I Swear I was Raised Better Than This.
So you probably think that my family got into this dysfunctional dinner pattern because I was raised by, well, wolves or something. Nope. My mother raised me the Southern Way, which translated means "Totalitarian control." Dinner was on the table at 6p.m. sharp. The entire family sat down together. We ate what was served and Heaven Help Us if we whined. We made polite conversation. We used proper manners, which were drilled into our brains at an early age (I can still hear the disapproving voice saying,"Dana, Dana/strong and able/get your elbows/off the table.") We asked to be excused. We thanked my mother for the lovely dinner. AND we helped with the dishes.
The ugly truth: my family eats together maybe once every 10 days. I have no excuse...and yet I have excuses. The kids are starving at 4p.m. and eat dinner then; my husband is a busy physician and works late often; I cook adventurous meals that NO child would eat, let alone mine; it is really the only pleasant time of day my husband and I share together and honestly, I don't want it marred by whining and crying and poking at food.
The benefits of the "family dinner" have gotten lots of press lately, and for good reason. I've seen the statistics--I bet most of you have. And still, I cannot manage to get a healthy meal on the table that all of us will eat (or at least try to eat without drama) at one consistent time on one consistent day. Why am I so lame?
My mother pulled off family dinners every night of the week, did all of the shopping, laundry, ironing and housekeeping herself, never went out without full makeup and a matching belt and never, not even once made me eat the hot lunch at school. I cannot compare and I'm not even going to try to.
But I can do better than my current standard. Certainly. Now (as has already been proven, handily) I am a woman of low standards, so my proposal, Gentle Reader, is modest.
A Modest Proposal--and No, I'm Not Talking About Eating My Young.
This is the plan. The project. The Family Dinner Rehab. Call it what you will. For a year, Miss D. and I will cook something together once a week. She will try it, and I will report back to you. AND my family will eat together as a family (the same meal) once a week.
Now some of you, perhaps people who are superhuman like my mother, are scoffing. Big Deal, you say, once a week is hardly anything. But it is for my family. And honestly, I'm not so sure I can even pull off this proposal, no matter how modest.
I think I can get Miss D. and I in the kitchen together once a week. Whenever I get in the kitchen and clang my pots and pans around, her ears perk up. She's interested in the going's on in there. I think I have a shot at keeping her interest once a week, unless, of course, someone is playing outside or she's working on an art project or there's a really awesome episode of SpongeBob on. The Minx is a hard bird to catch, certainly, but I'm up for it. And honestly, we need the time together.
The family dinner I'm not so confident that I can pull off. Miss M. (the Minxette) is only 3 and Miss D. has ADHD and neither can sit still for more than 5 minutes. And the kids will whine about the food. And I will have to control myself and not get upset about said whining and fidgeting. And my husband will have to get home at a resonable hour once a week. But my intentions are pure and my heart is committed.
So Family Dinner Rehab Project has begun. Game on.