Family Meals And Other Miseries
Linda Wechter-Ashkin PhD NCSP BC-TMHC ADHD CCSP
We have all been told the importance of family meals as a way to bond and share experiences. I agree with that totally once your children actually enjoy food and conversation. I have been counseling for a long time and one of the main things that parents complain about is mealtime. Their children don’t like their meal choices, they run around the table, they fight with each other, make disgusting noises, and interrupt any and all adult conversation. I have yet another very unpopular suggestion. Don’t eat with your children. Notice I didn’t say don’t sit with your children while they are eating just don’t eat with them. I have to be honest I came about this theory by chance. See Dave worked very late when the children were young, so true family dinners were not an option. I had a choice to eat with the kids or with Dave and since I saw Dave so infrequently, I chose Dave. So, every night I sat with the children while they ate their meals. I made them kid-friendly choices because well honestly, I knew it was just them that were going to eat it and any friends that had straggled in. Sometimes we just talked, sometimes we played games, and sometimes we watched a favorite show. I had convinced my friend Mary Linda that this was a great plan and many nights we would take them out, make a picnic, or pack sandwiches to eat on the run on the way to some adventure. Dave would come in around 8:30 or 9, put them to bed, and we would sit down to eat our quiet adult meal with lit candles, peace and quiet, and adult conversation.
As the children got a little older, they would often come sit with us at our late meal to try a bite or have dessert or just talk. For us it was the being together rather than chewing together that bonded us. If family dinners have become a game of family feud let me paint, you a scenario. Get a big beach blanket, a small collapsible table and chairs and some plastic plates with your children’s favorite characters on them. Grab a recipe book with easy meals and easy steps. And prepare to create memories. One of my son’s friends who is now 27 still remembers eating hot dogs shaped like octopuses on a plastic plate at one of our meals. Then put the kids to bed and sit with your partner, eat something other than chicken nuggets, and celebrate the blessing of children and the blessing of putting them to sleep before dinner.