Last night I was setting the table like I always do before dinner. As dinner cooked on the stove and the table became full of plates, napkins, silverware, and serving dishes I couldn’t help but smile. This is my favorite part of the day. This is when our whole family gets to come together for a nutritious, filling meal and we share about our day.
Before I had kids most of my dinners were spent in front of the TV with my husband or soon to be husband depending on the timeline. After getting married and having kids I would wait to eat until after the kids had gone to bed. They were babies or toddlers at the time and dinner was an event. It involved me getting up and down from the table and picking up scraps and bottles that had been dropped or thrown from their high chairs. Eating with the kids was not only undesirable but impossible. I remember my sister and I agreeing that eating with the kids at that point meant not tasting our food at all due to overstimulation. It still makes me laugh. Somewhere down the line the kids grew up. Imagine that! No more highchairs, no more short order cooking, no more fussing and whining.
Today, the kids are little, wonderful people that have interesting conversations. So many of us miss that change when it happens and we continue our old, comfortable behaviors of feeding them first and staving ourselves off until later. This almost always leads to poor food choices and over eating because we are starved and exhausted by the time we eat. I get it! I have that hunger monster too that says,”Let’s eat. Eat as much as we want right now because we are STARVING!” I promise that you can beat that hunger monster with a bat. Have a snack every couple of hours between meals and then see what sitting down with the family does for you.
My parents gave me a wonderful gift as a child. The gift of family dinners every single night. We would wait until my dad got home from work and we would all sit down together. We would eat and share what happened in our day, talk about current events, ask questions, and yes, sometimes even argue. No matter what, we had that time together to catch up as a family. We had that time to eat together without any other distraction. We could pay attention to what went in our mouths. Incorporating this same lifestyle in my home with the addition of snacks in-between meals has kept my portions in control and my hunger monster at bay. I am satisfied and that ugly monster is put to bed.
How many times have you found yourself snacking while standing in the kitchen, trolling Facebook, or watching TV only to discover that a bag of chips is suddenly gone and you don’t even remember eating it? Better yet, you feel deprived because you don’t remember tasting it, so you give yourself some more! I know it can’t just be me. I have been known to have a second helping of chocolate chips simply because I didn’t feel I got the full effect. Really! It happens to the best of us. There is something to be said for sitting down to eat; making it an event.
When we take the time to sit down and eat we are more aware of our choices and portion sizes. We can feel proud that we ate until satisfaction instead of “Thanksgiving dinner full”. We can use all of our senses to be fulfilled. We notice the wonderful smell, texture, taste, and display of our food. We don’t feel deprived. We feel satisfied. If you are lucky, you even get to have a family moment. You get to enjoy the gift of your family at the table and all of the conversation it brings.
A friend told me years ago that each night they share something called their daily “Rose and Thorn”. They share the “rose” of what was wonderful about their day and the “thorn” of what was unenjoyable. I thought about how that allowed each member of the family to speak and share their joys and frustrations without fighting for attention. I realized it was something my family naturally did each night, but many times one family member (usually the youngest) would fight to get a word in. Thus, a new tradition all our own was born. We simply go around the table and speak of the best and worst things that happened that day. The kids quickly added to the custom and said they would also like to list their favorite thing learned. My mommy heart was so full that day. It continues to be full each and every night when we sit down and share “the best, the worst, and the favorite thing learned”. It brings out the kid in my husband and me; it shows us the silver lining. Mealtime is family time and the “icing” is feeling satisfied both physically and emotionally. Give it a try. You just might enjoy eating with your kiddos each night when you realize you can actually stay at the table!