Family Meals Are Important. Your Version and Ours.

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Okay, confession time…

You know how experts believe that shared meals around the table is vital for a family’s health and well-being, and that spending time together particularly around the dinner table, away from any electronic distractions, is important if parents want to stay connected with their children? Well, I do too. I agree. It just doesn’t happen in my house as often as those experts recommend. And sometimes that sure makes me feel guilty.

Here’s what it looks like in my house. My husband is the cook and he works most evenings. So during the weekends, we’re sitting around the table to a meal that includes veggies. And when he’s not home early enough, well, I improvise.

I’m not a good cook. Like I said, I improvise. I have no patience for cooking, for the conversions involved and the dashes and the pinches and the smidgens. And while I have found that with measuring spoons and cups and what-not to go with online recipes and video demos, it is possible to come up with a meal, I have to admit I just don’t enjoy it enough to want to do it all the time.

So possibly thrice during the weekdays my boys and I are sitting at the kitchen table eating together. And most probably, one day a week, they come home from school and want to eat dinner right away, and then grab a snack before bed. And then there are those times when I suggest they make some ramen or sandwiches for dinner, you know, to get them ready for what it’ll be like when they go off and live in dorms in college [purely altruistic].

And we have our electronic devices around all the time. Truthfully, I haven’t felt like it gets in the way of communicating, because it is part of the conversation. When the hubby is on break at work, we’re texting and the boys are yelling out bits of news they want their dad to know. Or, we’re at the table and I’m showing them pictures of stuff going on with my side of the family back in the Philippines. It also bridges the cultural and generational gaps that exist.

“Oh, you don’t know who Kakashi Hatake is, Mommy?” Kid turns to Google. “Here you go.” 

“Is Chandler funny? Chandler Bing?! Is the earth round? Just watch this clip!”

Our electronic devices, and the Internet, have become a part of the interaction between us, shared and not isolating.

Maybe we’re doing fine. Because maybe all the key ingredients that the experts believe go into growing a family are still present, just without the napkins or the table settings or the carefully balanced meal. Maybe in our family, the boys eating at the table and Mommy standing at the counter going through their school papers and Daddy checking via the phone works for us.

Maybe there is no exact prescription when it comes to parenting and family life. Maybe there’s just the shared goal of being and growing together. And maybe what that looks like is never exactly the same for each family. And maybe, just maybe, that’s okay.

I guess I should really let go of the guilt and just enjoy knowing there are enough leftovers in the fridge for the boys when they get home today. And I get a break from cooking. And we’ll still be okay, because we’ll still be talking and laughing and arguing and teasing. On track, messy and honest-to-goodness our own version of what a family is.

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