I get it. From a physical health perspective, breakfast SHOULD be considered the most important meal of the day. It’s the time to start your day off with good foods, fresh fruits and veggies, and healthy doses of protein. It really sets the stage for the rest of the day and carries the huge burden of controlling your energy levels from the get go. So, for those reasons, we never actually skip breakfast. But, I do beg to differ with the experts about its importance. 🙂 In this uber-busy world, where families spread out in a million different directions as early as 7am, I’m a firm believer that dinner should wear the crown of the most important meal of the day. Here’s why that’s the case in our home and, spoiler alert, it has nothing to do with fruits and vegetables.
It’s the only time of the day that we all sit down and look each other in the eyes.
And, this is where the magic happens, really. It’s the time when we get to share what happened in our own lives and enjoy some togetherness. It’s a time for the kiddos to hear the adults talk about life and to learn what challenges and successes sound like in the real world, beyond losing a game of Monopoly Jr. Everyone gains some perspective into each other’s lives and the kiddos start to feel like they are a part of the family, not the focus of the family.
For the adults, it’s our chance to learn what goes down in our kids’ lives and to get a deeper peek into their personalities. We’ll often go around the table and share something about our day, like what our favorite part was, who we helped, or what really bummed us out. We’ve been loving these little Dinner Games we got at Chic-Fil-A a while back. They’re fun and easy conversation starters that help us get past, ‘How was your day, today?’
By giving each member a chance to have the floor, we’ve learned a lot about each other. Through our dinnertime chats, we’ve realized how funny our son is, how loving our daughter is, and how much our kids really want to go to an Avett Brothers concert this year. Now, full disclosure, it’s not always pretty. In fact, dinner is usually filled with one kid touching the other with their foot, some spilled milk, and a couple of rude comments about the food (followed by a timeout). But, that’s life, and we try to embrace it as best as we can. If you’re looking for ways to have more fun at dinner, hop on over and follow my Pinterest board that is fully dedicated to helping families maximize their time together at the dinner table.
Our family thrives on routines and structure.
I know. It’s sounds boring. But, seriously, my daughter gets off the bus and the first thing she says is ‘What’s for snack?’ Sure, I would LOVE for that to be something far more meaningful, but I do love that she knows what to expect. Routines and structure are great for kids and they often find security and gain confidence in knowing that at the end of the day, they’ll come home and gather with their family to eat dinner at roughly the same time on most nights. Remember when the kiddos were tiny and we spent so much time and energy trying to establish a feeding and sleeping schedule? Those schedules remain important as they grow older and, in our home, having dinner around 5:30p every night is something you can count on.
Love it or hate, dinner provides us with endless opportunities to parent our children.
Dinnertime is our prime time to teach kids responsibility, life skills, and manners. At 4 and 6 years old, setting the table, getting glasses, clearing the table, vacuuming the mounds of rice they spilled and emptying the dishwasher are ways that our kids tangibly feel how they contribute to keeping the wheels on this family. It’s our daily chance to see that when we all pitch in, life is easier and we have more time for fun. And, remarkably, they learn to take pride in their jobs and start to crave responsibility.
When they help us cook dinner at home, they are learning a life skill that is critical to their independence. I fully intend to teach both of my kids to cook well enough so that once they leave the house, they won’t be knocking on our door nightly for dinner. Although they’ll always be welcomed, I believe a large part of my responsibility as their mom is to raise them to be independent, self-sufficient adults. And yes, even though my 6-year-old loves packing her lunch, we have a long road ahead of us since my 4-year is convinced he can’t put on his own socks.
And, finally, it’s also where we’re able to instill some sort of manners in our little barnyard animals. Chew with your mouth closed, give everything a try, don’t say ‘EWWWW!’, and keep your hands to yourself. Over and over and over.
Quiet time for the heart, mind, and soul.
At the end of a long day, sitting down at the table is for sure, one of the best parts of my day. I look forward to collapsing in my chair, refusing to get up to get ketchup or milk or a napkin, and just enjoying the time with my peeps without the TV, radio or cell phone. It’s like one big deep breath for my soul. Except on the nights when it’s crazy-town. And, on those nights, I WILL get up…to grab a glass of wine. But, most nights, I can almost feel the tension levels in each of us decrease over the course of dinner. There’s something pretty special about being surrounded by the ones you love while sharing a meal.
It’s not about the food.
It’s really not. And, as much as I’m an advocate of meal planning, I am that way because I’m convinced, after having seen it with my own family, that if I can peel away some of the stress of dinner by knowing what we’re having and being realistic with my expectations, then it really can be a highlight of our day. You may have noticed that I don’t write recipes. That’s because, for me, having a great dinner with my family on any weeknight is less about what I’m serving and more about the energy that we all bring to the table. If it was about having the perfect recipe, we’d all be rockstars at dinner because, well, Pinterest.
The truth is, I know that I can best serve busy mamas by helping them plan and prep realistic meals without adding more stress to their lives. When we do this, we’re setting ourselves up to have a greater chance of enjoying that 30-minute block of time together. Sure, there are times when mealtime totally falls off the rails and it isn’t much of a magical experience. But, all in all, I’ve found that when I plan meals that are simple, healthful, and take less than 30 minutes to make, then my energy carries over and we’ll usually have a pretty good time around the table.
So, I’d love to hear from you! What does dinnertime look like at your home? Is your family moving in 100 different directions or are you able to get some quality time together on most nights? Do you all eat together or do you feed your littles first? Please share in the comment section below.
If you’re looking to get some help on simplifying your dinnertime, check out all the ways I help busy mamas. And, be sure to grab my weekly + monthly planning printable PLUS my 5-day email series to help you create your own meal plan. Just fill out the info below and it’ll be on its way.
Want a simple, 1-week meal plan?
Sign up below to get a 1-week meal plan, organized by theme nights, that includes recipe links, prep and leftover tips, suggestions
for other theme night meals and a weekly planning printable!