Family Dinner in the Era of Endless Evening Obligations

Monday – rare free evening!
Tuesday – piano class
Wednesday – soccer practice, Dad out of town
Thursday – Mom @ PTO meeting, Dad’s home at 8:30 pm!
Friday – family night, possible soccer game
Saturday – soccer game, birthday party, extended family gathering
Sunday – chores, errands, possible soccer game, family dinner
Lather, rinse, repeat.

Y’all? We have ONE CHILD. ONE. He’s eight. In the pursuit of protecting our family time and not burning our kid out before he’s 10, we restrict his commitments to one sport and one other weekly activity per season. And the above is still a solid example of what our schedule looks like as a family of three. How in the world are we to make time for consistently eating together?!

Overall, we do a decent job as parents. Our kid is well behaved, (usually) says please and thank you, doesn’t throw fits or talk back, has a conscience, loves hard, and considers those around him. However, making family meals a priority has never been our strong suit. I don’t like to admit it. We get a lot of takeout. We have a picky kid who doesn’t like what we like. We don’t all eat the same thing. We sit near each other, but we may be watching a show — or even different shows. The real truth is that making together-time out of mealtime has never really been how we roll on a consistent basis.

But here’s the deal: change never happens when we hang out in our comfort zone. So … I’ve decided our family is embarking on a quest. Between now and the end of 2019, we are going to eat dinner at the table together as a family, all at the same time, at least four nights a week.

I know this probably seems commonplace for many families. If it is, I heartily applaud you and I would LOVE if you would comment to let me know how you’re consistently making that happen. However, if your family is more like ours — comin’ in hot most nights, ordering takeout or fixing something quick, sometimes all eating at the same time but not necessarily together — maybe trying something like this would be an interesting experiment for your family, too.

Making it happen

Here’s the list of how we plan to make this happen. These things won’t be possible for everyone — heck, some of them are just luck for us — but I’m listing them in the interest of full disclosure:
No sports. Soccer is over for the season. We don’t play any winter sports so our Wednesday nights are free again.
Minimal travel. Dad’s travel schedule is pretty light between now and the end of the year with just one, or maybe two trips.
Cleared table. The kitchen table is free of craft supplies, Amazon boxes, and PTO junk. There’s no prep required to sit down together to eat.
No screens. We have a basket in the center of the table for all screens during dinner.
Music. We love music. We don’t all love the same music. But, for this experiment, each of us will get a turn choosing the dinner music for the night. Between YouTube, Alexa, Spotify and our personal collection, we will never run out of dinner soundtrack options.
Conversation starters. We’ve all done the “What did you learn at school today?” dance. Here are some of our favorite tools to get conversation going:

Full Report Coming in January

We’re going to see how this goes, and I promise to report back in January. If you decide to do this, too, will you please let me know in the comments? Or, if you’re already doing this, I’d love to know how you do it and what you do to make dinnertime fun. Here’s to carving out some solid, evening family time this winter!

Born & raised in the KC metro, I now live in OP with my husband, 8yo son, goofy Golden mix & grouchy geriatric cat. After graduating from KU & spending over a decade as a buttoned-up corporate person, I quit my job, pierced my nose & hunkered down to raise a kiddo. Here we are, 6 years later, & I love spending my days writing, volunteering & planning our next far-flung adventure.