Editor's note: This is part of a series of personal stories on resolutions that worked — or didn't — in 2012.
I applaud those that can make the sit-down-at-the-same-table-and-eat-together-every-night routine happen. I am not one of those people. I have churned this guilt daily for twelve years, from the beginning of this whole motherhood gig. I have rejected my own excuses as feeble, deemed myself unfit. I've told myself I am doing it all wrong. I've decided to stop doing that.
The particular make-up of my family — our individual personalities, special needs, biological rhythms and, believe it or not, the shape and design of our kitchen — necessitates a Herculean, or more accurately a Hestia-ean, effort to get everyone to the table at the same time. Because of Papa Bear's work schedule the task falls to me and while I'm a great-ish cook, I'm lousy at timing and orchestrating chaos without losing my muffins.
I haven't given up on dinner by any means. I cook from scratch most nights and regularly do big cooking days that result in a fridge full that when creatively reconfigured will feed us for days (or months if you count the stuff that goes in the freezer.) There is a dinner time, usually around 7 p.m., when I put everything out on the counter, add some fruit or cut up veggies and call the kids (two boys) to dinner one at a time. I supervise as each kid loads his plate and get his milk or water. We make sure there is a good balance and determine the how-many-bites-of-this-to get-dessert requirements.
Our eating style varies. Sometimes I sit with each kid while he eats, or they sit at the table while I putter in the kitchen, sometimes they get to watch Netflix, it all depends. My favorite is when we picnic in the bedroom — I spread a sheet over our king size bed, we all snuggle up and watch America's Funniest Home Videos, How it's Made or Mythbusters.
It's calmer, I get one-on-one time and when everybody else is fed I can sit down with a glass of wine and enjoy my meal.
We do sit down together about once a week to keep the table manners sharp. Although they need constant reminders to sit properly and keep their elbows off the table, my children chew with their mouths closed and nobody farts during the meal — so I must be doing something right.
About the author: Emily Metcalfe Smith lives and writes in Edmonds, WA, and chooses not to spend her evenings schlepping endlessly between kitchen and dining room to a chorus of beeping timers and whiny protests.