Scheduling the Family Meal

When you’re responsible for the family cooking, you begin to understand that there are changes in the family lifecycle.  Timing and menus aren’t the same when you have an infant as when you have teenagers.

Yesterday was one of those changes that took me by surprise.

The media periodically run articles about the need for families to dine together, and I wholeheartedly agree that it matters.  But there are still weeks when coordinating family meals with competing schedules is difficult and I’m happy to get four family meals together out of seven.  As we moved from yesterday morning’s Fall baseball to afternoon housework and errands, I mentally planned out the evening meal with the understanding that Eldest would attend the Homecoming Dance.  Let’s see:  that amount of leftover chili takes an hour on the stove to heat up in that particular size pot and I have to also cut up apples for the microwave.  Another fifteen minutes in there for the tea to brew and it would be good to eat about one to two hours ahead of departure for the dance at 6:50.  That means dinner no later than 5:45.

As 5:45 rolled around and I called children and the spouse to the table, Eldest yelled back that she couldn’t come because of having to curl her hair; I’d have to wait about fifteen or twenty minutes longer.  It might not seem like much, but it is frustrating to watch hot food on the table start to cool in that period.

So I now have to factor the personal preparation needs of teens into the dining mix.  When the kids are younger, they aren’t concerned with their appearance and there are moments when you want to at least wear something even moderately appropriate for the table.  But I have forgotten that teens on the cusp on a major seasonal social event will extend their times significantly.  So the upshot will be that when I plan the evening meal on the day of an event, I’ll have to speak with the child in advance to learn what she’ll be doing and then factor that information into the planning.

Because I really do want to preserve the family meals as much as possible.  And if that takes some additional effort, then so be it.


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