When I was young, sitting at the dining room table with family was a constant. All the activities that we had were after school or after meal-time. Eating together was a high priority. The table was always cleared and ready for us to do homework after school. We'd sit and talk together as we were trying to figure out math problems and answering the chapter quizzes in that we didn't finish in science class. Mom or dad would be there to help us if needed. Then we'd help mom with making dinner and setting the table. When dinner was ready and on the table, we'd sit and talk about the day’s activities and the things we'd learned, our accomplishments and our failures. Mom and dad would listen, share in our excitement or disappointment and then advise us and compliment us. Now however, with all the things going on in a house full of teenagers, college students living at home and parents working several jobs just to make ends meet--family meal time only happens once in a while.
Making time together a priority isn't easy, but I think that it can be done by doing the following things:
1. Keep an organized home.
By taking a few minutes every day to put items used where they belong when you are finished with them, you make extra time available for spending time with each other. It has taken me many years to wrap my head around the concept of cleaning up as you go. I normally make the mess, and then clean up later. It really does make a difference to clean up as you go. An example is doing the dishes at the end of the day verses after each meal. If you empty the dishwasher first thing in the morning, you can load the dishes from breakfast, lunch and dinner right after each meal--getting this chore done in half the time. The same goes for doing the laundry, putting shoes and backpacks away when children first get home from school. It's important to have a place for everything so that you can put everything in its place.
2. Focus on quality instead of quantity.
Make the time you do have as a family a time to share accomplishments, play games, have teaching moments, eat at the table together and work together to achieve family goals. There are many small moments that mean more to a member of your family than the grandiose moments. As a child, we'd go with grandpa to the family cabin in the summer time. We'd hike, go fishing, sit around the camp fire roast weenies and grill hamburgers, go with him in the truck to the Bear River to pump water into the large milk cans, play games with each other and imagine we were in our castles being rescued by the handsome prince. The days we spent there I wouldn't trade for all of the trips to Disneyland or Yellowstone. The point here is that it doesn't cost a lot of money to make lasting memories. We've taken our children on camping and fishing trips as well as trips to other states including Disneyland and Sea World over the years but even the short overnight trips to stay in a hotel and visit a local aquarium can be just as special--because you’re together.
3. Eat together as often as possible.
There are times when no one is home to eat together because of work or school. But start out with a day that everyone is home together and make it a priority. Even when we are in a rush to get from point A to point B, we can take a few minutes to eat together. Last night was one such occasion. My husband had to be to work and mentioned that he'd just go ahead and eat. We told our children that dinner was ready and they could dish themselves up. We said a blessing on the food and away we went....right to the kitchen table. I had cleared off the clutter that was long overdue and just that one simple thing made it possible for a few moments of quality time as a family. I wish that I had planned it that way, but nonetheless; it was wonderful to spend the time together and visit while we ate.