by Kerry Rivera
It’s 6 p.m. on a weeknight. Where is your family? Are you joined together around the dining room table? Are you shuttling your kids from activity to activity? Or are you (gulp) … still at the office?
I recently came across an article in The Journal of Adolescence in which researchers provide compelling, new evidence about the value of the “family dinner.” (Don’t even ask how I come across these things.) As it turns out, family meals help young girls steer clear of drugs, alcohol and running away. For young lads, frequent family dinners are negatively associated with physical violence, property-destruction, stealing, running away and gang membership.
Uh-oh … does this spell bad news for my two young boys? My two-year-old does throw LEGOS … and my living room serves more as a wrestling area than a lounging zone.
I’ve mentioned before that I work full-time and have a long commute. That lovely combination sadly equates to many missed family dinners. Lucky for me, my husband is a teacher and does the heavy-lifting when it comes to getting dinner on the table. A crock pot and simple meals help too. The boys usually eat around 5:30 p.m. and I’m typically home about an hour later. Upon my arrival, there are hugs, kisses and a nuked meal ready. As I eat, my boys usually sit down and eat their dessert as I quickly stuff forkfuls of food into my mouth and ambush them with questions about their days. It’s not ideal, but it works for now.
Of course I savour the weekends. Fridays through Sundays we either go out to dinner as a family or eat at home … all four of us. Three nights out of seven isn’t bad … right?
Sometimes I wonder how many families actually complete this monstrous feat of getting everyone around the table for dinner on a weeknight. My kids have yet to arrive to the stage where we are juggling soccer practices and music lessons and scouting and … well, I’m sure many of you can relate. Is that when you resort to eating out of your car and garbling your food down in five minutes flat?
I like to think of myself as the task master queen. I don’t think there is much else I can do to squeeze out more time and miraculously arrive home by 5:30 p.m. Telecommuting would be a nice option. Or perhaps we should invest in a helicopter so I can fly over my nemesis freeways.
Do most families eat together during the week? How do you do it?
Perhaps my family is the norm. I just hope the other times we spend together will prevent my little guys from an adolescence filled with nights of vandalism and gang banging.
And for those of you moms who are in my situation … sometimes looking at the computer screen in your office at 6 p.m., the journal article did offer a glimmer of hope. Family dinners are great, yes. But spending quality time with your kids in other ways can serve the same purpose. Attending church together, going to the park on the weekends, watching a movie, reading before bedtime – all of those activities also benefit your children. Bottom line? Enjoy your family and show your kids the importance of being and sticking together. We may not always eat together, but we maximize every other moment.