Let’s be realistic; in today’s insanely busy world, there isn’t always time to sit down for a nice dinner together. Sometimes there isn’t even time to sit down at all. And as more of us forge our “families” out of friends rather than biological relatives, the standard “gather your family around the table for dinner every single night” sometimes seems like an outdated — or too-limited — goal.
But as the young people today say: No worries! There’s a reason that “breaking bread together” has been a ritual of connection for as long as mankind’s been around—sitting down and eating in a group brings us closer to one another — even if you’re carb-free and no bread is involved! A little magic happens when people share a meal, no matter who they are and what’s on the table. So however you define family and the (gluten-free) bread you break, you can do it, and it will make you happier.
It doesn’t have to be every day. And it doesn’t even have to be dinner. Few of us with busy lives can have a relaxed sit-down family meal every single night. Don’t let the world (or the Internet!) tell you that’s the only way it counts. Do it once a week (read this story of a weekly community meal), if that’s all you can manage. Do a Saturday brunch if dinners are impossible. There are no rules; do what works for you!
Make your own rules and rituals. We hear that in some families they play the “how was your day” game when they sit down for a meal—they go around the table and each person shares one challenging thing that happened, one great thing that happened, and one funny thing that happened that day. If you play it right, you’ll constantly be surprised — and touched — by what everyone shares. It only takes about five minutes or less so try it, or come up with your own routine.
Cook together, if you can. Maybe the only thing better than eating together is cooking together. Do a big shop (extra credit if it’s healthy ingredients you’re working with), put on some great music, and see what happens!
Set a cool and happy table. Have something on your tabletop that just makes you happy to look at. Whether it’s fun napkins or plates you love or a serving bowl passed down for generations—it doesn’t matter what it is, just that you associate it with eating together and feeling happy.
Love the one you’re (eating) with. Are you eating leftovers in your van between school and soccer practice? Ordering takeout (again) because you’re just too overwhelmed to cook? That’s fine. It happens. Make a point of engaging with who(m)ever you’re eating with, and whatever and wherever you’re eating. Be grateful for the food you’re eating and the people you’re sharing it with. Family dinner is wherever you make it.