I'm writing an advice column in our online newspaper (BrownwoodNews.com). In the event someone thumbs through these blog essay contributions but not the column, I thought I'd double post this letter someone asked of me.
I have three children. My husband and I both work. We used to have meals together, but now we usually eat separately. I keep the refrigerator and freezer full of food, so there's always stuff to eat, but now all the kids eat in their rooms watching TV. I'm feeling guilty about our life style, as that was not how my family used to eat. What is your take on this?
Feeling A Little Sad
Dear Little Sad,
First of all, your signature says a lot. Obviously you are not happy with the arrangement. The "new" family is busier than in years past with both parents working, the kids in extra activities, etc. Or, because the kids are so dang picky, and you and your husband like tasty normal food, it is easier to have them eat their nasty little chicken nuggets first, and later the parents have their meal. So, are the 21st century families eating habits born of necessity or convenience? A long hard look might reveal convenience trumps necessity. There are a few things that eating together adds to our lives. How on earth will children learn proper manners if they have neither a role model nor instruction? Some conversation at the table is way better than only learning to watch TV while jamming food down our gullet. And the kids can remember what their parents actually look like. With all the stuff we all do, kids and adults alike, we spend less and less time with each other.
However, realistically, there are plenty of times eating together is impossible. Kids after school sports activities really screw things up. So does having to work late. If that is your reality, then plan on "supper nights" that everyone is expected to be in attendance. More than once a week is good. Additionally, some solo eating guidelines may be in order, such as:
- You may read while you eat, but all meals are to be consumed at the supper table. No more TV while you are eating.
- To insure some degree of nutrition, we now have a notebook on the counter. Everyone, including the adults needs to log in what they ate for their meal.
- We also will have a shopping list for you to add things you would like to eat.
- [Add your ideas]
Hey Feeling A Little Sad, you will blink your eyes, and the kids have moved out. You better get busy making some loving changes, as you are running out of time. Plus, then you can sing the Crosby, Stills and Nash song: ♫Teach.... your children well.....♪