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houghts on Family Dinner
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Growing up in my family, there was a lot of dysfunction however one thing we did do well was the family dinner. Every night dinner was served a roughly the same time and took place around a table. There was no making separate meals for everyone, you ate pretty much what was put in front of you and you liked it. Okay so maybe you did not always like it (peas…nasty…spinach, very nasty…liver …gag me…) I learned very early to hide the foods I did not like inside my mashed potatoes and to love things like mayonnaise, ,mustard and apple sauce! When it came to my own kids, however I failed to follow this family ritual. We were too busy (read often times too lazy) to get a family dinner organized. I spent many a night passing through drive thru windows, eating a meal on the run. Yeah I am not proud to admit that fact, but I am giving myself a bit of a break here. i will explain a little further down. I have discovered thefamilydinnerproject.org after reading articles about the importance of eating as a family on the well-being and development of children. There are studies that suggest that kids who eat dinner at least 3 times per week with their families are less likely to partake in risky behaviors such as drug and alcohol consumption than kids who do not. Yeah I got a SERIOUS case of the guilts after this. I kept trying to find ways to sneak in a dinner here and there, and let me tell you it is not an easy task to accomplish. We are a busy family with jobs, school ( one school is 45 minutes minimum each way in the car..longer if there is traffic) activities, you name it how was I going to find the time to prepare a meal and have everyone sit down and eat together? SO what I found was 1 recipe that is fairly simple to prepare (a french bistro style chicken with potatoes that roast right along with the chicken) and it turned into a family favorite. I said twice a month i will prepare “Monday night chicken” and more often than not we eat it on Sunday, but we are together and that is what counts. After following several blogs on the family dinner project’s site, it occurred to me that all along we have had a family meal albeit in a slightly dysfunctional  and unconventional manner.  We have a fabulous french patisserie  not far from where we live and when the kids were younger, I would go and get a baguette , some grapes and some cheese , then we would get French Macaroons for my gluten-free daughter and fabulous petit fours for everyone else..when we got home I spread a blanket out on the front lawn and make a picnic for my kids and their friends. we played games and chatted and had a great time just being together. Sharing food and conversation is what a family dinner is all about..but what about the rest of the time..well I did mention that we are busy..but we have made time all along is what I realize. The girls are Irish dancers and their classes and competitions often take us to different states and require a lot of time in the car, school it is a 45 minute ride each way (thankfully there is a bus for the morning part of the commute) and we have discovered a way to carve out family meal time during our commute. Our carpool has become our family, with the best carpool kid I wish for. Conversations during our commute have run the range of topics from what is going on at school ,  classes and teachers that the girls enjoy or find a challenge , dramatics between classmates, and quite a few crazy relative stories that keep us in stitches. We almost always stop for a snack or a small meal that only enhances the conversation. I have learned that my role in these conversations is to primarily listen, laugh and encourage the girls to find a way to resolve their issues. I learn more in those 45 minutes than I could in hours of face to face time. This must be working because the kids are great kids, focussed on their studies, no dating (although they have their “bus boyfriends” you know the ones they stare at and have zero courage to talk to because they go to different schools) no partying (not one of them has the time) and they are genuinely nice kids. We may not sit at a table and share a meal most  nights but we share food and conversation along the way and for that I am very honored to be a part of their lives and this experience.
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