When I came home tonight, Ezra was crying. “We missed breakfast for dinner two weeks in a row!”
“Yeah, Mom,” Zach jumped in to side with Ezra. “We need to have breakfast for dinner tomorrow, tacos on Friday, and pizza on Saturday.”
Last month, when I read Simplicity Parenting, I was struck by how chaotic our lives are in contrast to the book’s vision of family. Much of our chaos can’t be changed, or we don’t want to change. Which probably makes predictable rhythms or practices all the more important for our boys.
Several of you wrote in yesterday about the rhythms that anchor your family life, and they were great. Kim John Payne offers several suggestions in the book as well. Many of them, like regular bedtimes and bedtime routines, we already employ. His strongest suggestion, though, was in an area where we have been remiss.
You have probably read all of the studies about how important family dinners are. I used to read them through squinted eyes because they made me feel guilty. We could just never pull it off. Jeff works with grad students and is out two to five nights a week. I was working afternoons, which often ran into dinnertime. If you ask me how the kids got fed for the last six years, I wouldn’t be quite sure what to tell you.
When I read the book’s chapter on rhythms, I had already decided to rearrange my work schedule so that I will be home from lunch on every day – which meant that I could keep my eyes open as I read. He suggests limiting food options (which means eliminating a bunch of crappy food from the list of options) and making a regular dinner schedule. Brilliant!
Here’s our new schedule:
- Monday: Grilling
- Tuesday: Pasta
- Wednesday: Breakfast for Dinner
- Thursday: Tacos
- Friday: Pizza
- Saturday and Sunday: Parents’ Choice
In just over a month, the boys have come to count on our new dinner practice. Last week, we had Vacation Bible School every evening. And tonight, they went to a friend’s house for dinner. Hence the two weeks without pancakes for dinner and the tears.
The boys are not the only ones who are responding to a lack of choice. I feel less dread about making dinner. No more questioning, “What should I make for dinner?” If it’s Tuesday, it’s pasta. There is hardly a vegetable or meat that I can’t get into that rotation, so there is some choice. But not too much.
And not worrying about what to make has freed me up to actually have the entire family (or as many of us are there) sit down together for dinner. I have the boys set the table (rather than have the boys eat at the island while I hover next to them and then eat later with Jeff). We put out place mats and light candles and talk about our day.
Nothing fancy, and nothing that most families haven’t done for eons. But it’s a new practice for us, and one I think we’ll keep. Once you start having breakfast for dinner on the regular, I don’t think you can ever go back.