I know what the studies say. Kids that sit down to a regular meal together have a lower obesity rate, use less drugs, stay in school longer and experience less stress. That’s a whole lot of power packed into meatloaf night! While it’s clear there are plenty of reasons to have dinner with your kids, the thought of actually doing so scares me more than the return of the midriff. That’s because the reality of family dinner night never comes close to the fantasy.
The fantasy – My family races to the dinner table to find a succulent homemade feast that even the Barefoot Contessa would covet. We laugh while sharing enchanting tales of our day, then I’m showered with compliments about my culinary skills. After dinner, we sing a song in a round while doing the dishes as animated birds fly overhead. Not wanting the fun to end, we move the party into the den to enjoy an enthusiastic game of Scrabble.
The reality – Everyone is way too busy for dinner but reluctantly comes to the table anyway due to my masterful use of threats and guilt. Because of our varied palates, my ‘compliments to the chef’ are replaced by “you know I don’t eat mushrooms”, “why is this so crunchy?”, “I hate this sauce. Why do you always use this sauce?”, and my personal favorite, “how many bites of this stuff do I have to eat in order to get dessert?” When going around the table to share our day, our daughter limits us to one begrudged “fine” and my husband shares even less since he hates talking about work at the table. My kid finishes her meal first, complains about how much noise we make when we chew, then begs to be excused to finish her video chat. I’m done next and painstakingly watch my husband eat with the speed of a DMV line. There are no songs, animated birds, or bonding board games.
Please tell me dear readers, are all of you out there enjoying family meals together on a regular basis? Am I the only one raising an obese, chain smoking, drug using high school drop out with a refillable prozac prescription? Why can’t I get it together for a regular family meal? And how does a family find time to gather round anyway? My husband works late, my kid has demanding homework and after school activities, and I have a job (albeit part-time) that leaves me with little or no desire to shop and cook a meal with more than one food group represented on the plate. Speaking of which, is there even a meal out there that can please a meat and potato lovin’ husband, a carb crazy teen, and a “trying to eat more fruits and vegetables in case that horrific midriff ever does make a comeback” mother? I greatly appreciate any help you can give me!