I arrive home after work to an empty house. One child is at baseball practice. Another is playing a baseball game. Dad is with him because he helps coach. The oldest is at rehearsal for a musical. Luckily, she has her license and can take herself where she needs to go.
Waiting on the stove (because, apparently, they were in a rush to get out the door) is what’s left of a processed, pre-packaged, easy-to-make meal. I check out the remnants, and even though they are cold, decide it hasn’t been sitting out long enough to induce any type of foodbourne illness. Sitting alone at the table, I eat and prepare for the meeting I need to attend in an hour.
Besides the few minutes before leaving for school, the next time the entire family is in the same room is maybe a half hour or so before bedtime.
Similar scenarios, I’m sure, are common among families with school-age children. Luckily for my family, this is the norm for only about a month of each year, when baseball season, end of the year school programs and musical rehearsal all collide each spring.
I have a love-hate relationship with this time of year. I love that my kids are so involved in school programs such as band and choir, and they enjoy and excel both academically and in their extra-curricular activities. But for someone who so values the time spent around the dinner table as a family every night, the sudden disconnect is very disconcerting.
On the occasion of International Day for Families, Pope Benedict said work should not be an obstacle to the family, “but rather should support and unite it, help it to open itself to life” and interact with society and the church.
I think the same could be said about extra-curricular activities. While these activities certainly are an important way in which we interact with society, when schedules conflict with the ability to sit down as a family at least once a day, it’s time to reassess priorities.
As for us, I know our situation is temporary and I look forward to the end of the school year. By then, it won’t matter if e don’t eat dinner until 9:30 p.m. if it means we can eat together.