Family dinners

familydinner2As you probably know, Italians are experts at family dinners, especially the ‘special occasion’ meals. We’ll usually have three (or more) generations sitting, eating and chatting their time away. I love them, but real life is different.
In our home it seems that even two generations is one too many as it’s nearly impossible to enjoy a meal with the children. They are fussy eaters, they need total dedication, encouragement and a lot of effort. The older one never finishes his (ant-size) portions of food, and the little one cannot sit still for longer than 10 minutes. Every other minute a spoon falls on the floor, or somebody’s beaker needs refilling. Not too mention the cutting and the chopping.
Call me a bad mother, but I simply cannot enjoy my food and the company in such situations.
The solution that works for us is to make two dinners, an early one for the children and a later one for us once the children are in bed. It also works well because, in spite of living in Italy, our children have very ‘British’ bedtimes. This way my husband and I are able to eat a quiet meal and have adult conversation.
Apparently I’m not alone: family dinners are not easy for a lot of people and the issue is quite controversial. Some people resort to bribing with desserts, some prefer to let the children eat alone.
I know this is temporary and in a couple of years the “perfect” family meal might be a reality for us too, and I do my best to teach them to be well mannered at the table, but these days this is what works best for us!
What happens in your family? Joint or separate?

-Michela

8 COMMENTS - Add your own

1. Sara | October 25, 2009 | Reply

Michela I’m with you on this!

However we try to do once/twice weekly ‘family dinners’ where we all eat at the same time, usually a Friday and Sunday night! I feel a bit guilty because the children get so excited for these dinners when I feel it should in fact be a commonplace event….maybe sometime in the not too distant future?! I
guess also the problem is that my husband gets home from work far too late for them to have dinner with us; often they are in bed.

2. Alice Labaune | October 25, 2009 | Reply

We have found a compromise, we have frantic family meals at lunch, as my man comes home for his meal & has only an hour, which is fine as a 3 year old & a 16 month old do not want to spend more time than necessary sitting at a table. Also I need his help to make the meal a sucess, by myself half of the food ends up on the floor… & I end up a wreak.
In the evenings the children eat before us,( special kiddie food) & once they are in bed, 20h30 at the latest ( I know we are so lucky, no tantrums, no bribing, no 300 bedtime stories), we then have an adult meal, where conversation is possible. I do not think it is necessary to eat all meals with the children, parents, adults, lovers, need time to themselves. No guilt involved.

3. Dina | October 25, 2009 | Reply

I could not agree with you more! I have found that when it comes to a group oriented meal it is always easier to feed the kids first, adults later. In theory it would be nice to all try to sit down to enjoy a meal together on a regular basis but even when we do I feel like I am up and down a million times trying to keep the peace. It seems we have the best luck when we take it on the road and go out to breakfast. There, at least, we have a waiter to lean on for support when the forks are dropped, water is needed or we need a coffee refill. And the highlight – no cleanup!!!!!

4. silvia - milano | October 25, 2009 | Reply

no matter what, we do really care for family dinners a lot. with our first son was easy because he always enjoyed food, any kind! Since emma joined us two years ago things got a little bit hard because she doesn’t eat too much and has no patient. Little by little she’s learning and when the kids are done, half hour of cartoons will give me and my husband that precious time to talk and enjoy a glass of wine!

5. peggy | October 25, 2009 | Reply

kind of something in the middle
before having kids we never had diner before 8pm…
well…now it is more 6pm…
and we eat together!

mainly this is because our little one isnt a big sleeper and bedtime (really sleeping) is hardly ever before 9.30pm…

however- at around 7.30/8pm we all have a tea or milk and dessert together- our way of compromise…

with her sleeping so late it is hard to find some ” parents time” – usually we talk in bed which I love
or week ends when she sleeps in her buggy and we have a nice lunch somewhere

6. Bibi | October 26, 2009 | Reply

I’m a strong believer in family time and I feel bad when we eat separately, usually because of different working hours. We eat together and usually my husband and I will have a bit of time to our selves before bedtime, with a tea or coffee after dinner, while the kids will watch a bit of tv.
I also believe children learn by example, practice and sheer stubborness from the parents side, mixed in with a bit of flexibility.
We often have dinner for friends and family, go out to restaurants and coffee shops. There is an occasional melt down, if they happen at naptime, but generally they go smoothly.
I don’t know if I’m lucky or just strict, but neither of my girls are fussy eaters…on the other hand if they refuse to eat one day I let them, they won’t starve…I focus on what they eat in a week and I never ask them what they’d like to eat. Funnily enough their little friends that are fussy eaters at home, eat well in my house.

7. Bibi | October 26, 2009 | Reply

P.S. Just remembered the early days when I would see red when my girls messed with food or thought that dinner was play time…I guess my stubborness, my refusual to accept bad manners and occacional roaring paid off though.

8. kim | November 11, 2009 | Reply

Agree partially, yes it is diffucult eating with your children. But I think it depends on the age your children are. We eat all meals in the weekend together and even Friday evening our oldest one (4.5 years) eat with us. As I think it is the family aspect of eating together that is very important. I know it is difficult and not relaxing, but I think when they are a bit older this will get better. I remember eating always together with my parents when possible and have majority good (and some bad) momories of it. Especially when sports acitivities and music and social life takes over spending time with parents it is a very important moment in the day. Two friends (ESther ! & Alva tha!) gave me a good tip, we do ‘date night’ if possible once a week or every forthnight where me and my partner go out locally for dinner and sit down for a quiet meal.
Why not have dinner with kids if possible and when they are in bed, have (another) glass of wine with your husband to talk and wind down!
Kim

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