I am 45 years old. When I was growing up, dinner was on the table at 5pm without fail, because my dad usually walked in at that time, set down his black metal lunch box, washed his hands, and sat in his seat so we could begin eating as a family and prayed before our meals. Neither me nor my brother were allowed to leave the table until our plates were finished, we had to take a little of everything that my mom served, we were told to stop eating too fast, take smaller bites, chew our food because it looked like we were swallowing it whole, and we had to ask to be excused. I also remember every Sunday my mom and dad would put my brother and I in the car and off we’d go to Gram’s house for the day to visit. It wasn’t just us either. It was the other aunts, uncles, and cousins too. It was fun. The kids would play outside and the adults would be playing cards or Yahtzee inside. If it rained we were allowed to join in the games and that is how I learned many of the card games I still know today.
Questions to ask: Do you have family traditions that you might have slacked on? Or how about starting a fun tradition? Just make a promise to do it once a month at first, that way there isn’t too much juggling or stress to meet that goal! How about fun games – that aren’t video, computer or TV related? When was the last time you put a puzzle together?
Of course with visiting came the traditional Sunday dinner. For us most of the time it was Italian – considering my grandmother was Sicilian there wasn’t too much of a choice. I’m actually exaggerating, because there were many different choices over the years – including Gram’s famous potato salad, but one of the regulars we could expect was spaghetti, meatballs, Crocolicci bread (right from Newburgh) and soft butter, fresh parmesan, salad, Green Goddess dressing or Seven Seas Italian, and don’t forget the chocolate cake, or some form of yummy homemade baked treat being served for dessert. We would get home around 6pm and bed time was 8pm for my little brother and 9pm for me. I was older, so of course that gave me the extended bedtime, and with seniority came extra earned privileges.
Questions to ask: When was the last time you cooked with your family or friends making homemade delicious nutritious food? And do your kids have a reasonable bedtime? Not only for your sanity, but theirs!
Boy how things have changed in just one generation! My children did not experience any of that. First, they only have 2 cousins and they weren’t even born when my kids were little, so there really wasn’t much extended family except for the two sets of grandparents that fortunately live local. Occasionally we would go to gram’s house and my cousins’ kids would be there so that was the extended family my children knew, but really we did not see very much of them.
Questions to ask: Do you kids know your extended family? Do they spend time with the much older and wiser generations? If you don’t have family around or even if you don’t have family in the area, how about visiting a nursing home and spending some time there?
It seems that my generation really built the concept of the family unit not revolving around what the parents wanted to do, but instead revolved around the children and their calendars. And this way of running a household still exists today!
Now a days, Sundays are for travel sports, youth football, or some other activity we have them enrolled in. And one sport isn’t enough. There is a fall sport and a winter sport plus there has to be Scouts and music, dance, or theater lessons, and volunteer stuff because we need our children to be well-rounded – not just jocks. Very quickly, this kid-centric family unit puts pressure on the family as a whole, on the marriage, the individual parents, on siblings who are being dragged from one event to another, and of the course the children themselves. There is hardly time for homework, meals with home-cooked food, individual parent/child time, and solid sleep for anyone. I’m not sure why my generation changed so rapidly, and I know it’s not everyone in my generation but it is a lot of us who have gone down this road with our families.
Questions to ask: Should we be paring it back a bit? Does a child need to be out of the house 4 nights a week, eating out all the time, rushing from one place to another? Is it worth it to sacrifice family meal time, one-on-one time, sleep, our physical well being, and at times our sanity? Do the kids have to do that particular activity right now, at this age? Can it wait a year? Are you and/or your children spread too thin? Do you even have time for yourself? Do have a date night scheduled with your spouse or are you like ships passing in the night?
(Side note: I have 2 date nights scheduled – they don’t have to be food related BTW – one is for us to talk about business, house stuff, kids. And the other is to have fun and discuss none of the stuff I just mentioned! It is for us. Sometimes it’s hard not to talk about business, house stuff, kids but we quickly change the subject if we find ourselves drifting in that direction.)
Our family/friend relationships are really important, and rethinking how we spend our time is my challenge for you this month. Whether you have children or not, nurturing relationships that are important to you is a must to be healthy, whole, and happy! Let’s work on this during the month of September. Take note on the dynamics in your family life and really consider changes or additions you could make.
FYI: I started the coolest tradition in our family and if you would like copy of it, please email me: [email protected]; Subject Line: “Campfire Confessions” It is one of the most unique ways I have ever seen to help create open communication with all members of your family no matter what age they are. It’s fun and really works for helping kids be open and honest about what is going on in their lives.