommy guilt. Time to drop that Norman Rockwellian expectation stuck in our heads. Because dinner never looks picture-perfect. And, I’ve got 13 photos from real people to prove it.
Cumorah — Married mom, Zumba rockstar, Arizona
“Sneaky, Brooke — doling out this assignment when dinner plans were already in full swing, so no out of the ordinary fanciness would grace the submitted, spur of the moment, REAL, dinner photos. Well played my dear, well played. Honest to goodness, we usually try to sit down around the table to eat dinner — but tonight was crazy. Tonight was real. So here’s your crazy real dinner pic. We ate standing around the kitchen island. Still together — but a little vulture-esque. I made a delish Crock Pot chicken teriyaki with white fluffy rice — that only Dan, Bella and I ate. You can see that Emmett dined on a corndog with a side of ranch mixed with ketchup. Bleh. Calvin ate a tangelo freshly plucked (by my daughters) from a neighbor’s tree during an Eagle Scout project — in which the volunteers picked thousands of tangelos to donate to the local food shelter. Dan & the girls served there tonight, while the boys and I attended 4-year-old T-Ball practice — thus the crazy, meet back at the house at 7:30pm for eats type of night. Azure drank fresh squeezed tangelo juice for dinner (her tummy was hurting after eating THREE donuts at the service project), and everyone grazed on the plate of veggies — even the kids — but only once the celery was slathered with JIF,and the cucumbers were drenched in ranch. Voila. Another happy, yet random family dinner. For real.”
Frank — Empty Nester, Dad & Stepdad, Utah
“Wifey Alison and her oldest son, Dan, made the dinner tonight. It was amazingly fabulous.”
Paul — Dad & Stepdad (of 8!), Virginia
“Barbecue chicken, melted cheese, bacon. For a crowd.”
Joseph — Single Working Dad of 2, Arizona
“Egg burritos and apples. :)”
Natalie — Single Working Mom of 3, New Jersey
“Zucchini noodles and homemade pizza! Bon appetite!”
Derek — Married Working Dad of 2, Utah
” Crunchy Sesame Chicken Salad … it’s what’s for dinner… I should note that it wasn’t a huge hit with the family … so we settled on toast and jam. :)”
Amber — Married Stay-at-Home Mom to 3, Utah
Me: “I’m warming up leftovers for dinner.”
Daughter: “Can we have corn dogs and pretend they’re leftovers?”
Tabatha — Single Working Mom to 3
“Dinner. Well, for me anyway … kids had chicken and black bean taco salads but it was too late to take that pic for you…(; “
Kristiina — Stay-at-home Mom of 3, Colorado
“Butter cracker chicken, steamed carrots and baked potato with cheese.”
Buffee — Single Working Gal
“Roasted tomato soup. I’m glad you don’t want pictures of the whole family, ’cause I doubt my parents would be ok with me sending a pic of them in their PJ’s watching NCIS while eating dinner! Hahaha!!!”
Mayzie — Accountant Mom of 2, Colorado
“Just saw your request and I couldn’t resist sharing what the kids were eating for dinner tonight (frozen kids meals). Cliff and I will be having grilled cheese later. Tax season means I don’t have time to cook real food.”
Brian — Married Dad of 4, Utah
“Tonight we had quinoa black bean enchiladas, basalmic roasted Brussels sprouts, and strawberries. Served on a piggy plate.”
Jordan — Handsome, Single Working Dude
“Este Calzone and Crack Rock TV”
The author and three of her four kids, out to dinner last night. Unmatched kids, high-carb sandwiches, plastic cups and all.