For a regular shared dinner, teamwork is essential, because meal-making cannot simply all fall on one person’s shoulders. Our daughter was nine when I went back to work full time. She was already setting the table each night before dinner, and my husband was helping with kitchen clean-up after dinner, so it was only natural to build on that involvement. When I got home from work and readied dinner, our daughter set the table as before. As she got older, she often undertook age-appropriate preparation tasks with me in the kitchen. After the meal, I was formally excused from any further work. I like to think of it as the 5-D plan: dad, daughter, and dog doing dishes. Dad rinsed the dishes, our daughter put them in the dishwasher, and our black lab joyfully licked them each for good measure. Over the years, this time of shared father-daughter kitchen duty helped them build a vibrant, laughter-filled (most times at my expense), and wonderfully joy-filled relationship. They shared music, jokes, and news of the day. They teased. They snuck extra dessert. It provided this father-daughter duo the opportunity to work together and create a sense of collusion in “mom’s” kitchen that gave them glee. It also helped our daughter begin to learn the value of saving leftovers by having to sort them into containers, prep them for lunches the following day, and creatively think about other ways the food could be combined and prepared for additional meals. It was good practice, and today she is a marvelously creative young cook who entertains on a shoestring budget, having learned early that sharing food- its preparation, consumption, and clean-up- is a rich and happy exercise in what it means to be fully human.
This post is intentionally short. At this point, I encourage you to really think and pray about ways to MAKE a nightly family meal happen…without stress. This usually involves INTENTION. PLANNING. MENU-MAKING. It is a WHOLE-FAMILY RESPONSIBILITY. This week, write down some ways you and your family can come together around a nutritious and comforting meal most nights of the week.
Post 47 will begin to lay out some ground rules!
~Julie A.P. Walton, Ph.D.