Not to throw a curve ball to my consistent apathy in parenting, but I have recently become concerned with the lack of family meal time in my life. As a hurried, chaotic family of two teens and a husband who is currently working night shift, learning how to slow down is a ginormous obstacle.
We also live in a very small space, sometimes it’s all that I have to prepare dinner and get the kids to eat it without some sort of criticism and get them to get out of my way. Every evening feels overwhelming, while my mind still races with a checklist of things to get done today and then tomorrow. None them fun. All of them fundamental, repetitive and mundane, but necessary none the less.
After dinner, there is laundry, dishes and organization to be had. After a day at work and coming home to teen spats and smelly dogs, opening a can of spaghetti sauce and boiling water seems like a challenge of Herculean proportions. I’ll admit, it’s easier to hand plates the kids while they file downstairs and further immerse themselves in digital mediocrity and unhealthiness than it is to set the dinner table and pry my daughter off Facebook.
After a long day at work and running errands on the way home, I just want to veg. Sit in front of the TV and watch the shows I recorded from the prior evening and missed because I fell asleep in my arm chair. Having two teenagers, sometimes it’s easier to pretend they’re above all that hand-holding and togetherness, then to risk ruining my zen over the mind the mind numbing story about the girl fight at school.
But lately, I’ve had this overwhelming guilt. I grew up at the dinner table with a mother who was arguably faced with more challenges than me (although she didn’t work). I looked forward to it as a sense of calm and safety. This is something that I feel I’ve really missed out on with my kids. I feel like a failure and not in a warmhearted, humorous, blog-about-it way. With one child who’s graduating next year, I have very little time to change their habits. Habits that were formed and reinforced by me.
Why have I not seen this up until now? The family dinner table.
And it’s something that would provide the same relaxation and time to organize the family’s to-dos for the next day or week had I just committed to it. My kids have only experienced such gatherings during holidays, birthdays and frequent restaurant jaunts, but this is unacceptable.
But we’re not the only ones.
According to Time Magazine, less than half of white and black Americans eat dinner with their parents for most dinner meals while Hispanics are much more likely to eat with their parents.
Of kids who eat with their families on a regular basis (or dinner), they are 40% more likely to get As and Bs. Who knew?
So let this be a 2012/2013 school year resolution. We are eating together as a family dammit and the kids are gonna like it. This is the last year before my oldest gets shipped off to college. It’s now or never.
So let this serve as inspiration to those of you who wish — it’s never too late to start a good habit. It’s never too late to change our imperfect ways.
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