Thursday, January 7, 2010

Friday Night Dinners

At our house we don't cook on Fridays ... and we never have. When Grams was working full time, by the time I got off work on Friday evening, I was usually fried. I just wanted a glass of wine and a chance to sit in a stupor and stare into space. Grandad was pretty much the same.

When we were raising kids, Friday nights were always busy. We would rush home from work, change clothes and head to the gym for a basketball game, to the stadium for a football game or track meet, or the soccer, baseball or kickball field. It was always some kind of season for one or the other of our kids. Often we just ate whatever was convenient.

Any Friday night when we weren't already occupied, we either went out to dinner ... often to McDonald's or Taco Bell because that's what we could afford ... or we would stop at the deli counter and buy cold cuts, cheese and crackers. Our kids particularly enjoyed these deli dinners because we would either take them to the park for a picnic or we would have a picnic in the living room.

The kids loved it when we had a picnic in the living room. I would take out a big quilt and spread it on the floor in front of the fireplace. Ham, turkey and cheese were cut into cracker-sized pieces and stacked on a plate which we all shared. We included baby carrots, pickles, and olives. Grandad and I would split a bottle of wine while the kids had Kool-aid or sparkling grape juice. We would rent a movie and watch it while we lounged over our dinner. These living room picnics are among our favorite memories. They kids still talk about them.

Grams and Grandad realized early the importance of a family dinner. We were very strict about dinners. Every day of the week except Friday, we sat down together as a family for dinner, always beginning our meal with grace. We were not flexible on dinner. Everyone came to the table and ate together every day of the week except Friday. The kids were never allowed to make their plates and sit in front of the television. Everyone sat at the table.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reports that teens who don't have regular family dinners are more likely to abuse drugs. Girls who have regular family dinners are less likely to develop unhealthy eating habits including anorexia. They also report that parents who sit down for meals with their children on a regular basis are more connected with them and more involved with what is happening in their lives.

We were fortunate that we didn't have any major problems with either of our kids when they were teens. Neither of them gave us any big problems like drug abuse or running away. I always say that our kids were too busy to get into trouble. But, if these family dinners were part of the reason -- we got lucky. All I can say is "Who Knew?" I certainly had no idea that these were the possible effects of family dinners. I just knew it was important to slow down for a few minutes and spend a little time with each other.

I'm happy to report that our daughter started the tradition of daily family dinners with our little princess as soon as she could sit up in the high chair.

As our lives have evolved, so have our Friday night dinners. Now that we're empty nesters, we have a new Friday night tradition. Friday night is strictly reserved for dinner out with Grandad. Our Friday night dinners together are sacred. We don't make separate plans for Friday nights. Exceptions are extremely rare.

We have a group of neighbors who often join us. We've come to call ourselves the Friday Night Dinner Club. It's a very casual group. There are three couples who form the core group. One couple in their 40's, one in their 60's and Grandad and I are in our 50's. Since she moved into our neighborhood, Grandad's mother joins us every week and there are a few other couples and singles who sort of drift in and out of the group. It's very loosely defined, and it's a lot of fun. We have been known to drive up the coast 45 minutes to Rockport or go out to Padre Island for seafood. We take turns deciding where to go and our choices vary widely. The best thing about the Friday Night Dinner Club is how much fun we have. It's a great chance for neighbors to spend some time together and unwind at the end of the week.

This group of neighbors has proven to be a great support group. We share each other's lives and challenges. We laugh together and cry for each other. The 30+ year span of our ages is valuable. We are able to give each other advice and perspective from a variety of viewpoints. The Friday Night Dinner Club is a big part of the reason Grams Made It.

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