The Fight for Dinner

There is an hour in my day that I protect fiercely.

I don’t allow the ring of phones or the intrusion of the Internet. I ignore the door and hold off the undeniable force that tries to threaten this time. I fight for the hour a day when my babies and spouse circle around the table.

I fight for dinner.

It’s not about the food that is sometimes good, sometimes not. It’s not about me and an audience. Dinner is about the conversation, the laughter, the being together. Some days I feel like I’m against Hell itself, warring to interrupt this precious time.

Dinner is loud. It’s not organized or perfect. It’s getting up and down, filling up, knocking over. Dinner is a pause in our busy day. Dinner is our connection.

As my kids get older, I notice there’s a stronger pull away from this family time. There may be play dates vying at the door, sport practices with their demands, meetings at work and school, but I fight them all. Even though I occasionally lose the battle and dinner is a mismatched, half-hazard attempt with a traveling husband or a dash out the door to a meeting, I am rebellious against the things that try and steal away this treasured hour.

Did you know that research has proven that families that eat dinner together:

  • have kids who are less likely to use drugs
  • are noted as happier families
  • have kids who have better grades
  • enjoy stronger marriages
  • kids adjust better in life in general
  • produce healthier kids with better eating habits

And when teenagers were polled about the importance of regular family meals, an overwhelming majority craved family meal time together more often!

So. Throw out the excuses! (You don’t like to cook, there are practices and busy schedules, etc) Change it. Make dinner a priority. Don’t let the world, and hobbies demand how you raise your family. Be creative to get that one hour together.

Because really, we’re talking about a lot more than dinner.


Comments

  1. Jodee says

    I agree. This is something we do. Our kids are still young 4 and 2 but I know as they get older it will get harder. I plan to fight for it too!

  2. says

    We are still able to eat dinner together almost every night, although it only lasts for about 20 minutes before the 2 yo is losing it and the big kids are already done eating. Still, we all sit down and look at each other for a bit. We started a tradition of saying one thing we appreciate about our family each night at dinner. It came out of a couples group and a desire to show our kids that we value our marriage and just morphed to include them. Even though some kids say the same thing every day I love it and so do they.

  3. says

    We too value time around the dinner table. My kids are 5 and 4 (19mons apart) and if for some reason one of us is missing for dinner they are sad. My 4 year old also threw a fit the first day of Kindergarten for my son because he wasn’t there for lunch that day. I am glad that they value our time together. Also once every other week we have dinner at my in laws with my husband family. (We would have dinner with my family too only 6.5 hours is too far to drive once a week for dinner). They value the time together with all of us. Such a great way of showing our kids that we value them.

  4. says

    I do exactly the same thing. It is MAMA’s time….dinner is mine with the entire family. Even with a 5 and 8 year old, it is still hard. The phone rings, they want to play, daddy wants to get something done….,I fight for it too and I will never give up!

  5. says

    love it. you made me cry. i’m having a kind of blah-missing home (family) day. what i would give to have dinner with my family tonight… 3 months, 3 months, 3 months, and they’re coming to visit!

    …but now it’s got me thinking how blessed i am to know my family is safe and healthy and alive. what a blessing it will be to see them in 3 months!

    …ok, the day’s going to get better.

  6. says

    We started this habit as soon as our babies began eating solids. They are 2 & 4 now and it is a part of our day that is non-negotiable. We will fight for it to stay that way!

  7. says

    Good for you! Fight for it, mama!!!

    Since our kids were tiny, we’ve made dinner a family priority. Now that my kids are both teens, it’s harder but they both know that it’s “expected” of them and it’s a priority for them now, too. Of course, because of their age and activities, this sometimes means that our meals are at strange times (4:30 in the afternoon, 8:30 at night) but we still have them at least 6 out of 7 nights.

  8. Sheryle says

    Wonderful post. Our kids are 11 and 14 and the demands are very strong. Ballet, soccer practice, meetings, etc. For years we have done dinner together consistently (mostly) and it definitely pays off. It is a time of re-connecting and laughing and enjoying each other..also as the kids are getting older, there are more theological and moral discussions about the happenings of school and life. These are precious moments..thanks for this reminder!
    Last night daughter and Dad were missing from the table…my son and I enjoyed a fancy meal of grilled cheese sandwiches and broccoli (ha), but my time with him was priceless.

  9. says

    I couldn’t agree with you more! Meal times are a priority here also. Hubs works second shift, so he is rarely with us for lunch or dinner, but he does sit down for breakfast.

    Love the picture of your daughter. Looks like a visit to a tea house! Love those!

  10. says

    There are lots of families who, for whatever reason, can’t all meet at the dinner table. We are one of those families. It’s not sports, or play dates, or dance. My husband is rarely home from work till before 8. I just can’t wait till after 8 to feed the kids. But that doesn’t mean we don’t get good family time, we just don’t do it around the dinner table. I’d like to think that there are many families out there are managing to beat the statistics.

    This is NOT written in a snarky tone. Just a word to encourage the families out there who have to be a little more creative with their family time. :)

    • says

      I totally understand your point and don’t take it as snarky at all. I think a meal (not necessarily dinner) or a regular
      time together to make that connection is really the point. Sounds like you get that :)

    • says

      We’ve had that same problem lately. My husband was working a job where he was home by 6:00, and it was a struggle to get the kids to wait that long and there was quite a bit of snacking. Now, he has a much better job than previously, but he gets home even later. So the kids and I still eat together, except for 2 nights a week, we wait for dad to get home.

  11. says

    Kristen, I couldn’t agree more! Dinner may be the only time in our entire day that a family all sits in the same room together! it is so very important. Bar the doors girlfriend, you are doing a great thing!

  12. says

    Great post. I don’t have kids yet, but a lot of days, my husband and I can’t even seem to have dinner together. I can’t imagine how much harder it will be when there are kids in the mix. Thanks for making me think about this.

  13. says

    We try VERY hard to all have dinner together every night. My family did it every night when I was growing up and it was something I treasured. Unfortunately, my husband’s work schedule doesn’t always allow for ALL of us to be together every night, though. Some nights, the kids and I eat at our regular time, so that we can get homework and bed done on time, and then John eats whenever he gets home. We try to make up for those nights by having our “family time” during other activities. Sometimes we both sit with the kids as they do their homework (even if they don’t need help) or while they’re having baths! I think it’s important that they get “Mom and Dad” time each night as frequently as possible.

    Saturday is our fun dinner night. We usually have something portable like burgers and eat in the living room or outside on the patio, or even have a picnic. Sunday night is our special dinner night. I cook some traditional “Sunday Dinner” type meal and we use our good dishes, light candles, the whole 9 yards. The kids love that just as much!

  14. says

    I’m with you 100%. I fight (and have fought) for that hour too! As an educator, I was well aware of the research before having children! We have made sure that the children always eat with us even though their ages have made dinner interesting (frustrating a lot of the time) to put it nicely. But I feel that starting this routine from birth will have positive lifetime effects!
    Everyone must be home and all electronics turned off and put away!

  15. says

    Amen! Kristen, I couldn’t have said it better. It’s so, so hard with the demands of 21st century life but I plan on doing as much as I can to protect this time!!! Thanks for the reminder. . .our family has been slipping in this area. . . we need to get back on track!

  16. says

    Love this post. I am a firm believer in eating dinner together. We eat dinner together every night and use that as a time to share. I feel so blessed the be able to have this time. I am with you no calls or TV. Every two weeks the Schwan’s man usually arrives at out dinner hour and he is about the only one who will get our attention.

  17. Kim says

    I could not agree with you more Kristen! I so treasure this time and I get really mad when I’m the reason that dinner time doesn’t go the way I plan it. I love hearing about my family’s day and sharing laughs with them.

  18. says

    Awesome post. I am the same way. We fit it in, somehow. There are probably only 2 nights a month that we don’t sit down as a family and eat dinner together. If one of us is traveling (which is rare) the one who is home still sits down with the kids, even if it’s for a mish-mosh of leftovers. Family dinners were always a priority in my home growing up, and that’s a tradition I intend to keep, come hell or high water or traveling baseball. ;-)

  19. says

    Could not agree more. I’m an awful cook though, so we do eat out a lot, but that’s even better because someone else is waiting on us and we have more time to talk :) My family growing up always ate dinner together, and I will have it no other way.

  20. Tara says

    I have been adament about the nightly family dinner ever since we brought our daughter home at 2 years old. But, now she’s 5 and thinks she has many other, much more important things to do than eat dinner with her parents — yea, she’s 5 and already thinks this — I dread the teenage years. But I stay vigilant. And I wish I could say that we have such engaging dinner conversation. But most of the time it comes down to “how many more bites do I have to eat?” “I don’t like chicken”, “I only want mac n cheese”…….

  21. says

    Amen, Kristen!

    My mother made our family a home cooked meal every night. This special tradition was carried on well into when all of us girls were in high school…well, until we moved out, actually. Even after we were gone, my mom and dad still had a family dinner together. Words can’t express how thankful I still am for those precious times with my family. My mother passed away January 2010 and I am so glad I got to make those intimate dinnertime memories with her. They are something I will cherish the rest of my life.

    My husband and I are very protective of our family dinner, as well. Our son is only 2 and sometimes it’s hard to get him settled down enough to behave, sit, and eat. But, we still make it happen every night. Even nights that my hubby has to work late, I sit down to a meal with our son. My husband just reheats the leftovers when he gets home.

    To the mommies who aren’t the best at cooking, hang in there! I wasn’t the greatest when I started out as a young 21 year old wife…but I stuck with it. The more I cooked, the better I got. Now I’m the one who throws all of the holiday dinners for our family! Who would’ve thought?

    Thanks again for the great post today, Kristen : )
    Love, Laura

  22. says

    Excellent post! I don’t have children yet, but dinner is very important to me. I try to take every day to eat dinner with my husband. It can be tough to sit down without distractions, but every time that we do we both really enjoy it and it makes our relationship that much stronger.

    I think we all need to remember that it doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to be real and loving.

  23. Erika says

    We love our dinner time together each night. It’s a great time to reconnect and talk about what’s happening in my kids’ lives. One thing we’ve incorporated is “Highs and Lows”. Everyone takes a turn and shares their high point of the day and their low point. It’s a great conversation started and it’s opened my eyes to what each of my children thinks is important. It also helps to know what tough times they are going through so that we all know how to pray for each other.

    Thanks for your website. Your words bless me each time I visit.

  24. says

    Amen, sister! We only have one child, so we don’t have as many demands on our time, but we still make family dinner time sacrosanct. And, when my husband and I were having trouble in our marriage years ago, our counselor recommended that we sit down and eat together. At the time, our son was an infant and was in bed during our dinner, and we used to just eat in front of the TV without talking to each other. Making that time to sit and eat and talk was one of the greatest things we did to save our marriage.

  25. says

    I so agree with you. I love family dinner time. Our isn’t not always calm either. It is usually loud. But it is a short time I can look at everyone’s faces together.
    I have been known to haul an entire cooked meal to the baseball fields so the majority of us can eat while one kid plays ball.

    I am so sad when the majority of my high school students tell me they NEVER eat with their families.

  26. says

    Agreed! My family always ate dinner together- ALWAYS. Even when my dad was diagnosed with diabetes and we had to start eating Much Earlier, my mom made it a priority and it happened. Now my husband and I always eat together and plan on eating together with our kids one day- it’s not something he did with his family growing up and I think it made a pretty big impact on him. Thanks for the post!

  27. says

    YES, yes, yes! That was the one rule I made in our house when my first child was born. As soon as he was old enough to sit with us at the table in his high chair, we started having family meals together. There are very few exceptions to this rule. I think it is so important to have that time to connect with each other.

  28. says

    I’ve never understood people who say they eat dinner together less than once a week. Such a foreign concept to me. We eat every meal possible together – dinner 6+ times a week, breakfast together at least on Sat/Sun, lunch on weekends. If nothing else, it’s just easier logistically with a large family, but we need the face time as well.

  29. Katrina says

    Yeah, we had dinner every night together too, as a kid. My dad with his never ending martini. My brother who never talked and if he did, was contradictory. And the food? Always trying out some new recipe, that would have been pleasing to a bunch of adults! When could we ever have food that I liked? Macaroni and cheese without adding onions or some other palette ruining crud? Chicken with stewed tomatoes? Rarely a pizza or some other nourishment that could warrant inviting a friend over to partake in this time together. We did this, ate for years together. I was actually proud of this fact for a long time. Till I realized my parents missed the ‘point.’ It was not just eating nutrient filled meals together, it was ENJOYING each other. Laughing, talking, sharing. Not ‘get your elbows off the table, sit up straight, eat your vegetables, EAT I say, EAT! It just seems to me some people are missing the point. It is, in my opinion, supposed to be ENJOYABLE for all, the food, the company the conversations.

  30. says

    I couldn’t agree more!

    We struggle with this sometimes because I have a husband working two jobs so we can more quickly get out of debt (DAve Ramsey:)) but we try our hardest!

    Also, my thoughtful hubby just implemented Family Night. He sternly told me that NOTHING will come before Family Night. Mondays are now set aside in our family for doing various things TOGETHER. Whether it’s write our Compassion child, play games around the table, movie and popcorn or whatever, this night will be set aside just like Wednesdays are for weekly choir/worship team practice. When we’re invited somewhere where for dinner we’ll politely say “Monday night is family night but we would love to another night!”

  31. says

    Whew! I’m glad to see that your dinners are sometimes only 20 minutes. Family dinners are a huge priority in our house as well. (It helps that my husband and I both grew up that way. I can’t imagine NOT having dinner together every night.) But with a baby, a 2-year-old and an antsy 6-year-old, we often only manage to sit together at the table for 20 minutes or so.

    Still. It’s a start.

  32. says

    I fight for dinner, too! We have baseball practices and swim lessons and band rehearsal, but we always eat dinner together! A lot of times, we bring our food with us to wherever we are, but the point is, we’re together and connecting with each other. We talk about everything – how our days went, funny stories, baseball topics, whatever. I ask the boys questions about their days – not “how was your day?”, but “tell me something funny that happened.” “tell me something boring.” “tell me something nice someone said to you” I vary the questions and always ask about both positive and negative! It makes them aware that yes, bad things will happen, but it doesn’t have to ruin the day – good things happen much more often! Dinnertime is the best time for these questions because it gets the boys sharing with each other as well as with my husband and me.

    ps- to anyone who struggles with not having time to cook, the crockpot is your friend!! For a while I had crockpot Fridays because I knew I wouldn’t be able to cook on Fridays. That kept us eating healthy and eating at a reasonable time!

  33. says

    Dinners are protected here too. They are important to me, they are important to my family. There is nothing I love more than shouting “Dinner!” and hearing the stampede to the dinner table.

  34. says

    YES, IT IS WORTH FIGHTING FOR!

    My kids are high school/college age! We still eat dinner together every night (son is away at school…but when he’s home he eats with us).
    My high school girls eat lunch with me in my classroom at school. This has been our normal life routine from the get-go.

    And you’re right! This is a wonderful opportunity to TALK WITH YOUR KIDS!! We discuss everything. We also have guests quite often (hello, teenagers travel in packs). Our kids friends are amazed at the conversations and always say the same thing. “I wish my family was like yours!”
    Makes me feel great!

    I’ll miss them when they’re all gone. ;)

  35. says

    When I was young my parents always insisted on eating dinner together…we could go to a friend’s or do what we wanted to do before or after dinner. I still remember those dinners – and I am 53! The tradition has been passed down to my family and we cherish our dinners together. My girlies and I and my hubby almost never miss a meal together.

  36. says

    Love this!! I am fighting right a long with you! And we are super blessed during this season of life. I home school and my hubby is able to come home for lunch, so we normally eat all 3 meals together. I cherish this time so much!! Thanks for sharing those statistics at the end – how encouraging.

  37. says

    Exactly. I have the bad habit of not wanting to eat when the kids eat so I have been trying to make myself at least sit there even if I’m going to eat later or had a late lunch. They’re getting to be less of a hassle during this time and I have noticed it has been more enjoyable. When my oldest is home from college I like us all to sit down together to reconnect. Great post.

  38. heidig says

    Yes, I can confirm with two daughters currently away at college, the thing they miss most (besides their mom) is family dinnertime. It’s something I fought tooth and nail for and I guess it paid off. We had such good times at the dinner table. I think its what I miss the most too (besides those two punks)!

  39. says

    We do this, too. I can’t imagine it any other way. Of course, there are nights when hubby is out-of-town or there is a meeting at school, but those are the exceptions. Sometimes I feel like I spend the entire meal saying “Elbows off the table. Chew with your mouth close. 2 more carrots. Don’t gulp your milk,” but I know it’s worth it. And someday kiddo WILL chew with his mouth close! ;)

  40. BEVERLY kLINE says

    I BELIEVE YOU ARE DOING A GREAT THING MAKING DINNER YOUR TIME FOR GREAT
    FAMILY TIME. WHEN MY CHILDREN WERE YOUNGER, I ALSO DID MY BEST TO HAVE
    US EAT TOGETHER AS A FAMILY. I REMEMBER WHEN MY HUSBAND WAS ON DAYS OR
    MIDNIGHTS WE HAD OUR BEST WEEKS AS A FAMILY BUT WHEN MY HUSBAND WORKED
    AFTERNOONS IT WAS A BATTLE TO GET THE BOYS TO STOP PLAYING AND EAT TOGETHER.
    I ALSO TRIED TO HAVE THEM IN THE BATH TUB BY EIGHT SO WE COULD WATCH
    T.V. TOGETHER. NOW THERE ISN’T MANY FAMILY SHOWS AT ALL AND THIS IS ANOTHER
    SAD THING. THE SHOWS ON AFTER EIGHT ARE NOT CHILDREN APPROPRIATE. INFACT,
    THE SHOWS BEFORE EIGHT, ALSO LACK FAMILY FRIENDLY SHOWS.

  41. says

    I love this. As a young adult I have to say my favorite memories are of our time together at dinner (and I can barely recall what sports/practices/meetings I was always dashing out to…)

  42. says

    Kudos to you for fighting the good fight…for something so important! We have dinner together every night too and haven’t felt much of a “pull” against it yet (since our girls are still young – 18 months and 4 years). We hope to keep the tradition alive for many years to come…

  43. says

    I laughed so hard when I saw “half-hazard” rather than “haphazard”. I knew *exactly* what you meant by that! I, too, have half’-hazardly put on the incomplete dinner for my family. Brilliant phrase that I plan to use often!

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