Brian and I were married eight years before we had kids. During those years I would go through Ina Garten’s cookbooks, page by page, and cook a new recipe each night for dinner. I love to cook. There is something about taking ingredients and making them into a delicious meal that just makes me happy. Brian and I always ate our dinner at the table together. This is where we would really talk about our day or dream about our next vacation.
Fast forward to today and life's a little more full! Driving three kids around to school, dance class, swim lessons, and running my own business while trying to make time for my husband and friends, let’s just say I haven’t cracked open one of Ina’s cookbooks in a few years!
I don’t believe in beating myself up about not being able to cook gourmet dinners every night, that just isn’t realistic! However, there was one thing Brian and I were not willing to give up once we had kids and we genuinely believe it is the most important thing we do for our kids every day.
We eat dinner around the table as a family every day. It’s part of our family routine. I believe it’s important to end the day with one another. It isn’t about what we are eating (keep reading to see how I meal prep - it’s so easy!), I believe the real power of the dinner table is the opportunity it provides for conversation.
When I was growing up (and let me just say, I had a wonderful childhood and amazing parents), my mom was so excited to see me when she would pick me up from school. She would immediately ask me all kinds of questions, “How was school? Did you have fun? What did you learn?, etc.”
I remember one time when I was in fourth grade, my mom went through her list of questions and being the sassy girl I was, I responded with a very disrespectful, “Gosh mom, are you writing a book or something?”
I had just been at school for seven hours. I was tired. My brain had been working all day. I needed a break. After I had Stella, a very dear friend once said to me, “Just remember to treat her like a human being, not a child. Ask yourself how you would feel in her situation.”
That was some of the best parenting advice I’ve ever received and I refer to it almost daily! As an adult, when I work seven hours straight, the last thing I want to do when I get home with my family is talk about it and I especially don’t want to feel quizzed about it. I’m sure my kids feel the same way. When I pick them up from school, I greet them with a huge smile, excited to see them, I crank up the music and we enjoy the ride home. When we get home, I let them chill and relax a bit, finding comfort in being back home, back to their safe place. I let them watch a tv show and then play in the backyard while I prep dinner. Then, we all sit around the table together. We pray. We eat. During this time is when we begin to ask the questions. We start by going around the table and asking, “What was your favorite part of the day?” Everyone answers. Then we ask, “What was your least favorite part of the day?” They don’t really understand this question yet (Stella usually just says another fun thing she did), but Brian and I answer it honestly. One day, they’ll catch on and I believe it will open up important dialogue. I also find because everyone has had a mental break between school (or work) and dinner, everyone is now ready to share. We also ask the kids (by the way, Perry and Zeke can barely talk, but we still give them a turn. They mumble something we don’t understand but we always acknowledge it and keep the circle moving) “Was there anything that happened today that made you sad? That made you mad? That scared you?” Again, just opens up an opportunity for dialogue. We’re just laying the groundwork now so later when they need to share something with us, we’ve created a space that makes them feel comfortable to do so.
While eating dinner together as a family gives us a chance as parents to teach our kids how to express how they feel verbally, it also gives us the opportunity to teach them the other side of communicating, listening. There are no distractions during our time around the table, no phones, televisions, computers, etc. This is a time for everyone to share and to have an active voice within our family while also teaching them how to listen well.
Click the button below to claim your download to see how I meal prep for my family of five and how I’ve taught my kids I’m not a short order cook. Momma makes one meal and we all eat the same thing!
I’d love to hear from you in the comments below! How do you make uninterrupted time for your family? How do you create conversation with your loved ones?