Family dinners have always been important to me but I have to confess, it can be a battle to find a time that works for everyone. Busy schedules, band practice, and other commitments constantly pull us away from the table. Not to mention the times I don’t know what to cook, I forgot to thaw the chicken, someone has an attitude, or they’re just too picky! When I want to give up, I dig in, fight through and remember these truths:
- It doesn’t happen unless it’s on the calendar. As our kids have grown and their schedules become more complicated, we all have to talk about it and choose our family dinner nights. We’ve eaten as early as 4:30 and as late as 8:00 just to have a few meals together each week. Because everyone is part of the decision, they make more of an effort to be there.
- It’s not about the food. I have gone from cooking for 5 with a few picky eaters to cooking for more than 10 at Sunday lunch. My worry has changed from “will they eat this” to “will there be enough”! I won’t deny that food has to be part of the focus. But both home cooked or take out can bring your family around the table for connection and conversations.
- It’s about the people. We have tried to create an atmosphere where friends are welcome but cell phones aren’t. We call it being “fully present”. We’re not perfect at it but putting cell phones away at dinner gives us a better chance at connecting with those in our presence. Sharing Highs and Lows of the day is a great way to get everyone, youngest to oldest, talking and the memories you are making are priceless!
- You may need a bigger table. I started making a big Sunday Lunch when I realized it was one of the few times we were all available and it’s become a Bonham tradition. I admit though, some days I’m tired and I don’t feel like cooking or setting the table. But when the door opens and one more walks in, I see how my kids welcome their friends and it motivates me to keep going. I was glad to buy a bigger table… some things are worth the investment!
- It’s worth it! At this point in life, I see my efforts paying off. Our kids are in their early 20s now and not all living at home, but everyone still looks forward to the connection that happens when we come back to the table. When we are face to face, talking and listening, laughing and fighting it out, family is found. Our relationships are richer because of the meals we have shared together and the people who have sat with us along the way.
So don’t let the excuses of being too busy keep you from connecting. Talk to your family and friends and decide when you will come to the table. You won’t regret it!