We recently returned from a fabulous trip to Jekyll Island. It is always a treat to be at the beach, especially with kids! My children adore digging in the sand, splashing in the waves, and exploring the beach. I love seeing their joy, and relaxing with a good book as the breeze of the ocean keeps me relatively cool!
After a big day of sun, sand, and water, we are starving!!! Typically we don’t call it quits at the beach until we have been there for at least 9-10 hours and by the time we finish cleaning up, it is way past our typical dinner time. We are starving!!
We have a tradition at Jekyll Island–we always head over to Sal’s on St. Simon’s. This has become our favorite place while we stay at Jekyll. The wait is usually an hour (which just adds to our hunger) but it so worth it!! We sit out on the patio, talk about our day and the fun we had and then we chat about what we will do the next day. We occasionally just look up and drool at the servers passing by with pizza. By the time we have sat down, we are ready to enjoy some food!! But we have already enjoyed our time together–we have laughed, been silly, and commiserated together about how hungry we are!!
I am sharing this story with you, because an interesting thing happened this past trip while we were at Sal’s Pizzeria. While we were finishing up our appetizer, an older couple came over to our table and wanted to congratulate us on engaging with our children. I was a bit stunned, because this is what we do everyday at our family dinners, but as the couple pointed out, we were the only family in a crowded restaurant that were not depending on electronic devices of some sort but actually talking with each other. It broke my heart, as it did the older couple–they realize just how fast kids and grandkids for that matter grow up and it is time that will be missed and should be cherished.
I love this time as a family–I love it every night of the week, but when we eat out after a long fun day and share our memories of the day, another precious memory is created for me. I shared great food, laughs, and conversation with the people I love more than anyone else on earth (and I didn’t have to lift a finger to cook or clean up!!) It is not something I take for granted, and I encourage you to put down the devices and enjoy each other. It may not be easy to enforce at first, but it will be worth it to get to know your family better and build relationships that will last a lifetime. In my opinion a family that eats together (and talks) stays together. It is also proven that a family that eats together is healthier!! What is not to love about that–great relationships and better overall health!!
So how do you do it?
- First, put down ALL electronic devices at the dinner table (at home and at restaurants)
- Make eating together a priority. If schedules do not allow dinner every night, aim for at least 3 times a week or try to eat breakfast together.
- Model manners for your children–don’t whine about having to sit down to eat or the food that is being served.
- Ask each other questions: Our standbys are “What was the best thing that happened in your day?” “Did anything bad happen to you today?” Sometimes we talk the whole meal about the things that come up, sometimes we are searching for topics, or eat in more quiet than normal–it is still comforting to have the predictability of being there together as a family.
- What do you do a young child is starving before the parent can sit down to eat? Feed the smaller child a healthy appetizer such as vegetables or fruit. Or give them their meal earlier and have them sit with the family and share a small dessert or fruit then.
- If a child is obnoxious at the family table, we excuse them until they want to join us again with manners–if they choose not to join us while we are still at the table, they don’t eat (trust me they won’t starve!!) Then I would make a point to tell them how much you missed their company and would like for them to be a part of family meals.
- Keep it age appropriate: for small children only expect 15 minutes tops–start young and the time will increase with very little effort.
Bottom line: Make it a priority to build into relationships with your family. It is something that you will never regret, but you are sure to have regrets if you don’t make your family important!
Head over to “Together Counts” to take the pledge to eat at least one meal together as a family a week. That is a great place to start!!