This month, I’m tackling food as part of my year-long project to explore new monthly topics that encourage growth and self-understanding. My relationship with food, and motherhood has always been challenging for me. I think because it’s a tangible way to judge myself. I’m trying to let that judgment go, while at the same time instilling important family values in my children.
Growing up my family ate dinner together almost every night, right until the day I left home. While it was never stated explicitly, it was understood that dinner at home wasn’t a choice. It was a priority.
Sunday usually invited the tantalizing aromas of a slow-cooking roast, and included all the delicious side dishes that are impractical for a busy week night. Today as adults with our own busy lives, we still often get together as an extended family for Sunday dinner. Tomorrow we’ll gather at my mom and dad’s for a homemade pan of lasagna. It’s comforting, it’s tradition, and I think it made a difference in our house when we were growing up.
When I became a mom I hoped to continue the Sunday dinner tradition with my children. Unfortunately, I haven’t been very good at it. My lack of commitment comes partly from children who are still young and who hardly eat a thing, but also from exhaustion just at the thought of preparing a traditional Sunday dinner in an already hectic week. I just haven’t been able to translate desire into action.
Sunday aside, we do eat together as a family almost every night of the week. Though it means my husband and I eat very early, and that dinner is often consumed amidst toddler tantrums and general chaos, I buy into the argument that dinner with the family helps children grow into healthier people. Meals enjoyed together reinforce a host of family values and habits, and send the message to our children that they matter, that the family matters. I also think it’s one of the most logical parts of the day to routinely protect to be together, free from outside distractions and pressures.
I’m the first to admit, however, that it isn’t always easy to do. As chaotic as our own dinnertime is, I have some measure of control over my children’s time right now. No doubt that will change as they get older. Kids are busy, parents are busy, there just isn’t enough time in the day. That’s why I’m focused on cementing this tradition while they are young. Weeknight dinners will be important and, as much as reasonably possible, we’ll make it a priority to eat together. But Sunday nights will be protected, everyone will be expected to be home. It will not be optional, just like when I was growing up. It’s a tradition that I think is worth working hard for and an investment in my family that I believe matters.