Reconciling the Redefined Family Dinner

When I was growing up, we ate dinner as a family every single night.  Both my parents worked full time, but with relatively flexible schedules and only about a three minute commute.  They also both cooked.  As a result, each evening at 5:15pm we sat down at a set table to a full home-cooked meal.  No take out.  No fast food.  No frozen dinners heated up in the microwave. 

My brother and I both played sports from the time we were in elementary school, but our schedules never seemed hectic, at least to my memory.  Practices were at reasonable hours (usually right after school) and usually within a few miles of our house.  We were always home in time for dinner at 5:15.  This continued into high school, even when practices were daily.  Other than away-game days, our family dinners stayed intact.

When my kids were first born I would read about the insane schedules of today’s children, and how the average American family only eats dinner together something like once a week. I was horrified.  I was also a little smug about the entire thing.  I certainly would never be like this!  My children will NOT be overscheduled!  I will cook dinner every night!  And it will be healthy and organic and delicious to boot!  So there! 

Enter reality.

My kids love to try everything, and I hate to discourage activity of any sort.  Soccer? Fantastic!  Softball?  Why not!  Piano?  Sign us up!  This all sounds great until you realize how many days a week you’re running all over town like a maniac trying to GET to these things.  Throw in the fact that some of the practices are on different days each week and run as late as 7:00pm (for seven year olds!), and you have created a perfectly impossible situation for sitting down to a family dinner like normal people.  No wait, NOT sitting down is normal.  I yearn for the simplicity of my own childhood, which I guess now is completely abnormal.

Granted a lot of other things are different too, which further complicate family dinners.  My husband commutes over an hour each way and works long hours.  I teach cooking classes one to three nights a week.  I can’t lay the blame entirely on the kids’ activities.  Despite all this, I try like crazy to make sure at least I am sitting down at the table with my kids as much as humanly possible to a home cooked meal.  Sure, some nights they’re eating leftover pizza at our kitchen island as I’m scurrying around getting ready for a class, but other nights I insist we sit at a set table with our home cooked meal, no take out, no fast food, no frozen dinners.  I hope someday my kids will appreciate what I’m trying to do as much as I appreciate what my parents did for me.

Click here for more information about Tracy’s Connecticut cooking classes, or to read her The Secret Ingredient Blog.



One Response to “Reconciling the Redefined Family Dinner”

  1. raisingable Says:

    Tracy- if you can’t eat dinner together, try eating breakfast.

    Eating a meal together every day has enormous payoffs.

    You don’t have to submit to activity-mania.

    Have a family meeting and agree to set some limits around activities. Agree on 1-2 nights a week for a family dinner and hold it sacred.

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