So often I hear parents talk about their kids’ crazy schedules. One has soccer straight after school and then they have to rush them home and take the other to dance. Weekends are spent driving 5 hours to games. And then the family eats in shifts or on the go. The husband comes in from work and eats his late dinner alone.
But never did I think this would happen to us. We recently found ourselves in this predicament. Up until 2 months ago, dinner time has been fixed in our house and it is the time we all catch up on the day. And I get the praise I need, to inspire me to keep creating delicious meals for the family. Yes, I cook for the applause.
But my daughter recently started high school and auditioned for the school play. She is passionate about theater, so we were initially supportive and very proud of her. But, what we didn’t realize, was that for the next two months, our home would be turned upside down.
We live quite a distance from the school, and that added to the Los Angeles rush hour traffic meant that it would take 2 hours to get her to rehearsals and return home, and between 1-2 hours to fetch her late at night. And this was 7 days a week.
Saul often jokes that I get hangry (angry when hungry) so I would eat before I would drop her off. Then Saul would come home and have dinner, while I was stuck in freeway traffic. And Jade would finally eat late at night when she got home. Count them… THREE separate, staggered dinners instead of our one dinner. And let me tell you, I finally understood why some moms hate cooking lavish, gourmet feasts.
Who wants to slave away at the stove only to have your meal reheated multiple times and eaten when you are not even there to receive the praise? Not me. I am cooking for the kudos. No shame in that. It’s what makes all the chopping, prepping, and cleaning worthwhile.
And then as we got closer to the play, Jade would need to have a full day worth of snacks provided. And I don’t care how health-conscious you try to be, it is impossible to feed your kid a balanced meal on the go. Everything has to come from a box, package, and bottle to hold up to 16 hours of backpack heat. And none of this is real food. No wonder kids in America struggle with obesity.
To add insult to injury… I was missing my well-deserved evening glass of wine and my treasured time with my gorgeous family. I was seriously missing hearing about their days and running things by them. Jade had just started high school and was slammed with homework and projects. Sleep-deprived she was running on empty and if there were social issues she needed guidance with, she was too exhausted to ask for help.
I soon came to realize, that dinner time is about so much more than the food. It is about slowing down and reconnecting as a family. It is the glue that holds us together and without out it, we unravel. It’s a built-in therapy session with a side of team building.
So Saul and I decided that as much as Jade loves theater, her stardom will have to wait till she is done with high school, or at the very least she can drive herself to and from rehearsals.
Our sanity and relationships are not worth sacrificing to the insane hours of showbiz. And when she heads off on her career path, it will be by her choosing, and we will attend performances and applaud her from the front row.
In the interim, we will make sure she has a balanced home-cooked meal at lunchtime, quality time with her family at dinner, and even some downtime after that to be a teenager. She will have weekends to schedule playdates and free time to fill up her social calendar and make the most of high school.
Because before she knows it, she will be on some crazy movie or Broadway schedule. But for the brief time she is still under our roof, we can teach her more at dinner time that we can schlepping her in shifts.
So I have hung up my Uber hat and reclaimed my sanity. All the while I still know that her EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony) still await her. Her future will not be determined by a few school plays. But rather but her solid work ethic and moral compass.
So I hope my story can encourage you to scale back your children’s after-school activities. I hope it forces you to fit in more family time and make dinner a nightly affair that everyone attends. And I hope that you use my recipes as inspiration, knowing that all the slaving will not be in vain. You will have a willing and receptive audience of tasters to enjoy the feast.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this post. Even if you disagree with me or think I should be doing it differently. We are all works in progress and I hope I can grow and learn from your experiences.
Thank you for being in my community. I couldn’t do any of this without your love and support