You may have read my lofty post back in November about starting a more traditional family dinner routine, wherein I challenged our family to sit at the table and eat together at least four nights a week.
The verdict? WE FAILED.
I didn’t want to write about this. I don’t like failing. We did a poor job of making this work. It just felt like too much most nights, and our family isn’t even big or busy (by design). While we always have, and continue to, eat at the same time, the sitting at the table together part is where we failed. We continued our habit of all sitting in the living room, my son at the coffee table and my husband and me on the sofa. Sometimes we were all watching something together and sometimes my husband and I watched Shark Tank or Chef’s Table while my son watched Dude Perfect or DanTDM on YouTube.
I initially felt badly about this…
There’s all this data and research out there about how sitting together at the table as a family for dinner is beneficial for children’s development and nutrition habits (tons of sources here), which is a big contributing factor to my challenge in the first place. I will concede that when we did make it to the table, all at one time, it was a pleasant experience. We mainly read interesting things and talked about them, or told stories, or talked about our days. And yet, instead of feeling good about adding those dinners to our collective family experience, I felt badly about not meeting our goal.
…but it turns out, maybe I didn’t need to feel badly.
In preparation for this confession post, I Googled, “what if we don’t eat dinner together as a family?” Maybe I was looking for validation, or at least something to make me feel better about failing our experiment? Turns out, I found what I was looking for:
- Grown & Flown: Why We Don’t Need Family Dinners
- “Family dinner doesn’t have to be traditional to be good for kids,” says columnist Bruce Feiler.
- Is the Family Dinner Overrated?
We’re not giving up completely, but we are taking away the guilt.
One thing that dawned on us, for the first time in 10 years, is that our kitchen table is really uncomfortable. It’s bar height with upholstered chairs that have definitely seen better days. We spent $20 on FB Marketplace and bought a lower, more intimate table. We dragged our old, regular-height kitchen chairs out of storage, and it’s like a new kitchen in here. Though we’re still not sitting there to have dinner, we are sitting there way more often than we were with the old bar height table.
As for the guilt … while my husband could care less about eating at the table together, I would love to not feel guilty about this. I’m reading and rereading those posts linked above and reminding myself that we provide a very nurturing environment for our family, even if we don’t make it to the table for dinner every night. While they may not be traditional, we have lots of little rituals that go a long way to create a healthy, warm environment in which our family is thriving.
- For the past almost nine years, every night without fail, we find a great deal of comfort and togetherness in our son’s nighttime routine. Bedtime at our house is full of traditions and singing, meditation and conversation. This is our “confessional,” when all of the deep conversation really happens. I think some families may find this at the dinner table. We find it at bedtime.
- We play board games and video games together. Even me, the mom. The three of us sit together on a sofa in our basement, playing Fortnite or Super MarioKart, trash-talking each other and having random conversations about our days, his questions and life in general. We bond over games and I love that our son knows that we genuinely take interest in what he’s interested in.
- The three of us – mostly homebodies – spend hours and hours together in the evenings and on the weekends. One of the things I dreaded the most about having an only child – his potential loneliness – has become a blessing for us, in that it has created a little trio out of us and we genuinely like to hang out together.
While we may not sit together at the kitchen table for dinner every night, we do eat together, every night, in our living room. And it’s just right for us.