Parent Fail: Dinnertime

Our lives are busy. My husband owns and runs a small market garden (have I mentioned that once or a dozen times? ) about forty minutes away from our home. I work with him, and average close to 40 ours a week, about 8 to 10 hours less than he does. My daughter, Dorothy, goes to school about ten minutes from the house, and she does her own full day. Five days a week and half of Saturday, during farmers’ market season, we’re busy, in a variety of combinations – sometimes all three of us, at markets, at the farm, and sometimes split apart from each other.

Dorothy’s at that age, late elementary school, where she has lots to say,
sprinkled with plenty of opinions. Add to that a deep creative nature, and a
love for starting projects (maybe not finishing projects, but definitely
starting projects), and this is a kid who can always find something for us to
do. This ranges from walks in the neighborhood, to writing books together (both short and long fiction), to reading together. Somewhere in that, we sandwich in real life living – like making lunches, and getting bedtime showers – for good measure and good hygiene. She’s still allowing me to put her to bed, and while I’m TOAST by 8pm (Tired, Overwhelmed, And Sleepy, Thanks), I’m not letting go of bedtime until she kicks me out.

The last special ingredient thrown into the busy mix? Shared custody. This is the hardest piece. As if childhood doesn’t speed away of its own accord, her dad and I share our time with her, so she’s not always home with me. Losing time with your child, whether through custody, demanding work, unusual living situations, whatever the reason, focuses a bright, lone spotlight on the time you have. Don’t miss it, the spotlight reminds you. This is what you have, right here. We gave you this circle to highlight it. Don’t wander off. Don’t lose it.

When work and school are done, we live our time together intensely, together constantly throughout the afternoon and evening. By the time I’ve made dinner, my brain needs a little quiet. Dorothy’s brain needs a little quiet. And as Jim, the newest member of our team, gets accustomed to the constant-chatting around here, he definitely needs quiet.

This is how we (I’m about to admit this on the actual internet) end up eating dinner, as a family, in front of the television most nights.


We have one TV in our home, in our living room, and honestly, we don’t watch much beyond this forty-two minutes each evening. But at dinner, as the exhaustion of the day settles over all of us, the words slow down, and we move a little carelessly, TV-dinner begins.

We put a picnic blanket on the ottoman (“setting the table”), send one person out to guard the food from the dogs, and then the other two run back and forth bringing out all three plates, plus drinks, silverware, napkins, the whole shebang.

I want to be embarrassed about this dinner situation, but I’m not. Well, I’m a little embarrassed. But not enough to stop.

I don’t want to be embarrassed anymore. It’s not a family around the dinner table, sharing their stories about the day, relaying what was a “glad” and a “sad.” Y’all, we did all that. Earlier. On the drive home. On the thirty minute walk. While making dinner. While taking dogs out, organizing lunches, changing into pajamas. We’ll do it more, during bedtime. Now we just want to eat our dinner while laughing about these here spies. Let us live.

My job, I’m realizing, is to embrace it. When we look back, we’ll say – well, honestly, I have no idea. I hope its good. What I believe is happening and what will prove to be the truth for Dorothy, Jim, or myself is still a mystery.
Right now, I know it feels fun. It feels connected, and sweet, with lots of silliness and lively conversation (“would you think it was a good idea to walk out on that tiny platform hanging a thousand feet above the sidewalk? No, I did not think so.”).

When I live in the world of what I think this family-life we’re making is supposed to look like, I feel like such a flop. When I relax into how it feels to me, and the way the two people I love most are responding- I think, thank you God, for all Your many blessings. Or in the world of hashtags: #crushingit.

So this eating on the sofa, watching a silly, big-hearted TV show from a
decade ago, all of us snuggled up together? I am A-OK with it. I’m not making peace, but opening my arms, and bear-hugging it. Thank you for the fact, my 11-year-old, my new husband, and I are all enjoying one another so well like this. Help me, Lord, to let go of the (made up, in my head, perceived) opinions of others, and just be in this sweet, sweet spot. Help me see what I have. Help me find rest and recovery with these two, these dogs (who are terrible ruckus unto themselves) and this funny, thoughtful, underrated spy show. And I’m reminding myself, let us live, girl.

Am I alone in this? Do you have a family fail that still totally or mostly works for you and yours? I’d love to hear what they are below. 

Published by Ms E

This is a place for new beginnings. Because new is not easy and beginning is hard. So here we tackle it the same way we eat the elephant... Wife, mother, writer, eater, cooker, farmer, daughter, home-owner, dog-carer, reader, professional list-maker. Part-time worrier. Full-time believer.

2 thoughts on “Parent Fail: Dinnertime

  1. YES! our “family fail “bbn in the eyes of the world is … drum roll, please…FAMILY DINNER! We have busy teens. We have 4 members in our family. We have four different tastes. we have a daughter who is owning her own health and trying new nutrition concepts to see what works for her. We have a son who prides himself on making macaroni and cheese, brownies, and vanilla milk. We have a Father who embraces our uniqueness because He put it in us. And, I am working on embracing it too while saying to the world, “this is what brings us together: no pressure meals.” Our family connects in so many other ways. I live that you do family dinners differently. Your family found the connections in other ways. Beautiful ways.

    Liked by 2 people

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