Blame it on my husband’s travel schedule.
Blame it on my four children’s soccer, lacrosse, and softball games.
Blame it on my daughter’s passion for viola or my son’s commitment to cello.
Blame it on whatever you’d like, but my family isn’t able to sit down and eat dinner together every night of the week. But, most nights, we manage to make it happen. The kids are given heaping bowls of Cheerios or Life cereal before they run off to sports or music lessons, but when we all return home, sweaty, tired, sometimes jangly and out of sorts after too long a day, we sit down to dinner together.
On mornings when the calendar warns that the day ahead is the kind that will spin out of control until evening, I retreat to my basement freezer. Inside are half a dozen loaves of French bread and several big, glass containers filled with chili, minestrone or split pea soup, and shepherd’s pie. It’s my little vault, a stash of meals that I cook every few weeks on Sunday afternoons to reheat for dinner on hectic days.
I set the bread and soup out to defrost on the stovetop in the quiet house as we all scatter for the day’s activities.
We make family dinners a priority because it matters that we eat together. Eating dinner together helps us get a glimpse into the details of each others’ lives. It helps the high school sophomore remember what it was like to be in fourth grade, like his sister is now. She talks about her teacher reading the novel Fudge to the class. Her older brothers and sister speak over each other, laughing, telling their favorite parts of the story.
The younger kids listen, rapt, as the intricacies of middle school romances are explained.
My husband and I talk about our work and, month after month, our kids follow the ups and downs of our careers, know the cast of characters of our professional lives, and are happy with us when we have good news to share.
Every night that we eat together, we play a game. We call it “Best and Worst.” I’ve heard it called “Highs and Lows” and “Highlights” by other families. We go around the table and say, in a sentence or a paragraph or a short treatise, what was the best and worst moment of the day that has just ended.
One of my daughters usually gives her best, thinks a moment, and then announces, “I don’t really have a worst.”
(I love to hear that.)
Sometimes the best is a good grade on a test. A funny game she played at recess. Beating his record at a track meet. Playing well in a soccer game. That it’s Friday.
And if we weren’t sitting together at the dinner table, rolling pasta around a fork or lifting a soup spoon to our lips, sharing stories, ours would be a family less connected than we are.
Eating together is a gift we give ourselves.
And one for which I am very grateful.
Jennifer Grant is the author of the new memoir, Love You More: The Divine Surprise of Adopting My Daughter. She is at work on her second book, also a memoir on family. Find her online at www.jennifergrant.com.