Who, with a handful of young children living with you, just LOVES dinner time!?!
Mama has her apron on, it is 5pm and Daddy walks in the door from work. Mama rushes over and gives him a quick kiss and gently asks “How was your day?”, as she takes his briefcase from him and puts it away. The children are all sitting sweetly on the floor pushing around trains, all shining from the bath they have just had. Mama says, “It’s dinner time” and they all climb up to the table, say Grace and NOBODY says “I don’t like this!”.
If this is your reality! You are AMAZING! Take heart that you can do what most families will never be able to accomplish!
For this rest of us, the 1950’s approach to the family meal may need a little bit of tweaking. With afternoons already jam packed full of after school sport and activities, and we only have 2 kids old enough for such things. As parents we are told often by the media, the church, grandparents, books, parenting experts and our own experience growing up that we need to sit down as a family for meal times. Having those conversations over a table, asking questions while there is food being served, sharing stories and correcting table manners is so important but unless you are prepared to do this at 8pm with a toddler and a pre-schooler, you may need to rethink the family dinner mentality.
This year we have decided to shake things up and our sit down family meal happens at breakfast. It does mean that I need to plan a little, and make sure I am organised the night before, but it has actually meant that are morning are far more peaceful and we get out the door feeling less frazzled then last year.
As they say, “Fail to plan, plan to fail” so here is some of my plan.
Lunches need to be made the night before. I have occasionally forgotten to do this and it really has made a HUGE difference to how the morning runs. I keep lunches super simple. A sandwich or a wrap, some kind of homemade snack (honey joys or date balls are a favourite), something savoury like pretzels, a frozen yogurt in a reusable package and fruit. All easily made ahead and can be popped in 3 different lunch boxes.
Then the rest of our mornings run like this.
During breakfast we try to intentionally talk to the kids about what they are looking forward to in their day, what ever might have happened yesterday that they need a little reminder about and we are using this great little devotional. Short enough for Mr 4 to engage with but with enough thought that it also helps set the scene for our day. At the end of each page there is a chance to engage further with an activity. We don’t always do these but it leads on to some wonderful conversations.
A few years ago I read a blog post written by a mum with 10 children (yes, 10!!!) that talked about the benefits of giving kids daily family chores. Just one thing to do after breakfast and before school. Something that they can practice week after week and get better and better at. Once you have 3 (or 10) children doing just 1 chore a day, that means that there are 3 less things I have to do that day…which adds up over the course of the week. We have found the beauty of this plan is that once the jobs are assigned, as you are only asking each child to do ONE thing a morning, they don’t actually argue. We now have Mr 4 doing age appropriate chores as well as Miss 6 and Mr 8 and it has been a very smooth transition into the school year. As a bonus, my house is staying somewhat clean, with minimal cleaning/tidy up required from me on a daily basis! (They are only kids though, so the jobs are not always done to my standard but it is far more about rewarding and being grateful for the effort and lack of opposition at this age then anything).
Our morning jobs look like this.
So nearly 4 weeks in, we haven’t been late to school once! We are leaving much happier and with far less yelling then last year (on my behalf) and we are all enjoying some family time during the crazy tee ball season. I hope you have found this helpful!