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Do We Have To Have Family Dinner?

Fellow Babble writer Mary Weimer published a great piece about family dinners in her house. She describes a fantastic family scene with kids setting the table, pleasant conversation, nutritious food and a wonderful family tradition that all her kids will remember their whole lives. There is nothing like a family dinner. I remember having them every night when I was a kid, and they felt like an anchor to me.

Which is why I’m so ashamed that I just don’t enjoy family dinners with my own kids.

I know. I KNOW. I suck. I want so bad to sit down to nice meals with my kids and my husband and reconnect after our days. But that’s not how dinner works in our house. Instead of pleasant social meals, dinner as a family can be, well, annoying.

To start with, my husband has a long commute and often doesn’t make it home in time to sit down with us. On those nights, it’s me, a five year old, and a baby. We’re all at the lowest point in our day, energy-wise, and are, frankly, snappish and grouchy. I usually find myself juggling pots, pans, and toys to amuse the baby while my son wanders around underfoot. If I put his plate down first, I have to lay down the law to prevent him from eating everything before I even sit down. Once we do start to eat, I’ll invariably have my fork halfway to my mouth when the baby will start crying or my son will ask for more milk. On average, I’m up and down four times during a meal. This is especially impressive when you consider that my son is done eating inside of ten minutes and is begging for dessert while I’m still putting salt and pepper on my meal.

As for conversation, there’s no Father Knows Best-worthy catching up on the day. Instead there’s a barrage of five year old questions about what powers superheroes have and if superheroes are real. His blue streak of talking is underscored by the sounds of the baby babbling or screeching as she drops puffs and Mum-mums off her high chair tray. I shovel food into my own mouth as fast as I can just to assuage hunger. I barely taste it.

Not a relaxing meal. Not even a satisfying meal. Certainly not the kind of meal memories are made of.

What works better for us, and my fellow writer Dadcamp will back me up on this, is feeding the kids before my husband comes home. If I’m not expecting to eat myself, I can be more philosophical about the jumping up and down, the demands of the baby, and the endless chatter from a person who needs to be reminded to swallow his food before talking. I’m still sitting with the kids and giving them attention, I’m just not eating. Instead, I get to eat later with my husband and actually enjoy my meal.

My hope is that as the kids get older, dinners with them will be more relaxing and we can enjoy the time together. But for now, I’m going with the more Victorian model of letting the children eat separately from the adults.

Read more from Rebekah at Mom-in-a-MillionThe Broad Side. Follow Rebekah on Facebook and Twitter too!

Photo credit: photo stock

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