Let’s be realistic; in today’s go-go-go society, there isn’t always time to sit down for a nice dinner together. Furthermore, many of us are forging our “families” out of friends rather than biological relatives. So the standard “gather your family around the table for dinner every single night” can feel like an impossible goal for many of us. That’s okay! There’s a reason that “breaking bread together” has been a ritual of connection for as long as mankind’s been around—sitting down and eating in a group brings us closer to one another. Dare I say that a little magic happens when people partake of a meal together? I think it does. So no matter your circumstances, you can do it, and it will make you happier.
It doesn’t have to be every day. Or even dinner. Few of us with busy lives can have a relaxed sit-down family meal every single night. Don’t let the world (or the Internet!) tell you that’s the only way it counts. Do it once a week (I love this story of a weekly community meal), if that’s all you can manage. Do a Saturday brunch if dinners are impossible. There are no rules; do what works for you!
Develop your own rituals. In my family, we do the “how was your day” game when we sit down for a meal—we go around the table and each person shares one challenging thing that happened, one great thing that happened, and one funny thing that happened that day. It’s always wonderful, because I am constantly surprised and touched by the things my kids share (even when they’re grumpy). Try it yourself (in our family of four, it only takes about five minutes or less), or come up with your own routine.
Cook together, if you can. Again, not everyone has time for this, but the only thing I like better than eating together is cooking together. I have been known to call out “Think fast!” while tossing a bell pepper to one of my offspring. While they look at me in bewilderment, I add, “Cut that up for the salad, willya?”
Make your table one that makes you happy. Everyone has different things that appeal to them, of course, so this is highly personal, but I’m a firm believer in having something on your tabletop where you’re dining that just makes you happy to look at. Whether it be fun napkins (Mildred recommends this darling giraffe set!) or plates you love or a serving bowl passed down for generations—it doesn’t matter what it is, just that you associate it with eating together and feeling happy.
Vow to enjoy whatever works. Are you eating leftovers in your van between school and soccer practice? Ordering takeout (again) because you’re just too overwhelmed to cook? That’s fine. It happens. Whatever and wherever you’re eating, make a point of engaging with whomever’s with you, and being grateful both for the food to eat and the company you share. Family dinner is wherever you make it.