Before I had kids I envisioned a perfect family dinner setting:
The 3 course meal would be prepared and ready by 6:00 pm; my husband, my two children, and I would sit down together. We would take turns sharing stories from our day, listening to what each other had to say, smiling and adoring our precious children…
I’m not sure the exact moment when I realized this was NOT going to happen. Maybe it was the accumulation of the following that put it all in perspective
1. Feeding time takes place within minutes of landing at the mothership. On a normal day, by the time I pick my kids up from daycare/school and get them home, it’s nearing 4:00 pm. They are, in their own words, “Starrrrvvvingg!” and cannot wait for me to cook dinner. And I do not mean that they are thoroughly excited for me to cook a nice meal. I mean, they are impatient, hungry, grabby little children who must eat within 1 ½ minutes of telling me that they are hungry. This usually leads to me heating up Spaghettios or making macaroni and cheese to hold them over until the real dinner can be made.
2. I may or may not be able to create something edible for the night. There are days when we come home and my kids are angels. They play nicely with each other, they do not fight, and they don’t destroy the house in the first 10 minutes we are home. Then there are the days when they will not leave my side. My son wants my attention every 2 minutes to show me something, and the toddler wants me to pick her up constantly. I don’t usually see my kids until 3:00 pm, so if they demand my attention, I don’t like to say, “Sorry, kids, Mom has to cook food instead of paying attention to you!” So there are definitely days when I can’t even get into the kitchen to accomplish any type of sustainable food for dinner.
3. Dinner at 6:00? My kids are halfway to zombie mode by then. My kids get up fairly early during the week, at 6:00 am. Despite the fact that their tiny human bodies have 10 times more energy than mine; they are still usually pretty exhausted by 6:00 p.m. And it’s not that enjoyable to sit at a dinner table with kids that can’t even form a sentence without whining because they are so completely exhausted. Or kids who fall into their plate of hot dogs and ketchup and end up looking like they were an extra from a scene in Braveheart.
4. I don’t like to exercise while I eat. Actually, I don’t like to exercise at all, but that’s not really the point. Dinner time at the table becomes an aerobics routine for my husband and me. As much as I try to make sure everything is ready to go for all four of us, and everything is within an arm’s reach, it usually unfolds like this…Someone doesn’t want their milk, they want water instead. Child #1 wants ice cubes, and now Child#2 wants ice cubes. Child#2 got more ice cubes than Child#1. Child#2 threw her beans and now she’s crying because the beans have dog hair on them. They both want more food, but they need it heated up. Now it’s too hot, it has to go in the fridge. He wants a blue fork, she needs a red spoon. But not the red spoon I grabbed, the OTHER red spoon…Basically for the 17 minutes we try to sit down for dinner, I spend 14 of those minutes getting up and down trying to keep the two tiny humans satisfied.
5. It’s a battle of “I WAS TALKING FIRST!” My son is 5 and my daughter is 3. They have not quite mastered the art of taking turns while telling me the events of their day. This is due to both the sheer excitement of their story telling and the fact that they do not want the other one talking when they are not. And when I say the events of their day, I mean who wiped a booger on somebody at school. It is a constant battle of, “MOM! I WAS TALKING FIRST! LOOK AT ME! YOU’RE NOT LOOKING AT ME! MOMMMMM!!!!” And by the end of the conversation I still am left hanging (no pun intended) on who wiped a booger on whom.
6. I’m not going to lie, I enjoy kicking back on the couch. When it was just my hubby and I, before the tiny humans came along, we often ate dinners on the couch in front of the TV. The living room is where we all socialize and gather, and so we are just used to eating in there at times too. I work all day, and I like sitting on the couch with my feet up eating dinner! I know, I’m a terrible person. I mean, I’m the one that cooks it; I can eat in the bathtub if I want, right? The kids have their little table in the living room too, and they hang out there and we usually all eat together, one big happy family.
I don’t think at this point in my kids’ lives we are missing out on any crucial moments by not sitting at the dining room table. I don’t think it should really matter where you sit for dinner, as long as you are able to make a conscious effort to all sit together and share that time. In fact, I may just move dinners out to the car. I mean, I could actually restrain the kids in their car seats at that point . . . I’ll let you know how it goes.
*This piece was originally published at cassiehilt.com