As I mentioned in a recent post, there are many parenting choices that we all make. I think that we all probably have one or two parenting things that we're very determined about. This might be something basic like never smacking, or something coming from underlying principles, such as bringing a family up vegan, using reusable nappies or never (or only) considering private school. There are things that we think we're going to be determined about before giving birth (one of mine was no TV - hah!), until reality kicks in. And there are some that we end up sticking with, despite setbacks and suggestions/advice to the contrary.
One of ours is eating together. We started right from the moment Rosemary was remotely considering food - and, I have to say, it's a lot easier to manage if you're going with baby-led weaning, rather than spoon-feeding purees. At first she sat on our laps, while we ate, occassionally trying a carrot or bit of brocolli from our plates. Then she moved into her high chair and was presented with a selection of things to try - the same things we were eating. The dog got much of it - he put on a lot of weight when Rosemary was first discovering food. After a while, she moved into a booster seat and started using cutlery and keeping food on her plate (for the most part - she still sometimes puts food she doesn't want on the table or experiments with mixing her food and juice). More recently, she just sits or kneels on an ordinary chair and, mostly, eats with fork and spoon, even cutting up her own food. All this has been done at the same table as us, eating (dinner) at the same time as us and eating the same food as us.
We've had to bring dinner time forwards, gradually. At first, she was eating with us at our normal mealtime, between 8 and 9. Then it got earlier so we could fit in a longer bedtime routine. Then it got even earlier, because she was going to bed at a 'normal' child time. These days we eat between 5pm and 5.30pm, occasionally as late as 6pm. This is not our ideal mealtime. We both prefer a later dinner and often end up nibbling on things in the evening, anyway. And lately Rosemary seems to need more sleep, often falling asleep in the afternoon, or very soon after dinner. Last night, in fact, she fell asleep five minutes before dinner. She did polish the whole thing off for breakfast. She can be so tired that she hardly touches her dinner, or plays with it and gets down from the table and runs around. On the very rare occasions when she's allowed to eat in the living room (she now has a little table and chair in there), in front of the TV, she seems to eat much more (this is not something I want to turn into a habit!).
So, I wonder sometimes whether we're wrong to make such a big thing out of eating together, or whether we should do it at lunchtime instead and just let her have a light tea in the afternoon and an even earlier bedtime. I know we're very lucky to have the opportunity to eat together. In these days of long hours at work and commuting, having both of us here to start cooking at 4pm and sit down to eat as early as 5pm, is a real luxury. I always feel sorry for friends who don't get home from work until 7pm and just about manage to squeeze in a bath and bedtime story, if that, so giving that up, even for a few years would just seem wrong. Other friends miss out on it during the week, but make a big thing of family dinners at the weekend, perhaps enjoying it more because it's not an everyday occurrence.
Or, should we perhaps encourage an afternoon nap and go back to a later evening meal, all together? When I lived in Spain as a child, we'd have a two-hour siesta in the middle of the day (as I recall, we went home from school at lunchtime to do so and then went back again for a couple of hours after, though my memory may be faulty) and I would stay up and eat with my parents, often as late as 8.30pm 9pm. So maybe aiming for a more continental routine would work better for us. I certainly enjoy having an afternoon nap (sorry, siesta!) when I can fit it in these days!
So... what do you do? Would you prefer to do something different, but can't due to work? Have you found a good balance that you're all happy with? Do you just do whatever needs to be done to get something resembling nutrition into your children?