They say eating dinner together makes you stronger as a family. I hope so because right now I would say only about half of our family dinners are actually pleasant experiences. The rest of the time we operate somewhere on the scale between teeth clenched getting through this the best we can and no one started crying or yelling so it's a success.
Want to have a enjoyable family dinner? Don't do any of the following...
1. Mix younger and older kids at the table. Pretty much impossible to avoid if you have more than one kid, but try your best. If you live with teenagers, there will almost never be a meal where they are not annoyed, embarrassed, or tortured by the very existence of their younger siblings. They will grow out of it, but in the meantime, it's like walking a tightrope.
2. Serve leftovers. There will either not be enough to satisfy everyone or it will be a food that someone hoped they might not see for a few weeks. There's just too much room for error.
3. Try to hurry dinner. No matter what the age, kids move slower the more they realize you're in a hurry. Do they usually blow through their meal in five minutes? Plan on thirty if you need to leave early. This will also be the night they spill something.
4. Make the amounts on the plate uneven. It doesn't matter if it's a good food or a bad food, they will be looking around to see who got more macaroni and cheese, or who had to eat an extra sweet potato. And you will hear all about the unfairness.
5. Serve a food they don't like. Your unpleasant experience will begin as soon as they ask what's for dinner. You're making that just because you know I hate it. Yes, I am. I keep a list of what you hate and try to make things on that list as often as possible.
6. Insist on table manners. We have been trying to teach manners since our kids were in highchairs, but seriously some nights we have to just let it go. I can repeat again, use a fork, or I can focus on the dinner conversation and hope that they aren't still eating that way at their wedding.
7. Sit certain people next to or across from each other. There is a delicate seating arrangement that usually brings the most harmony. Messing with this balance comes at a cost.
So are family dinners even worth the effort? Yes, because sometimes the stars align. Sometimes the mood is just right and we do have great conversations. We linger a little laughing. There's a fellowship and connection that's sweet. So sweet that it erases the memory of all our dinner failures...almost.