There has been much research done that family dinners help kids in a multitude of ways. While I don't doubt that this is true, I believe researchers should study the toll it takes on a parents sanity. In reality this pretty much sums up what happens in our house. Nonetheless we usually do sit down for a family meal most nights (the word sit is used in its loosest form). I present to you:
The Family Dinner Cycle
Leave work, sit in traffic, race obstacle course style to get the children at their respective pick up times. No sooner are they collected with their belongings in the car do we transition to....
What are we having for dinner? We have come to a sort of resolution in our house with a small number of meals that both adults and children will tolerate. No matter which one of these meals i have chosen to make, it is always the wrong one. There are tears. Not mine.
Child 1 zones out in front of TV. I run around Iron Chef style to get dinner on the table. Child 2 tries to grab the knife from me every time I turn my back for 3 seconds. Miraculously dinner gets made. Child 2 is uninjured. Children are collected and we start....
The children get their food. They request water and juice and napkins and forks and spoons and the red cup no the blue cup why does she get the blue cup I want the blue cup. They have finished eating by the time the adults sit down. Child 2 stands on the chair and bats at the light fixture with tomato sauce covered hands. There are food malfunctions resulting in tears. The chicken fell off the bone. The meat fell out of the taco. Adults shovel.
No sooner do adults start shoveling than the children make their nightly procession to the bathroom where they poop out what they just ate. Child 2 requires assistance in the bathroom. Only mommy. Adult appetite is lost.
dishes strewn about, crumbs everywhere, more food under the table than children ate off plates.
As the children have gotten older this is actually a vast improvement over dinners that included vomiting, screaming, and basically complete chaos. Now everyone feeds themselves, and sometimes we even manage conversation. It is a good feeling to know our family comes together at the end of the day, no matter how chaotic it is. And I know there will come a time where they will be grown, and not want to sit around a table with us as they once did.
So the cycle continues...except for the nights we feed the kids dinner and order in sushi. We call that part of the cycle: Recuperation.