After doing this parenting gig for almost 13 years, there were two big areas where I was pretty much a dismal failure, at least according to the currently accepted wisdom. I was utter crap at bedtime and family meals.
I’m a co-sleeper from way back, and with the exception of when I just had Jessie, I never had one of those routines that involved putting the kids to bed and then going about my day. I had kids in my bed all the time, and kids who thrived on a lot of nighttime parenting.
Then we got bunk beds. Suddenly, I have this really traditional EASY bedtime routine, involving putting them bed. I just put them to bed. Julie falls asleep on her own every night and sleeps in her own bed. Sam is a little more high maintenance still (last night, he couldn’t fall asleep and conked out in my bed). Jessie crawls into her bed and reads or watches netflix on the top bunk.
The other big change this summer is family dinner. When I was home full time, dinner was my break. When everyone was occupied with food and a kindle or a book – it was my downtime. I’ve always preferred to read while eating – and because we were together all the live long day, I never felt this need to force family togetherness around the dinner table. My dining room table was mostly covered with bags and papers and mail and books anyway – so I just them them eat wherever.
I always felt a little bit guilty about it – after all, family dinner is supposed to be this magical panacea, able to guarantee straight A students who never drink alcohol or experiment with drugs. But not guilty enough to clean off the table.
Then I started working – and miss, miss, missed the kids. I missed that time with them, with all three of them, and decided to start making everyone sit at the table to eat. I didn’t want that quiet time with a book (okay, I did, I really, really did, but wanted the kid time more.
We’ve sat at the table for dinner every day for the past week. We laid ground rules – one that was critical for me was that you do not ever come to the dinner table if you can’t be nice. Crabby or grumpy or just needing space – it’s totally okay to say “I’m really not in the mood to be at the table…” and they can go eat wherever. Everyone’s got baggage, and one of my my issues is a massive aversion to being trapped at the table with people who are fighting or miserable. With three kids, the potential is there for one kid to be in a bad mood and take it out on everyone – so I’d much rather they opt out rather than spew it out on everyone. Thankfully, that’s only happened once, where I had to send a kid away from the table. Mostly, everyone just sits at the table and we talk and chat and hang out.
My family looks very different from the way it looked three months ago. Mama out of the house working, Daddy with a flexible and less demanding schedule, kids sleeping in their own beds, and family dinner every night.