The Dinner Table: Letting Go of Perfect!
Here’s to the “Good Enough” Dinner
I’m very excited that Sienna asked me to contribute a monthly column to Hilltown Families. As director of The Family Dinner Project (FDP), I’m always happy to find new groups of parents who recognize the importance of family dinners and aspire to make them more meaningful (or more frequent, or more nutritious, or more peaceful, etc.). Together we can work on how to go about it.
That’s truly all we think about at FDP; how can we help families tackle the specific challenges they face regarding family dinner? We provide the resources, targeted advice and support you need to make it happen in your home. And it’s not just a one-way street – because we want you to tell us how to do it too, and we’ll help share the wisdom of your home with people all over the country.
I write a lot about parents as innovators. Every day you are in your home and are faced with challenges and you come up with ways to make things work. Chances are that other parents that are part of the Hilltown Families network face the same dilemmas and struggles you do– and your wisdom can help. As much as anything, we see FDP as a place where families share wisdom.
Last week, Hilltown Families Contributing Writer, Shana Hiranandani addressed in her column, Parenting Possibilities: Contemplation with a Splash of Inspiration, some of the challenges she faces around sitting down to eat with her family in her post, “Family Dinners: Joy or Indigestion“. She wrote, “I always begin with the intention of being mindful and present with my loved ones but quickly slip into a state of constant negotiation. I become focused on moderating the noise level or making sure people take turns talking. I carefully watch for opportunities to teach and enforce appropriate manner. I commonly request slowing down the eating and remind boys to stay in seats…”
For many of us, the obstacles to family dinner feel like too much to tackle. Maybe you’re feeling time-challenged. Or culinarily-challenged. Or, like Shana, that there’s just too much tension at the table. I know all about it, not just from my vantage point as Director of FDP, but also as the working father of two young children.
One important thing I like to remind parents – and myself – is that we are not aiming for perfection. The “Good Enough” dinner, as we like to call it, is an accomplishment in itself. In other words, forget the manners for now if it’s too much, if it is getting in the way of you and your family getting joy out of the experience. Play games instead. Use our conversation starters. Have fun. That’s the goal, really. To connect. To enjoy each other. To make memories.
And that is what your kids will remember, that you tried, were consistent, that you were there for them. We want them to remember that it was a place of laughter, comfort, love and sharing. So let go of perfect food if that gets in the way. Let go of perfect manners if that gets in the way. Let go of perfect! And, as you go about your own efforts toward family dinner, keep this in mind: good enough is enough for now.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
John is a father of two – Elijah (8) & Esme (5) – and the director of The Family Dinner Project, a grassroots movement of food, fun and conversation about things that matter based in Watertown, MA. John is a professional mediator and dialogue facilitator who spends much of his time leading conversations with parents and families about the opportunities and challenges of family dinners.
[Photo credit: (ccl) Devon D’Ewart]