Miguel and Zeca play soccer year around and both did martial arts until recently. Now, Zeca goes twice weekly without him. She also takes guitar lessons and Miguel has a ton of homework every night now that he's in junior high. Luisa travels for work and is gone for big chunks of time during which I'm taking the kids to activities, supervising homework, preparing all the meals and - the worst part - doing all the dishes while trying to manage my life as a freelance writer. We are busy which is part of what makes family dinner time so important to us. It is the one time each day we know we'll connect with each other. We feel closer to the kids when we know what's going on in their lives and the kids feel closer to us because they have our full attention. Our phones are tucked away in a different room and we are fully present in a way that I'm ashamed to admit is more the exception than the rule.
It didn't surprise me then to learn that families who share meaningful meals together are happier and more emotionally connected. Parents are less likely to feel stress. The kids do better in school and have more confidence. They are hardworking and independent rule followers.*
I think my kids missed the memo about the rule following part of this deal.
It's clear that shared meals are important but family life is also crazy and most of us struggle to find balance between work and family. Plus, there are so many things parents feel bad about when it comes to meals. Maybe you plunge into despair if your chicken isn't free range because "Oh my god! What am I feeding my kids?" Maybe you get pizza more often than you'd like to admit. Maybe your kids bicker over who gets the "special fork" and while it escalates to the point that you worry someone might actually get shanked, you ponder moving to a yurt. Alone.
We need to let go of the idea that every family dinner has to be idyllic and cut ourselves some slack. We are not perfect. Our families are not perfect. Life is not perfect.
So, how do we embrace the chaos of our busy lives and still sit down together for dinner?
My family does not eat dinner at the same time every day and we do not always eat meals that would look fabulous on Pinterest. Sometimes, we eat dinner at 7:30 p.m. on a weeknight. Sometimes, Luisa is out of town and we have to eat without her. Sometimes, I make pasta and use sauce from a jar and cut up some fresh mozzarella for a little protein and only realize after dinner that I forget to serve a vegetable. Sometimes, we're tired and crabby and still - we sit down at the table together. And if for some reason we can't, we don't dwell on it and try again the next day.
My advice is to be flexible and treat yourself with compassion. We are all works in progress.
I've shared my tips with you. It's your turn to share yours with me. You don't have to tell me to ditch the "special fork" because we dealt with that - nobody gets the special fork!
*This information taken from Share the Table: Benefits of Family Dinner for Parents and Children, a study by Dr. William Doherty
This is a sponsored post on behalf of Barilla, however, my opinions are entirely my own and I have not been paid to publish positive sentiments towards Barilla or their products.