We’ve all heard it – the advice given to us by the “older and wiser” folks who have already gone through parenting little ones. Sometimes they offer good advice, and other times, well … not so much. Fortunately, I’ve been lucky in that most of the advice I’ve received from others has really provided me with great insight. Topics such as breastfeeding, formula feeding, temper tantrums and internet usage are all things that have made their way into conversations with my older counterparts. I’ve welcomed the information and insight and used others’ opinions to help create my personal parenting style. All but that one piece of advice I received before I even had kids.
And before I share what that advice is, please know this. This is a story about our family, and the tradition that we hold dear. I am willing to bet your house looks different, and those differences are what make the world go round.
The Couples Retreat
You know those couple retreats that many people are required to attend before getting married? Yes, you know the ones. They are given by couples who have been married for a number of years and are there to help you work through topics that you may not yet have discussed. Believe it or not, THAT is where I received the worst parenting advice ever. At least in my opinion.
My husband (then fiancé) and I attended our obligatory retreat about six months before our wedding. One of the group discussions required each person to share a tradition or important event that they would like to incorporate into their family. As we went around the circle, each person shared their idea and received feedback from the “mentor couple.” When it was my husband’s turn, he said that he wants to be sure our family has dinner at the table together each night. That doesn’t sound very hard, right? WRONG! (at least according to the mentor couple).
The mentor husband of our group proceeded to tell my husband why that idea would never work and that he was naïve to think it would happen. He went on to say that once our children are in school and have extracurricular activities and homework, dinner will be an afterthought. According to our wise mentors, there was no way dinner would be together as a family every night, and my husband should give up on that now. WHAT? Both my husband and I were completely dumbfounded. We couldn’t believe that something so simple would be so difficult and frankly, his complete dismissal of the idea made us really angry. Needless to say, that discussion has remained in our minds for years.
Fast forward 13 years and 2 kids later. Guess what? We have made dinner together as a family a priority, and it actually happens! I’m not going to say that it happens every single night of every single day of the year, but I will say that it happens the majority of those nights. Yes, there are extracurricular activities, homework and a revolving door of friends in and out of the house, but we still make it work. We sit down together at the table all at the same time and have dinner. It may be at 6:30 on Mondays and 8:00 on Tuesdays, but we still do it.
I’m not sure if it was my husband’s commitment to making this tradition happen or the mere idea of proving our “mentor couple” wrong, but I am thankful that this tradition is a part of my family. It is a tradition that I look forward to at the end of each and every day.
Come to think of it, maybe I really did learn something at that retreat after all. I learned that I need to invite our mentor couple over to dinner one night.