I'm part of the Mom's the Word on Dinner conversation series via Momversation so I've been thinking a lot about mealtime (even more than usual!). Recent conversation on the program's Facebook page has focused on dinnertime mojo and quick meals, and these conversation threads have reminded me that meals are decidedly un-Zen for so many families. Indeed, with two busy parents, a chatty 7-year-old, and a sippy cup banging 8-month-old at our table, meals are not always the most relaxed. This all got me thinking about some of the typical stumbling blocks we face and how we try to address them. I hope the below thoughts are helpful, and I'd love to hear if you have other challenges at the dinner table and what you do to mitigate them!
1. Slowing down the horses.
Stumbling Block: By the time we get to the table, one or more of us typically is famished. Subsequently, there's a tendency to strap on the feedbag, as it were, and go.
Solution: We have taken to pausing to start our meals with an expression of gratitude -- for each other, for the food in front of us, and anything else that is top of mind. It only takes a moment, but has been a really effective way to slow down our pace.
2. Speedy, yet monochromatic meals.
Stumbling Block: If we're rushing with food prep, sometimes meals can end up, well, rather monochromatic (e.g., pasta, corn, etc.).
Solution: Our typical quick meals include quesadillas, breakfast for dinner, pasta, etc., and we try to resolve monochrome syndrome with quick additions such as baby spinach in the quesadillas, or cucumbers, carrot sticks, or grape tomato halves on the side. And fruit, always fruit.
Stumbling Block: We are, er, a rather verbal family and Laurel has a tendency to start a conversation thread while another is in progress.
Solution: While it's sometimes just easier to let interruptions happen, we're trying to help Laurel get in a more mindful habit by stopping and reminding her that someone else needs to finish their thought before she jumps in. She's actually started raising her hand lately, to get in the queue, which is pretty cute.
4. Up and down, up and down.
Stumbling Block: This is something we struggle with, whether it's Laurel getting up and down when she realizes she has something in her backpack she wants to show us, or Jon or I fetching something we forgot for the meal. And it contributes to a general sense of mealtime chaos.
Solution: We now tell Laurel that whatever she wants to show us can wait, and unless it's something major, we do without whatever we've forgotten at the table. Alternatively, we limit our get ups (meaning, we wait until we've thought of a few things we forgot to get and take care of it all at once). It's amazing how much these small tweaks change the pace for the better.
5. General disaster zone.
Stumbling Block: This might be my own personal peeve, but I really, really dislike sitting down to a meal with the kitchen in a completely disastrous state.
Solution: I've tried to work on this one by chipping away at the build up that tends to start well before dinner -- for example, asking Laurel to wash out her lunch containers, chipping away at random dishes while items are cooking, and so forth.
Those are the major stumbling blocks for us. It's pretty much a work in progress! I'd love to hear what you're wrestling with, either here in the comments or at the Mom's the Word on Dinner Facebook page.
Image credit: Stoonn via FreeDigitalPhotos.net