Conventional wisdom says family dinners are important.
They bring everyone around a bountiful table to share bits and pieces of the day, and spend quality time together. Eating together as a family is even listed as one of the ways to make sure your kids don’t slip into drug use.
But there needs to be a “BUT,” “IF,” “UNLESS,” or asterisk added to the “eating together as a family is important” statement. Something like: “Eating together as a family is important UNLESS your kids are under 8.”
After the jump, one father’s case AGAINST eating dinner as a family, and why it’s a brilliant idea.Dinner at our house is on the table at 5 pM. I cook it and it is usually a gong show. Take a too-small kitchen, and a variety of palates and it’s not one big bowl of spaghetti, 4 hamburgers, or a casserole of chicken I will be cooking – everyone wants something different.
There is the son that only eats noodles, no sauce. There is the son that won’t eat rice. There is the wife that is allergic to shellfish and doesn’t like adventurous meals, and there is me who will eat everything from guinea pig to goat. (Seriously.)
So I make a HUGE mess in the kitchen cooking everyone their meals only to be met with negotiations about how many bites of chicken or carrot are enough to be rewarded with a scoop of ice cream. There is the fight over who gets the blue cup, and of course with so many meals coming out there is always one that is too hot, or too cold.
There is a reason “the kids table” is a thing for holiday feasting: dinner with kids is not a Norman Rockwell painting. It is a Quentin Tarantino fight scene.
Ian Mendes wrote For Today’s Parent about how he and his wife choose to feed their kids first, put them to bed, and THEN have a grown up dinner a few hours later.
“We eat real food that doesn’t need to be drenched in ketchup or dipped in ranch sauce,” says Mendes. “And the best part is, we get to have a real conversation too.”
And that’s the kicker for me. While it is a hassle making multiple meals for dinner, it’s not the worst part of dinner. The inability to have longer than a 15 second conversation with my wife is what I miss.
Some will say to value the time I have with my kids now, because once they get scheduled into activities multiple times a week, that time will be hard to grasp. Still, just as I value a parents-only vacation, and just as I am jealous of divorced parents – I think having a dinner date night with your spouse at home is valuable too.
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