Sprint or Marathon

29 May

I get it.  As a busy single mom working outside the home, I am the head of my household.  I am stretched pretty thin.  Time is probably my most crucial asset right now.  And like other single parents, that asset is precious, elusive, and running low.  My desire to live a healthy lifestyle is in constant battle with time.  The effort to sit down for a family dinner every night, while a worthwhile goal, may be fleeting.  Given these constraints, how am I supposed to put a healthy home made meal on the dinner table every night?  This question, my conundrum, is deeply tied to time.  Or rather, lack of it.

Ronald Reagan, a prominent figure in American history, said “All great change in America begins at the dinner table”.  This quote is on the title page of my book “The Toddlers Kitchen”, and I use it here as well because it speaks volumes.  Family dinners are proven to have a positive impact on the family unit, whatever that family unit encompasses.  Consider the following statistics.

Your child may be 35% less likely to engage in disordered eating, 24% more likely to eat healthier foods and 12% less likely to be overweight (Hammons & Fiese, 2011).  All three of these statistics are attached to one family ritual-shared mealtimes. Wow!  That is  a big thing.  Huge in fact.  Shared mealtimes have a measurable positive impact on a family.  Given that, why not have daily family meals?  Time, of course.  But the positive impact of family meals is simply too monumental to let slide.  It is too important to the well being of our family to disregard.

Being a runner, I began to think about it like this: Is the ability to have a family dinner most nights a sprint or a marathon? It depends on how you look at it, but I think it is both.  Let me explain.  This may take a minute.  Sit back and let’s chat.   Oh yes, that’s right. You can’t. No time.  So we will quickly discuss.

I pondered this point tonight as I came dashing thru the door from work after 6 p.m.  I was up a t 5:15 this morning, went to the gym, made lunches, got the kids out the door and was at work before 8:15 a.m..  And I stopped for gas on the way to work.  The last thing I wanted to do after work was go to the kitchen and figure out what to make for dinner.  But I did it anyway because I wanted my family around me and a forum in which to discuss our day. I, like my children, was craving togetherness, fellowship, and personal interaction with my family.

Heading into the kitchen, I started water for cooking pasta, grabbed shrimp and frozen vegetables out of the freezer, began making a pasta sauce, and chatted with my family.  And therein lies the benefit of warm interaction and growing the family relationship.  Sharing the commonality and experiences of the day is a way to be expressive, experience acceptance, and understand the safety of unconditional love.  Those above cited statistics pertained to the children, but the benefit of a family dinner to a parent is joyful.  Affirming and positive energy flows in these casual moments in which to exchange happenings of the day, share simple school gossip, review homework, and discuss the challenges of the current or following day.

Family meals are a sprint like tonight.  I came in from work and it was a race to get a family meal on the table to share.  Family meals are a marathon because the benefits of family meals are crucial to longterm family health, and wonderfully dynamic.  There is a pleasure in both he sprint and the marathon, benefits of both, and appreciation of mastering both the sprint and the marathon.

So turn that TV off, put all phones away (there is a “phone bowl” in my kitchen.  We eat in the dining room.  All people present for meals must put their phone in the bowl during meals so that all  may interact with those at the meal), turn some music on, and enjoy one another.  Talk about your day, practice good manners, and most of all, laugh.  Interact.  Grow relationships.  Because after all, the entire body benefits from sprinting and a marathon.  Even busy single moms and their kids.



One Response to “Sprint or Marathon”

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