I dream about family dinners

This post is taken from a blog I write about introducing solid foods to my children – Solid Food Adventures.

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I’m continually hearing in the media and reading in parenting books and magazines that family dinnertime is one of those important routines that influences children well in to adulthood.  My husband and I both agree that sharing a meal as a family is something we value and something we want to include in our lives, yet moving from the theoretical to reality can prove challenging….

Breakfast at our house is usually eaten in shifts.  If I get up early to have some time for myself, like today, then I eat by myself, often in front of the computer.  When my son (age 2.5 years) gets up I’ll serve his breakfast and then work in the kitchen doing dishes, or making something else for me to eat, or I’ll feed babies (4.5 months old twin girls) in the living room. If it is a day he is going to the dayhome, I’ll serve him and then try to get babies in carseats while he eats.  As soon as he finishes we head out the door. I eat breakfast after dropping him off.  The babies get fed then too.

Lunch is also eaten in shifts. My son usually eats fairly early and goes down for his nap. Then I feed babies and then eat by myself, or eat by myself and then feed babies.  This allows me a little more flexibility in what I eat for lunch.  We often only have enough leftovers for one lunch so my son and I don’t always eat the same thing.

At supper, we all try to sit down together.  We usually serve my son first.  He starts eating while we finish serving our meals.  By the time we get settled, he is often ready for seconds.  If the babies cooperate, then we all get to sit down for a few minutes together.  If the babies are awake, we put them close to the table to include them.  But, dinner is usually interrupted by the babies who need to fed or want attention.  I often eat with a baby on my knee or I’m rushing through so I can feed them. Daddy and I are often done before my son, and it is really easy to get up and leave him to finish while we start the dishes, pack lunch for tomorrow, change the laundry, settle a baby, etc.  Mealtime often ends with my son sitting alone at the table while I feed a baby and Daddy prepares lunch for tomorrow. I don’t like leaving dirty dishes on the table, but the days when Daddy and my son start bathtime right after dinner and the dishes get left until later seem to better reinforce the essentials of a family dinner.

I imagine the confusion will only grow when we add two babies in booster seats to our family dinnertable.  I imagine we’ll feed them first, and then sit down to our meal until they are old enough to feed themselves finger food. It will mean more interuptions, more serving others while my food gets cold, and more wipping dirty hands and faces, but it will also mean our family is growing together and sharing a meal. Sticking with it even when it is challenging will make it that much harder to loose that time together.

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Our girls have been eating solid foods for about a month now, and they are sitting up with us three meals a day. Preparing, eating and cleaning up after a meal can literally take hours.  How do you ensure your family sits down for meals together as often as possible?

16 thoughts on “I dream about family dinners

  1. For us, family dinners are almost completely out of the question. I think for families with just infant twins, this is pretty common. But when you have an older toddler to think about, family dinner becomes a bit more important.

    The days my husband is home (3 nights a week for dinner) we don’t even consider eating until the babies are in bed. Having an early bedtime (630) makes this possible and not really much of a hassle. Sometimes we don’t eat until 8 because some dinners take longer to cook than others, but for the most part it works.

    I think it will actually be harder once they are older (almost 9 months now) and eating “real” food. Will we include them in our dinner and then eat much earlier than we are used to? That would mean I would have to be cooking dinner while they are awake and I’m not sure how easy that will be. Or, will we keep the same schedule and just watch our kids eat and have a separate dinenr for ourselves? I want to have a family dinner eventually, just not sure at what age it will be possibel for us. I’m interested to hear what others do.
    .-= Nicole´s last blog ..Thursday Theater: Man on the Move =-.

  2. It’s just me and our three-year-old twins at our house. We have theoretical dinners together. We all have plates with food on them at one table at the same time. Realistically, though, I’m up and down, refilling cups, helping with potty breaks, kissing owies, filling custom orders (I can never say no to “May I have an apple slice with dinner?”) and pulling a lone hot dish off the stove halfway through eating time. Until this week, we didn’t get home until 7:00, so I’d serve the kids SOMETHING before dinner was even done.

    Still, it’s family time. We talk about our day for an enforced (and enjoyed) thirty minutes together, and even if not a single bite crosses my lips, I think we’re accomplishing the goal of a family dinner.
    .-= Sadia´s last blog ..The new old school =-.

  3. We don’t!

    I feel a bit guilty about this, but also really treasure the Daddy/Mommy dinner alone at 7:15pm once the kids (2.5) are in bed. Daddy doesn’t come home until 6:30pm, so it would be me getting dinner ready for three of us, eating with them, cleaning up dinner and getting the kids in the bath (by myself) by 6:30pm, only to watch Daddy eat at 7:15pm. No thanks! I figure the three of us spend lots of quality time together and hopefully they won’t suffer too much from dinners apart.

  4. We didn’t eat dinner as a family until my kids were close to 2 years old. When they got home from day care, they were so hungry that we fed them right away. They went to bed early (7) so my husband and I would eat after they went to bed.

    The spring time change before they turned 2 pushed their bedtime back to 7:30 and that’s when we started eating together. Now that they talk, I find it more important than when they were babies. As babies, as least they had each other to eat with!
    .-= LauraC´s last blog ..LEGENDARY! =-.

  5. We started family dinners when our twins were about 12 months old. However, my husband is a teacher and is home by 4pm most days, so making and serving dinner by 5:30pm is usually not a problem. If he had a 9-5 job and didn’t get home until 6pm or later, family dinners just wouldn’t be possible. So, yes, we all eat together at 5:30pm. But then usually around 9pm or so, my husband and I will sit together and watch a show while eating a little snack. For me, the snack is essential. Otherwise, I wake up hungry at 3am.

  6. My husband is usually home early, so he feeds our twins (9mo) and gets dinner ready. (Isn’t he fabulous?) Our almost 3yo son needs to eat by 5:30, so we eat as soon as I get home. The three of us eat together at the table, and the twins are usually in their booster seats with us.

    Before the twins started solids, we started out together, but I had to inhale my food so I could go nurse before they got too hysterical. I tried nursing them first, and eating later by myself. I ended up not actually eating dinner.
    .-= Melanie´s last blog ..My Son Owns a Continent =-.

  7. We don’t all eat dinner together, either (9mo twins). DH gets home from work around 5:30 and we feed the girls, and then DH and I scramble together some sort of dinner while the girls sit in their high chairs and watch us and babble at each other. Or DH and I have a very rushed dinner around 5:30. I dream of having a personal chef who shops, cooks, and cleans up the kitchen.
    .-= Ellen K.´s last blog ..Blog announcement =-.

  8. We usually eat dinner together. My hubby gets home around 5-6 and the kids aren’t really ready to start eating until 6pm. We’ve been eating this since around the time when they pushed their bedtime to 8pm. Before then, they would eat around 5pm or 5:30pm and my hubby would show up during dinner. Sometimes, he would show up later and miss the whole process. Since they began talking, dinnertime has been more than just refilling cups or cleaning up spills. Now I have to put a timer out, so they don’t keep drawing dinnertime out.
    .-= Judy´s last blog ..Playmates: for me or for them? =-.

  9. We started family dinners at 9 months when we started table food, but my husband’s schedule is very family friendly so the four of us eating together at 5pm wasn’t a problem. For the first 3 months, one of us would spoon feed a few purees into the babies while dinner was cooking. Then we’d all sit together and the girls would play with bits of what we were having for dinner while we ate. By 12 months, they were feeding themselves while we ate. Sometimes it is a little hectic and sometimes my husband and I go back for seconds after the girls are in bed, but I wouldn’t change a thing. I think a family dinner is very important and our girls are learning so many lessons about being polite, waiting patiently while everyone finishes eating, and so forth. Not to mention the value in seeing us eat all sorts of food. Our girls eat a wide variety of food and are willing to try at least one bite of pretty much any food presented to them.
    .-= Rhonda´s last blog ..this here’s the Rubber Duck =-.

  10. Family dinners don’t work in our house right now. First of all, our table only seats four… although my MIL has a bigger table that she’s going to give us when we want it. My husband doesn’t get home from work until right before my daughters’ bed time. It would simply be way too late for them to eat. Eventually we’ll have family dinners. For now I act like a “waitress” during their meals, but I sit nearby and we have conversations throughout the meals.
    .-= Quadmama´s last blog ..Where Does the Time Go? =-.

  11. We do have family dinners every night. That is the one time my husband and I get to sit down and enjoy the kids together (that’s not to say everyone is always in the most easygoing mood, though!) We have highchairs that can recline so even when our boys were babies, they could be in the kitchen with us (even if they weren’t eating). Early on my husband was home by 5, but with a recent job change he’s home anywhere between 5 and 6:30. Sometimes it’s a challenge to keep the kids waiting for dinner, but if I know he’ll be home late, I’ll plan accordingly and give them a mid-afternoon snack.

    One thing that helps a lot is prepping meals ahead. Sometimes it’s crazy when I am trying to make dinner. This past winter I started prepping meals on the day I grocery shop. For example I will cook meat for a lasagna or shepherds pie then freeze it, marinate chicken before putting it away, make a big pot of soup, etc. It only takes me about 3 hours one afternoon to prep the week’s meals and then I only have to reheat/assemble things each night. The best part is it cuts down on the time I spend doing the dishes each night.

  12. Gulp…we don’t have family dinners. We have TRIED but it always ends up in complete chaos. Although, there ARE times when we all sit at the table together…but the girls are usually done right away (they eat like birds these days) and up and running before hubby and I can even sit down. We have fallen into the “kids eat now and we eat later” routine. And that works for us now. No one gets home until at least 6 PM and with an 8PM bedtime a big sit down dinner is not an option. So – we feed them right away then it’s off to bath and bed routine time. Hubby and I usually eat around 9 PM when all is quiet. We actually enjoy the alone time right now. I think when the girls are older and more interested in talking about their days we will try to “enforce” more family dinners!
    .-= Marnie´s last blog ..phone photo friday… =-.

  13. Getting better about family dinners is a goal of mine, but a hard one. Like others, I find it nearly impossible during the week. I’m home full-time, but that means the kids are always underfoot when I would be cooking (and I used to like to cook! now, what a pain!). And my husband only gets home by 6pm on a good day, often it’s closer to 6:30. Just not going to happen.

    I’ve started to make more of an effort to have us all eat together (and all eat the same food!) on the weekends when it’s a little easier. Hopefully we’ll be able to build on that habit. I don’t want to be still eating separate meals in shifts when they’re older!

  14. I eat breakfast and lunch with my twins most days, but we wait to have dinner until after they are in bed. We have an early bedtime (630) so they eat dinner early…usually around 4pm or so.

    IF they are still up when we’re eating dinner, we do put them in our boosters and give them snacks so they can sit with us, but as we enter the toddler phase, they are less content to do that.

    We definitely want to have family dinners as they get older, but we’ll just have to take it as it comes. For now, they need the earlier bedtime and it just doesn’t work out with my husband’s work schedule.

  15. Vistit Dream Dinners.com and see if their is a location near you. You can make all your dinners at once, then on those crazy nights you can simply cook the dinner you made. It eliminates grocery shopping, chopping and clean up! It is the ultimate buy in bulk and save way to have a home cooked dinner and does cost less than buying the same ingredients at a grocery store. It is also very eco friendly, so much less packaging when you buy in bulk. We actually have children on our tasting panels; it is amazing to see what kids will really eat. We put kids in a box when we only feed them “white foods”. Don’t miss our new Dream Rewards program, where you will receive gifts and other specials. You can get even more ideas on my blog Take care. http://stephanieallen.wordpress.com/

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