I recently read a blog by a harried mother of 4 young children in which she confessed her hatred of family dinner time. Mostly because her children are at difficult ages and this particular time of day stresses her out to the max. That caused me to reflect on how I feel about family dinners.
For us, “family dinner” is what we call the meal every other Monday night when my husband and I get together with my dad, the two brothers who live locally, and their families. (Yes, my dad lives 3 hours away. And yes, he still comes every other Monday night for family dinner. And yes, he’s awesome like that.)
We started these family dinners 5 years ago when Jake & I moved back to Nebraska from living 5 years in Cincinnati. (Can I really have lived in Omaha now as long as I lived in Cincinnati?!) At that time, all my siblings with the exception of my sister lived in the area, so we all got together at my oldest brother’s house every Monday night.
Time moves on, as did one brother. So that left the rest of us, which was still a pretty sizable group. But after awhile Jake started working at a church across town, we bought a house pretty far away from where we’d been and life filled up a bit more. Nephews got older and had more activities. My mother passed away, so my dad began to visit us more. So family dinners were scaled back from every week to every other week and my dad began to join us regularly.
At first, my sister-in-law mostly prepared the meals & I helped out with a side or dessert. Now, the meal prep is divided more evenly and almost everyone shares in bringing something, even Dad. There are some special diet issues and everyone is good about adhering to them. (Though my nephews still taunt Jake about cheese on a fairly constant basis thanks to their dad’s encouragement. Brian loves cheese even more than the normal person, so to him, that’s just about the worst thing to dislike EVER. I can't say I disagree.)
Sometimes family dinners are a pain. They’re all the way across town, we’re busy, they’re busy, etc. It’s hard to prepare a meal for everyone that all will like, it’s expensive to make food for that many people, it’s hard to keep it hot on the long drive, etc. But we always have a good time. And if we don’t make the effort to get together regularly, we could very easily end up not seeing each other at all. Which would be a tragedy.
When Jake & I lived in Cincinnati, our nephews didn’t know us at all. We loved them, but weren’t really a part of their lives. Because of “family dinner”, they know us. And I like to think they like us. I wouldn’t give it up.