Five Nights a Week
I sometimes start to think success in parenting is about doing something big. Maybe a huge vacation to a memorable destination, an expensive gift or even pulling off a surprise for my kids that they’ll never forget.
In light of that thinking, it’s funny how the simplest things can produce the best results.
Heading into March of this year, we were having dinner together maybe twice a week. We allowed the hectic schedules to take over and dinner turned into everyone eating what they want whenever they had time.
Then the pandemic hit. As quarantine became our way of life, my wife and I saw an opportunity to hit the reset button in our family. Our schedules were wiped clean, so we made a choice to eat dinner together at least five times a week.
The initial response was predictable.
“I don’t want chicken, so I’ll make a hot pocket!”
Of course mom responded with, “No, we are eating together!”
“This is dumb, we never do this!”
Nevertheless we persisted! We ended up picking our battles, showing grace, letting them choose some meals, and eventually each person in our family of five would be assigned a night where they had to prepare dinner (an idea we got from TheSource4Parents.com). Mom would do the shopping (something about how I spend a lot more when I go…) and we would make the dinner of our choosing.
Many nights dinner lasted less than fifteen minutes, and the conversation was nothing noteworthy.
“I actually got dressed today.”
“I haven’t showered in three days.”
“I was on FaceTime for three hours with my friends!”
There were moments where we realized this was good, but as a whole it was just a nice routine for our family. As summer came, people started to normalize gathering and our schedules started to slowly become filled with activities.
We made the decision that no matter what, we’d keep doing dinner together at least five nights a week.
And then at the end of one random seemingly-normal day. . .we had the closest thing to a perfect night that I can remember.
We sat outside talking as Mom finished grilling the hamburgers she chose for her meal. Everyone seemed fairly relaxed, and nobody was in a hurry to leave.
The meal started with the normal sharing about our days.
“I can’t believe they canceled camp!”
“I went on a bike ride with a couple of my friends today.”
“These burgers are fantastic!”
I don’t recall the exact moment things shifted, but suddenly we were having a conversation that I didn’t see coming. My sixteen year old declared,
“It’s not that I think dating is bad, I just wonder if it’s worth the time as a teenager.”
I remember thinking “don’t mess this up!”
My oldest daughter chimed in, “It’s not. But it’s also interesting how your friendships change so much during junior high and high school.”
Our youngest teenage daughter added, “that’s why I’m just trying to make good memories and try to grow in my faith.”
We ended up talking about what it means to make your teenage years count, and how to walk with Jesus through it all. It lasted about thirty magical minutes.
Somehow on a random Tuesday night in June, we had a night that I will remember for a long time. My girls might not think much about it, but for their parents this was the payoff.
I remember hearing Jonathan McKee say something in one of his books about how the key to quality time is quantity time. You just never know when it’s gonna happen.
Through the quickly consumed meals, the snarky sister comments, the moody parents and more – these seemingly insignificant nights led to a night that made it all worthwhile.
Before we know it, our girls will be moved out and it will just be my wife and I, so until then we are going to keep having quantity time hoping for more quality time moments. Whether we are too busy, annoyed with our children or just not feeling it, we are going to keep having dinner together – no matter what.
Rob Chagdes is one of the pastors at Prairie Lakes Church in northern Iowa. In the years since he met Jesus as a sixteen year old, Rob has spent his life working to raise up the next generation to love God and invite others into His unending story. He spends most of his free time with his wife Leslie, their three amazing daughters, and their energetic dog Jedi. You can reach Rob at firstname.lastname@example.org