The Early Bird Special

“You coming for tacos tonight?” I text to my neighbor.

“You bet,” she texts back.

An hour later she is in our living room playing LEGOS with my kids while I spoon taco fixings into bowls and lay them out on the table.

Taco dinnerOur dinners together began about three years ago when I was a full-time at-home parent of a toddler and a preschooler. It was right about this time of year, as we turned the clocks back and began winding our way into the long, dark nights of winter, that I felt myself on the fast track to a major mama meltdown.

My husband’s work schedule does not flex with the seasons, so during the winter months the kids, whose bodies naturally want to eat earlier during the dark, cold months, and I rarely eat dinner with him.

(Believe me, I have tried every configuration I could think of to make a “family dinner” happen – from late afternoon snacks to baths and PJs before dinner — with no luck.)

This is not such a huge issue now that my kids are a little older, a bit more open-minded with their culinary explorations, and in school for the majority of the day, but a few years ago when we were home together all day and nearly everything I put on their plates was met with “How many bites do I have to eat?”I found myself feeling angry, resentful and desperate for adult companionship.

After a few too many less than enjoyable dinners, I decided to do something about the situation and sent out an e-mail to friends and family soliciting dinner guests.

It took some playing around to get this to work. Having guests over multiple nights a week was too much for my kids; eventually we settled into a rhythm of once a week dinner with friends.

The first night my neighbor, who is single and lives alone, joined us the symbiotic energy was instant and powerful. I had the adult companionship that I so desperately needed. The kids had someone fresh to entertain with their stories. And she got a break from the veggie burgers heated in a toaster that had become her default weeknight meal.

Someday, hopefully, mainstream America will catch on to the rhythm of the seasons, and the need for parents to be home earlier in the winter to eat with their families, but until that happens I encourage us all to think outside of the boxes that are our individual homes.

If you are in need of adult companionship, I guarantee you there is someone wonderful out there who would love to be your dinner guest!

About Erin Barrette Goodman
Erin is a multi-media artist, interfaith minister, yoga teacher and passionate builder of community. She is the founder of the Rhode Island Birth Network and the creator and host of Behind the Blog. As a mother of two, she also packs lunches, drives the carpool, and bows to the power of PBS Kids.

4 Comments on The Early Bird Special

  1. I love this! I think I used to have people over, but lately I haven’t because of homework/diabetes/husband arriving by bicycle at erratic times. Now you have inspired me. Who needs the husband to be present?

    I think the key for me will be finding, honing in on, and latching on to kids with a high score for fun and a low score for annoying. I know a few kids like that. I wonder if their moms would like to have soup and bread with me at about 5:45.

  2. I used to feel bad we didn’t manage family dinner either–I eat with the kids before he gets home, because we’ve had an early-to-bed child for so long–and then I read in Raising Happiness that when they speak of the benefits of “family dinner,” they mean the kids sitting down to eat with at least one parent. So, no more guilt–but no other adult, either, most nights.

  3. Erin, this is so lovely. I remember the heartache I experienced when my neighbor moved away. Our babies were six months apart, and living in a town house complex, it was easy to pick up the phone and meet outside for walks, slip over for some play time, or just unload with each other over pb and j. Those were sweet, sweet days.

    And can I say I want to share some of those tacos NOW?

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