Imagine, if you will, a family sitting down together for a dinner, which allows for open conversation and a sharing of stories. Add to this the aromas and tastes of an excellent meal. The thought of it appeals to my all senses.
It has been a dream of mine to have consistent, regular family dinners together. As my children grow older, I feel the desire for this even more.
As we entered 2012, I really asked myself why my dream has not happened. There are so many reasons. When my children were younger both my husband and I worked and we were doing everything we could to just hold it together. Then, I stopped working and my husband took on additional responsibilities to keep the family afloat. My husband then worked longer hours and did not always make it home to eat with us. Then, I decided to go back to school. This required more juggling to keep things running smoothly.
Now, my children are 8 and 12 years old, I work part-time, and my husband has a job that he enjoys and allows him more work-life balance. Family dinners now actually seem possible. But it wasn’t easy.
My children have after-school activities and their sports’ schedules can go until 8:30PM on some evenings. At these times, they wanted to eat dinner earlier. And it turned out there were days when my husband had to work late. My evenings also start to fill up once or twice a week. We were all so busy, I thought that I should just let go of my desire for family dinners.
I am a Parent Coaching Institute-certified coach, and help parents with challenges they have with their children. I also teach them how to take care of themselves so that they can parent well and help them enjoy their parenting journey. I always discuss perspective with my clients and provide exercises on how to change perspective. One day, it suddenly dawned on me: I needed to do this myself.
I sat down and thought about why I wanted a family dinner. Why was it so important? The answers I came up with included having a ‘pause’ in the day to reconnect with loved ones, creating a special time to share stories, feeling reminiscent of my childhood and sitting around the table with my parents and brother, and providing a time and space for open conversation over some good food.
There is something magical about a shared meal. Once I became focused and clear on why I wanted family dinners, I also thought about other opportunities and times that I may foster this connectedness and open conversation.
I, then, turned to ‘observation’ mode. This is also something I ask my clients to do. If your attention is there and you are focusing on something, look for it in your life. It will present itself.
For my family and I the opportunity presented itself at breakfast. We now sit together almost every morning and have ‘family breakfast’ together. Everyone is awake and engaged. We are able to discuss what is happening that day. The kids bring up things that they have been thinking about and my husband joins in the conversation adding what is happening at work for him as well.
I received an additional gift in allowing breakfast to be the family meal. We actually eat hot, healthy meals now instead of gulping down a glass of milk and grabbing something portable in our hands. My entire family eats a hearty meal such as steel-cut oatmeal with nuts and fruits in it. They have a glass of milk and take their vitamins.
Feeding my family a healthy breakfast (the most important meal of the day) has also been deeply gratifying. One thing ‘family breakfast’ has done is increase my food preparation responsibilities very early in the morning. I get up a half-hour earlier than the rest of my family. I have my cherished cup of coffee and start making breakfast. Some days, I feel as if I am conducting an orchestra with multiple pots on the stove at once, cutting up fruit, and filling plates and bowls with aromatic, tasty food.
As I serve the food and sit down with my family, I feel that I am hearing the beautiful music from a symphony orchestra when, in fact, I am listening to the rich conversation happening between my family. On top of that, my children clear their own dishes and rinse them.
Another gift: My husband and children leave the house together and he drops them off at school. That equals more quality time for him with the kids.
Now ‘family breakfast’ is more than I ever could have dreamed of. I start each and every day feeling healthy, and most of all, connected to those I love. Now that I am living one dream, I wonder what dream will next become reality in its own, unique way.
Nita earned a Masters-level Parent Coach Certification, and is the mother of two lovely children. She’s helped parents optimize their love and joy of raising children in North America, Europe, and Asia. Learn more about Nita at Peak Experience Parenting.