Now, I should say up front that we eat family dinner together most every night but before I sound all self-congratulatory, I'll clarify that's only because most nights, my grandmother cooks it for us. There's no passing up a home-cooked meal particularly when its been home-cooked by someone else, particularly when that someone else is my grandmother. So we go to Nonnie's house and we eat amidst total, unmitigated chaos.
My grandmother's on the phone with her family in Italy, screaming her head off because that's the only way she knows how to communicate on the phone. The kids are clamoring for our attention -- talking over each other constantly and then arguing about who interrupted who. Seconda is jumping out of her seat and rolling around on the floor half-naked and then when she does sit down, she wipes her hands on her hair instead of her napkin (seriously, its gross). Primo eats with his knees drawn up in front of him and drops half his meal on the floor beneath his seat. And I'm busy trying to jam baby food into Terza's soldered-shut mouth while feeding myself. Some nights we have a good laugh and some nights, we manage to share interesting insights and information but for the most part, it isn't terribly enjoyable and not remotely good for digestion. Its certainly not something I'd make other people feel bad for not doing. It works for us but it doesn't work for everyone.
Which is why I liked this piece by Ian Mendes on todaysparent.com called Why We Don't Eat Family Dinner. I enjoy hearing parents confess their dirty little secrets even when the secrets aren't especially dirty or even really secrets. We've all got to do what's best for our individual, initimable family and its hard enough to do that without feeling like you're being judged on top of it. Different strokes, it takes different strokes to move the world.
Nicole is a parenting writer who contributes essays and articles for magazines like Parenting, Parents, American Baby and Babble. She lives in Brooklyn with three children, one husband and a morbidly obese goldfish.