My husband and I both grew up having family dinners every night. On Sundays, thanks to our Italian heritage, we did “Linner.” (Lunch that starts at 2 p.m. and goes until 5 p.m.). I have very fond memories of my family of 4 sitting at the table, once my mom actually sat, watching Jeopardy or debriefing about our day. There was never a shortage of food or laughter at our dinner table. This is something I still treasure and have found a way to recreate for my family.
When my husband and I started dating, after years of me living alone, family dinners returned to my life. I didn’t think much about family dinners again until six years ago, when our first son was born. Most people I knew with babies fed their babies, put them to sleep and then ate a nice calm dinner with their partner around 8 p.m. Well, that wasn’t going to work for us. Instead, we started eating “early bird special” meals, meaning dinner by 5:30 p.m. By the time son number two arrived, two years ago, I had perfected the art of family dinner 2.0.
Family dinner 2.0 for us means that dinners on the table by 5:30 p.m. Yes DINNERS. With food allergies and picky eaters and dieting, I tend to cook 3-4 different versions of dinner a night. Thank goodness for meal planning and the fact that I love to cook. (Cleaning, not so much.)
Our table is crowded with dishes, mail, and toys, so it’s never a dull moment. Or quiet! Also, contrary to most people, we have a TV that’s almost always on during dinner time. Most nights it’s on a DVR of Mickey and The Roadster Racers or Food Network Star or our current favorite movie, SING, so it’s safe for all eyes and ears. There are some evenings when we actually do our reading during dinner, if we are running late or have had a little too much screen time. There is also a lot of conversation about our days, especially when my older son has been the star on his class’s message.
The dinner table is also never clean, and I’m sure my husband would love just one night that he doesn’t have to use the Swiffer. But hey, I’d love a night when the dishes wash themselves!
Even though it’s not the traditional family dinner, it feels right to us. And honestly, we eat like this six nights a week! (Our kids are not restaurant trained, so we do sometimes do take out, but that’s about it.) At this point, our kids are still young enough that sports and extracurricular activities don’t interfere, and selfishly we are going to do our best to keep this time sacred as long as possible.