Much has been written about the importance of family meals. Usually these essays assume such family meals are home-cooked (by mom, of course) family dinners, served on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday at 6 p.m. Since a great many families find that logistically challenging, this can become a source of stress and angst.
Fortunately, there are a lot of caveats. Much of the research on family meals is about correlation, not causation. Studies that have looked at what happens when families change the frequency of their family meals do not find that things become awesome (when they increase) or fall apart (when they decrease). Families that value sitting down together, and have the wherewithal to make that happen, tend to have a lot of other things going for them too. It’s not the 6 p.m. pot roast that’s working the magic.
Then there’s this: family meals need not be home-cooked, need not be made by mom, need not be served at 6 p.m. Monday-Thursday, and don’t have to be dinner.
And what I’ve been thinking about lately: they can also be really fast.
We sometimes have full family dinners during the week, but between activities and parental travel schedules, this isn’t a regular thing. But we do aim to do some weekend meals, even if the schedule is pretty full.
This morning, for instance, I ran from 7:15-7:50 a.m., then started the coffee and jumped in the shower. I was back in the kitchen, dressed, at 8:10. With help from my 8-year-old daughter, I scrambled eggs and started an assembly line of toast (we have a 4-slice toaster now!). She plated fruit. At 8:22 (or so…) we called everyone down and we all sat and ate family breakfast. It was less than 15 minutes — it had to be — because the big kids and I had to get ready for church to be in the car at 8:50 (my husband and the 4-year-old did soccer this AM so we could all go to the bamboo art installation at Longwood Gardens this afternoon).
Now, I know there’s something to be said for lingering over a meal but…my kids don’t linger anyway. The 4-year-old is often up and running around with 4 minutes or so. All a family meal really took is realizing that we could squeeze it in. And so we did. No pot roast necessary.
What are family meals looking like these days in your house?
Photo: Fall blooming asters. Not related to this post, but they are pretty this time of year!