Americans are busy people! We get up early in the morning to run an errand during our commute to work, spend all day busting our butts in our jobs, and then come home tired to load up the kids and head to a high school sporting event, ballet class, or scholars bowl competition....or whatever is scheduled for the evening. Along the way, we need to feed everybody a nutritious meal. So we either pack something to eat in the car or grab something on the way.....does this sound familiar?!
Well at our house, we are blessed that I can stay home with the kids. My job as a cattle rancher is often 24 hours a day, but I can usually take time to cook an evening meal for everybody. Sometimes, when my husband gets home, he immediately heads outside to check cattle, help do evening chores, or even just tackle an odd job around the ranch. Usually our ranch day doesn't end until the sun sets...which can be very late in the summer. But we still always sit down when everyone is home to eat our evening meal together. It may be 10:00 at night, but we have always valued our time as a family to sit at the table and eat together.
Of course, the kids get home from sports practice around 6:00 pm absolutely starving. They usually grab a snack to tide them over. I often have a full day of outside work and might not have lots of time to spend cooking, but I do have a crockpot and I am not afraid to use it! As a result, we probably average 4-5 evenings that we are able to sit together to eat.
This week is officially "National Eat Together Week." I'm not sure who came up with that idea, but I think it is great! I know that it is often hard for families who are going in many different directions to find time to sit down together for even a few minutes. I understand that high school kids have different schedules than preschool kids, and parents have another schedule. I really do get it that I am very very VERY lucky that I can be home with my kids (well, mostly "home") and I know that it is unrealistic to think that every family can eat together 4-5 times a week. But I strongly encourage you to find at least one or two nights every week that you wait for everyone to be together to eat your family meal.
Make a full meal...concentrating not on making it fancy, but making it GOOD. Make a healthy, well balanced meal. Spend time in setting the table, or at least use real dishes! Have everyone sit down at the table...not the living room, not somewhere near each other...but at the actual table and look at each other! If this is not a common occurrence, you might find it a bit awkward at first to find things to talk about. But ask questions to get the ball rolling and you might be surprised how easy it becomes.
We are busy people, too. And I know that with older kids, it is easier to wait until both parents are home from work and ready to eat, but even when the kids were little, we ate together. I think it taught our kids various important skills (like table manners!), encouraged them to communicate with adults in dinner conversation, consider adult conversation topics (like politics--yuck), and showed our kids that they are important to us. I believe it is important to your sense of family to sit down together and consume your meal--together!