Chef Hat

Tonight’s discussion at the dinner table ranged from: 1. why boys get mad at girl’s during kickball and yell at them for ducking instead of catching the ball (Emma had a tough day in gym class), to 2. what the Holocaust was, why people listened to Hitler in the first place and why they were called Concentration Camps, then on to 3. Dad’s favorite Teddy Roosevelt speech, which he looked up on-line and read aloud, and finally 4. since mom cooked a nice dinner or chicken parmesean and ceaser salad, the other family members would be cleaning the dishes (much to the annoyance of the middle child).

“Family Dinner Time” is a hill I intend to camp out and die on if necessary, to keep it priority for our family. Sound dramatic? I agree, but when you are coming against a million reasons and obstacles why we cannot all find 45 minutes to sit and eat together it requires some emphatic response on my part. When my kids were all little’s it was easier: I planned dinner, they all showed up and we sat down to eat. Currently, I work two nights a week, the oldest is gone one night for youth, we have a community group 2 thursday nights a month and weekends are a free-for-all of people coming and going. All this has led me at times to feel like throwing in the towel and abandoning the goal, but then we sit down to eat and something semi-magical happens. (Do not start with me about the word magical. It’s a loose term) Anyway, someone will say “pass the salt”, and then someone else will say “why do you always put tomatoes in perfectly good casserolle’s- it ruins them” and then the other children will agree and begin to affirm the truth of tomatoes ruining dinner, and then I will launch into some information on nutrition which is usually interrupted by the bodily function of a teenager, which causes the husband and children to all laugh, then after getting “the look” from me the husband will instruct the teenager on manners at the dinner table, which will then lead into other conversations and before they have time to realize it, the children are all conversing with each other and us. There are just too many moments we’d miss if I didn’t fight to preserve family dinner time.

So, fight I do and I don’t fight fair. I’m competing with TV, internet, cell phones, and other distractions that require I stack the odds in my favor. I cook my family’s favorite meals; I put flowers and placemats and cute holiday decorations on the table; I light candles; I make desserts (sometimes). Also, equally important, I insist on it 3 nights a week.

There are some traditions we can let slip quietly into the night, because they really didn’t serve a meaningful purpose. But family dinner time is not one of them. I’d love to hear your ideas on how to make family dinner time fun and positive- especially if you have teenagers! I need all the ammo I can get.

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