Family meal time.
It’s something that is not as common as it used to be. With most families having two working parents, children in school and involved in a handful of extracurricular activities, it is easy to see why this is becoming a lost tradition.
I was asked to review the new book, The Hour the Matters Most: The Surprising Power of the Family Meal authored by Les & Leslie Parrott with Stephanie Allen and Tina Kuna. Les and Leslie Parrott are authors of the book, Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts, along with many others. Stephanie Allen and Tina Kuna are the co-founders of Dream Dinners, a company that allows you to prepare make ahead freezer meals for busy families on the go at their numerous locations.
The book is well written and is a very quick and easy read. The authors discuss the merits of a family meal time and why it should be a priority in every family. Of course we all know that having a family meal is important, but do we all know why it is so important? The book was very well researched citing numerous statistics and research findings. One that struck me to the core was this:
…study after study shows that the more often families eat together, the less likely the kids are to smoke, drink, do drugs, get depressed, develop eating disorders, become overweight, and consider suicide—and the more likely they are to eat their vegetables, know which fork to use, learn big words, do well in school, feel that their parents love them, and delay having sex.
Seriously? What could be more convincing? That pretty much sums up the tremendous value of a family meal time. I could have stopped reading the book right there--that was all the convincing I needed! However, I did agree to review the book, so I thought it only fair to read it in its entirety.
A family meal time doesn’t guarantee that you won’t encounter any of these challenges as your children grow older, but it does show that if children are given a solid foundation at home, the less likely
The authors also discuss the art of conversation and how to engage your children in discussions that will actually have them participate. Of course, this is something I have yet to encounter, as our little Peanut is only three, but is something good to remember as she starts to get a little older. For now though, she is still our little chatterbox!
I found the book to be a real delight as it had so many interesting little tid bits and facts surrounding meal time, conversation making, and family values. There is even a chapter focused on manners and etiquette at the dinner table. Did you know that the salt and pepper should always be passed together? They are not to separate! Although nowhere near perfect, I consider myself to be fairly polite, but I never knew that! I’ve certainly made a mental note of it now!
In addition, the book includes a dozen recipes and they each include a color photo. We all know I have a weakness for great recipes. I look forward to trying most of them out--and the sooner, the better!
I also appreciate the last chapter, with advice for the reader on starting a fix and freeze it group. It may not seem like a hard thing to start, however Stephanie and Tina break it down into several steps that make the task seem very manageable and easy to accomplish. While we are not at the stage where our Peanut is involved in a myriad of activities, I know I will be using these tips in the future as she becomes more socially active.
Last, I really like the analogy the authors use about prioritizing family meal time. You’ve probably heard the story about the presenter who fills a gallon size jar up to the top with large rocks. He asks the crowd if the jar is full. Most say yes, but he then he pulls out some gravel and starts filling in the spaces with gravel. He asks again if it is full. Most have started to catch on at that point. The presenter then starts filling in the smaller holes in the jar with sand and finally fills up the remaining space in the jar with nearly a quart of water. The moral of the story is not that you can always fit more in, but rather had you started filling the jar with the sand or water; you would have never fit in the big rocks.
Family meal time needs to be a big rock.
Well, you know what I mean. This is the attitude we need to have about family meal time. Often times, a family meal is an afterthought, something that is squeezed in if and when it works. But rather a family meal needs to be a top priority. If it is a permanent fixture in your family’s schedule, then everything else should fall into place around that.
Of course, it may not always look the same during the different seasons in your family’s life. Maybe a family breakfast is what works for your family. This is often the case at our house. Being in the restaurant industry, about three quarters of the shifts that Hubs works, he works late. But when he works late, he is home in the mornings and we always eat breakfast together. Instead of us recapping at the end of the day like most families, we recap at the start of the morning. Hopefully this won’t always be the case, but for now, it works. And it works well.
If you get the chance, I encourage you to pick up copy of The Hour the Matters Most: The Surprising Power of the Family Meal. If a family meal is something you desire for your home, this may be a great first step.
Disclosure: I was given a copy of this book to facilitate this review. The opinions expressed in this post are solely my own.