I recently had the privilege of speaking at a women’s event in North Carolina. *Stay tuned for more on that!
Another way to word that would be- I recently had the privilege of waking up naturally 3 days in a row because my brave, brave husband stayed back with the kids. *It really is amazing how refreshing getting away alone can be.
During this trip I had the additional joy of staying with one of my dearest friends; someone with whom I’ve walked much of life- school, single, married, motherhood, health crises, homeschooling.
Staying with my friend was a vacation in and of itself. Her home is quiet, peaceful, adorable, and her 2 children are also quiet, peaceful and adorable (though she assures me they were simply putting on a good show.) There was much I noted with admiration during my stay, but the biggest impression was made at dinner. The family sat down..and stayed seated. It was calm, there were conversations, there was a sense of rest.
Dinnertime at our house does not typically look like that. Kids are wiggling, Micah and I are getting up to fetch more drinks, more napkins, more helpings for bottomless-pit-children. Calm, Conversations, and Rest would not be the words to describe our dinnertime. More like Feeding Frenzy, Constant Motion, and Why Do We Have To Feed Them Again.
As I went to bed that night, it was tempting to compare myself and wallow in self-criticism. Statements like we stink at doing dinner…why can’t my kids be quieter…I’m failing threatened to choke out gratitude and the ability to come up with creative options.
Thankfully, I’ve spent the past several years (1) finding what works for me and my family and (2) understanding that what works one day/week/month/year, may not work the next. Much of parenting really is about evaluating and adapting. And then doing it all over again. And again.
So here was my evaluation: About a year ago, dinnertime wasn’t working for our family. The children couldn’t sit still for very long, I was tired at night and did not enjoy cooking big meals, and the children weren’t even hungry at night. So I released my white-knuckled grip on my Ideal Dinnertime and changed strategies. Breakfast became our biggest and warmest meal; the one where we all sat down together and ate and reviewed school work (it helps that they’re groggy in the morning.) Dinner became a tapas-style affair. Hummus & veggies, fruit, nuts, toast, smoothies, leftovers, whatever was easy and fast and required the least amount of coaxing. And it was awesome. Well, it was awesome when I wasn’t beating myself up for not doing dinnertime ‘the right way’.
Fast-forward to the present. The kids are all a year older and have developed new skills like sitting still for more than 62 seconds and eating things they don’t like. And I’ve rediscovered a love for cooking/eating a warm dinner. But it wasn’t until visiting my friend and witnessing their dinnertime that I put all the pieces together and thought, “Hm, I wonder if we’re ready to reevaluate and adapt.”
So I went home and told Micah what I was thinking; that I wanted to experiment with a new dinnertime strategy. He was onboard. Then I announced to the kids, “Mom and Dad want to try doing dinner a different way as a family. We would like to enjoy your company at the table. We don’t want to be getting up during dinner, which means you will have to make sure you have everything you need before we sit down- drinks, napkins, silverware. We would like to see if dinnertime could be more peaceful for all of us. What do you guys think?”
I could tell from their attentiveness and nods that they liked the idea, but Silas confirmed it with a hearty “Well why didn’t you mention this before???”
I don’t know son. I guess I assume you can read my mind, and that with your vast life-experience and all you should just know how to behave. Sheesh.
I suppose the moral of the story is:
We can admire those around us out of love and draw inspiration from their actions and choices, or we can compare ourselves out of fear, viewing them as a threat, and draw self-criticism.
Each family is different, and what works for them may not work for you. I would love to hear what is working for you at the dinner table and beyond!
I love Silas’ comment. All too often I get frustrated with the way things are before I realize I haven’t tried actually talking to my kids about the way things ought to be. We really are in charge of teaching them everything. Who knew? 🙂
Yes! And I’m still surprised that they can’t read my mind;)
I think sharing with the kids how you would like dinnertime to look, was the best idea! Tell them your plans and include them in making changes. I would not change the centerpiece, though. A baby, instead of flowers or candles, makes for a much lovelier looking, warmer, happy table! Are you having baby #5 so you will have a fresh, new centerpiece?