Even before I had kids, I knew family dinner was something I wanted for my imaginary brood of children. I imagined nights filled with food and laughter and sharing about our days. While some family dinners do fit this picture, most nights do not (reality check). We had such a night recently in our home.
Everything went wrong.
We were making roast and veggies with rice and it started out smooth, until the Instant Pot exploded, gravy everywhere! Gravy on the ceiling, the floor, the walls, the doors, truly everywhere. This was due to human error. Please don’t throw out your Instant Pots, they are lifesavers. I under-cooked the rice, the dog was barking loudly at us through the back door the entire time, and the kids were acting chaotic, mostly in response to the chaos going on around them. I tried to press on with our normal routine, but it was all for naught, too much chaos, too much distraction. The kids scarfed down there now dry roast with no rice or gravy and exited quickly. I tried to ask them about their days but between the dog barking, my husband cleaning gravy from the ceiling and their hysteric fits of laughter, I didn’t get anything out of them.
I let them leave and dumped the rice into the garbage and continued to help my husband clean up our family dinner disaster. I was feeling a little down, why does it always seem chaotic? Why can’t we have a nice dinner? Why doesn’t anybody care about this important family ritual? A little self pity for ya. My husband, not knowing my thoughts, turned to me and said with a smile, “our family dinners do not look like the ones on TV, huh?” This made me laugh and his words struck me too, “our family.” This is our family and our story, not a made for TV special. I began to think about the things I hope my kids remember in these moments and ways I can point them to the positive even when it all goes wrong.
When dinner is a disaster, I hope they remember that we tried, most nights, to have a hot meal on the table for them. I hope they remember we asked them about their day and tried to connect with each one of them. I hope they remember being together, as a family. I hope they remember my husband and I laughing through the chaos and helping each other make it all work.
The morning routine can sometimes be a mess–we’ve all been there. The days when we spend more time annoyed and frustrated that they cannot find their shoes, brush their teeth or get moving on time. I am definitely guilty of fussing at them to hurry up and get in the car. Some mornings leave us feeling downright mad at each other. But, what I hope they remember, no matter how frustrated we got with one another, I always said goodbye, and I love you with a kiss and hug as they exited the car. I hope they remember that I got up with them, day after day, making sure they had a clean shirt, packed lunch and completed homework. I hope they remember that no matter how bad things may have been in the morning, I was always there to pick them up in the afternoon.
Homework, the dreaded homework routine. Some nights it goes smoothly and gets done in a timely manner. Other nights….What I hope they remember is that we cared about their education. I hope they remember that we celebrated in their educational triumphs and victories, and pushed them to never quit when they struggled. I hope they remember that we were there, consistently, night after night, walking the long road, pushing them to do their personal best.
Sometimes I forget things, I wake up late and make us all late to school, the house is a mess or I lose my temper. The list could go on and on. I am not so idealistic to think that my kids will never remember a bad moment or the times when we all failed and struggled. But, I do hope they remember that I apologized and asked for forgiveness when it all went wrong. I hope they remember that I forgave them, and did not expect perfection. Because we are imperfect people raising imperfect kids.