I have always been a disorganised parent. I remember my first baby, just a few months old, getting inconsolably cranky and I couldn’t figure out why. “Well, is it past his naptime?” somebody asked me, and I was like, wait: naps have a time?
I’ve gotten better about many things, but a general sense of chaos still reigns. These days, my husband and I are home all day with three children who mostly fend for themselves while we work. After we’re done for the day, we have the same difficulty with turning off and relaxing that I’m guessing many of us are dealing with right now. A family dinner would be a great way for us all to reconnect, but for various dietary and time management reasons, it’s not a given that everybody will sit down at the same time to eat the same thing.
Another alternative is a late-night family snack, but what turned out to work best for us was to disconnect our time of togetherness from any particular foodstuff. Instead, we declared the 10 minutes between 5:50 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. to be “family time.”
The rules of family time are simple:
Everybody reports to the living room.
Everybody puts down their phones or video games.
Everybody has a chance to share one thing.
Your “thing” might be telling us about something you did that day or sharing a thought that’s been on your mind. My youngest likes to name a toy she wants for her (far-off) birthday. Sometimes my oldest tells a joke or regales us with the newest animal fact he’s learned on YouTube. My husband has been providing updates on the sickly tree in the yard that he’s nursing back to health.
We’ve been logging daily family time consistently for over a month, and it lasts because the kids love it. An alarm goes off every day at 5:50, and they round us all up and then enjoy fighting each other for prime seats on the couch as they bask in the glow of everybody paying attention to them (and each other) for 10 whole minutes.
When I put it that way, it seems silly. The tiniest of hacks. But they love it, and I appreciate the punctuation at the end of the workday, and I almost feel like a parent who has their shit together.
Sometimes we all even manage to have dinner together afterward.