Monday, October 21, 2013

Family Mealtime - The Mission

One of the last lessons in the Food $ense at home lesson series is Family Mealtime. I have watched the lesson a few times, and I think I know in the back of my head why it is important, but honestly this is a really really hard one for me. It isn't hard for my kids yet, with schedules and the like, but it is hard for me, because I get so frazzled at the chaos.

Sitting down to dinner with all 9 of us is something that I practically dread. I don't mind the cooking and surprisingly as it is, I don't mind the clean up as much as you might imagine, but sitting there at the table amid the chaos makes me want to scream. (not that anyone would notice I was screaming too!!)

Family mealtime at our house resembles that scene in  7 Brides for 7 Brothers where Milly cooks her first meal and calls them to the dinner table and they throw food and tip the table over and there is a wrestling match over rolls. I think in the movie there is even someone that uses their plate as a scoop in the serving bowl. This is very much like what dinner feels like to me when we are all together.

Now that I have made you think my children have the worst manners ever, that isn't true. It just feels that way to me.  I would much rather feed them, clean up their mess and then sit down to a nice quiet dinner and enjoy the food that I cooked without having to say 16 times, "now, be kind".

So as I exploring the new website and came across the Eat Together area, I thought, "Okay, this is an area that I need to improve in, what can I learn here"  and there is was... Like a glaring neon sign with my name on it....

 Learn how to make family mealtime realistic and enjoyable for your busy family. realistic And enjoyable, I am all over that.... Let's see what we can learn. 

1.  Plan meals ahead of time. We are doing that pretty good at our house. I have learned and finally am rembering that a little bit of time spent meal planning goes a long way towards reduced stress and being able to answer the dreaded question, "what's for dinner". 
2.  Schedule a set time for meals. We don't have too much of an issue with this yet. The events we have planned aren't around dinner time and the kids schedules don't prevent us from being able to be together. 
(So far, I am doing really good!) 
3.  Involve all family members in the meal prep and clean up. Oh man! this is a terrible one for me, I would just rather do it myself that deal with the hassle of "helping" my kids to do it. I get frustrated and then I get upset, and then I have to do the job anyway because I have given up on doing the task together or I decide that it isn't done good enough. This is a real personal issue that I need to work on. I know that I need to raise my children to be able to do things for themselves and I truly don't want to send adults out into the world that can't scramble eggs or load the dishwasher.  Perhaps I can menu plan easy meals with kid friendly preparations at first so they can use basic skills and I can be patient. I can also plan family mealtime dinners on days when I don't have other major stresses to deal with. That way I can have all my patience to devote to this important event.  
4.  Turn off the TV and all other electronic devices, including phones.  There are some in the family that are more guilty of this than others. I think if I was willing to put my phone away for the designated time, the kids would be more than willing to do so in exchange for having undivided parental attention.          
5.  Have pleasant conversation and leave discipline and other negative emotions for another time.   This one is going to be a doosey for me. The thought of being able to do it looms before me like a Mount Everest serving a casserole. 
So for me to be able to have family mealtime with my kids, it sounds like we are going to need to have a family meeting / meal about family mealtime.  
I think tonight when we all sit down together, which will be a shock because mom isn't doing the dishes while the kids eat, I will say, "isn't this nice" and "what can each of us do to make this even better". Perhaps with their help and efforts as well as mine, we can make this into something that works for us. 
If I was in a situation where someone asked me if I was willing to do something that would help keep my children off drugs, prevent risky behavior, help them get better grades, and be better people, my goodness! of course I would say "yes" and I would be willing to do it too.  That is going to be my family mealtime mission.  I can do this...   and so can YOU!