TIMING: Ed and I communicate on when he thinks he will be home that evening. Sometimes he runs late becuase of his commute and that means from time to time that we have to eat without him. But most nights he is able to give me a rough estimate and I use this to begin planning.
FLEXIBILITY: If our dinner hour is going to be normal then we go about our afternoon like normal. But if I know he is going to be later ...then I organize our late afternoon activities and snacks so that this hard time between naps and dinner goes as smooth as possible. Moving snack later and going on an outing like the library or the park helps.
FIRM: I am NOT a short order cook. I make one meal and that is what we will all eat - if we choose. AS THE ADULT I believe my job is to decide:
What food is offered.
When the food is offered.
Where it will be eaten.
And my boys can go from there and decide:
If they will eat.
What they will eat.
How much they will eat.
However, because I don't make my boys something different than the main meal, I do make sure that within the meal presented there is something that I know they like...whether it be the maindish or a side dish. If I am making something new and "scary" then I make sure to provide at least one side dish that is safe and "not scary". Last night my boys ate a TON of cantelope and not too much of the main dish...which was fine with me.
Fun: Talk, laugh, and enjoy the time together. Ask about your days - Peeks and Valleys or favorite parts. Teach your children to talk among themselves while mommy and daddy talk about something "adult". Pick a topic to discuss like summer fun, sports, their favorite toy, dream vacations. Talk about worries or use the time to go over safety information...fire drills, answering the phone, stranger danger. Enjoy the quiet and let your children be a little silly or lead the conversation. Have everyone come to the table with a fact to share or a joke to tell (decide the night before so there is time to prepare). Take turns saying prayer or go around and give thanks. Eat out on the picnic table or on a blanket in your yard.
A little thought can make things flow and make this time of your day the best! Does it have to happen EVERY night- Nope! But in our house, we make an effort and we are starting early so that it is an expectation when the nights roll around when the boys are older - making their own plans and having their own commitments. I figure, if we make it a habit and we make it fun - then it will be something they don't want to miss.
This is linked to Tuesday's Unwrapped and 30 Minute Blog Challenge.