So, I was feeling a little guilty the other day for how many dinners my kids eat in the car. Mostly, this happens on dance class nights; I pack an after-school snack and a “snack dinner” for each kid.They sit in the back with their lunchboxes, and I drive. (Or Conor does.)
They both end up doing their homework in the car, too. We have a “homework box” with paper, pencils, pencil sharpener, glue stick, scissors, etc.
Anyway, I was thinking, isn’t that lame? I mean, family dinners are supposed to be around the table. And we’re all supposed to be there. And eat together.
But then I thought about it a bit more, and I realized that the dinners in the car are great. I just hadn’t thought it through.
For one thing, while I think snack dinners would get boring, the kids love them. Sometimes I wonder, “Who would want to eat turkey, a roll, and sliced vegetables for the three hundredth time?” But then I remember that the answer to this question is “Mary and Wesley.” They are totally happy to eat the same thing over and over again, and they’re willing to eat healthfully as long as I pack healthfully. It seems boring to me, especially because I prefer my food hot, but they eat well and they’re happy, so who cares?
More importantly, though, I have also realized that the lack of a table doesn’t matter: they tell me about their day, have conversations with each other, and generally do all of the things that a family is “supposed” to do during dinnertime.
Sometimes I ask them to relate the best part and the worst part of their day (Wesley’s “best” part is usually the food he’s eating).
Sometimes we talk about what they learned in school. Or they discuss a movie or a book they like. Or we talk about their homework or their friends or what we’re going to do this summer.
The best part is, I’m driving. I’m not feeling like I need to be putting in a load of laundry or grading a paper. Driving means that I can have a conversation, but I can’t do anything else. So I’m not distracted from what they have to say (unless, for example, someone cuts us off on the highway–but then we can talk about safe driving or good manners or the appropriate–and inappropriate–use of curse words).
So I don’t feel guilty about it anymore. It’s nicer on Fridays when all four of us are in the car, instead of just one parent, but in any case, it’s a family dinner. It counts.