Take a moment to go back in time to when you were a child. What are some of your favorite family memories? I was raised in a military family (Go, Navy!) and had five siblings. Of course, we moved a lot, so the only constant in our lives was each other. Homes, neighborhoods, friends came and went in a blur, but my family was always there.
My favorite memories centered around the simple joys of childhood: riding my bike, climbing trees, swimming at the neighborhood pool, and going on vacations. We didn’t have tons of money, so holidays were always spent with relatives. Snowy Christmases in upstate New York and peaceful summers in the Thousand Islands.
Going out to eat with my family was a luxury. In fact, I can barely remember ever eating out as a child. Even going to the local McDonald’s, which was a new thing back in the day, was a special treat. Most of the time, my mom prepared old-fashioned meals, and our family sat around the dining room table, ate, and talked about school, friends, and life in general.
When Peter and I started having our kids, we also didn’t have money to go out and eat frequently. We ate at home—three meals a day—mostly healthy non-processed food. It was cheaper and better. Plus Peter, who was born in the Netherlands, came from a culture where good food mattered and mealtimes were an important part of the day.
These days it seems families are on the go more, and eating on the run has become the norm. It makes me wonder what is filling our time to the point that we feel like we don’t have enough any more? I think the answer is staring right at us. It’s the time we invest in screens and social media and soaking up information—so much information that it feels like we will explode.
How do we battle this intrusion in our lives? Is it possible to return to a simpler time? A time when the people around us were what mattered most, when the rituals of daily life, like preparing and sharing meals and engaging in conversation kept us grounded? When was the last time you really looked into your child’s eyes and listened to what he was saying?
Sometimes I think when we tune out the people we love, we lose touch with our own humanity.
It’s true there are a limited number of hours in a day. And as our kids return to school and our schedules get even busier, it’s a good time to reexamine how we spend our time and what our priorities are. Being close as a family, spending time together, and enjoying each other’s company—these should be at the top of your list. If you’re not fitting in enough time for your family, then alleviate the unnecessary things that eat up your time and focus instead on those precious little ones you brought into the world.
Put your family first. You’ll feel better, your kids will, too, and the world will be a better place.