Dinnertime Dilemma

January 14, 2011

“Come on kids!  Let’s get to the table. Dinner’s ready.”  I call out as I am putting the forks and napkins on the table.  The kids wander in the dining room one by one with puzzled looks on their faces.  “Who’s coming over?” asks Drew.  “Why is there a blanket on the table” Ethan says with a frown.  “No one is coming over, I just thought it would be nice if we all sat down and ate at the table.” I replied as I went back into the kitchen to check on the mashed potatoes in the microwave.  “And, that’s not a blanket on the table Ethan, it’s called a tablecloth.” 

As the rest of the family slowly makes it to the table I think back to my childhood and the happy memories of family dinnertime with us all sitting around the table.  I want these same happy memories for my children, but somehow in the chaos of work, school and church we have gotten out of the routine of eating as a family around the table.  Well, to be honest, we never really were “in” the routine.   Dwight and I have always been night people and we would eat dinner around 9:00 or 10:00 pm.  Obviously when kids came into the picture we couldn’t have them wait until that late to eat.  When they were babies and eating baby food and formula it wasn’t too big of a deal and I would just feed them in the early evening and then after they went to bed I’d fix dinner for Dwight and I. When then twins were toddlers and Drew and Caleb were still fairly young I tried several times to change our eating habits and make family mealtime a priority. Unfortunately, this was about the time I returned to work and I had a hard time getting home and trying to throw dinner together before the kids got too hungry and grouchy.   Also, the kids were young enough that they still needed help cutting up food and cleaning up spills so I rarely got a chance to actually sit down and eat.  I was tired after working all day and dinnertime seemed more stressful than I remember it growing up.  Many a dinnertime ended in tears and frustration and the kids didn’t seem to be enjoying themselves either.

I remember feeling like a failure as a mother and questions and doubts began to fill my head.  How did my mom make it look so easy?  How do other mothers pull this off?  Maybe I’m not cut out for this whole motherhood thing after all.  Sound familiar?  It’s times like these that we tend to think we are the only mother struggling because all the other mothers seem to have it all together.  I’m not just talking about the whole dinnertime dilemma – it’s more than that.  We look at other mothers and think that maybe we missed a few classes in Parenting 101. We think that if we can’t have a clean house, well behaved kids and a perfect marriage that there is something wrong with us.  Feelings of inadequacy are creeping into our heads as we look around and see all the other “perfect” mothers with their “perfect” kids.  However, we need to keep reminding ourselves that no mother has it all figured out. There is not some secret that all the other mothers are keeping from you while they watch with amusement as you struggle to keep everything under control and fail on a daily basis.   The secret to motherhood is that there is no secret.   There are no “perfect” mothers.   We all just need to do the best we can and when we make mistakes we need realize that we aren’t alone.  Our kids don’t expect us to be perfect, our husbands don’t expect us to be perfect and God doesn’t expect us to be perfect.  The people that matter the most to us will love us unconditionally and the other’s can think what they want.  Besides, you never know how many other mothers look at you and see you as one of those “perfect” mothers with “perfect” kids.  Oh, if they only knew, right ?

I still think family mealtime is important, but instead of putting an unrealistic expectation on myself I have decided to take baby steps and work towards my goal.  Dinner doesn’t have to be a banquet – maybe I’ll just pick up a pizza on my home from work and we all sit around the table and eat as we talk about our day and joke with each other about who ate the most pizza.   Or if we can’t eat dinner together maybe we can just pop some popcorn before bed and sit on the couch together snuggling by the fire on a cold winter night.  These are the memories your kids will take with them into adulthood – these are the times that they will remember the most.

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