Introducing: The McLaughlin family! This tight-knit family of four (three at home) shares how they prioritize family time and what family dinners mean to them.
Mark and Janeth McLaughlin, 20-year-old daughter Gabrielle (who’s no longer living at home) and son Jhaedyn, 11. The McLaughlins hail from Salisbury, MA.
The McLaughlins prioritize having dinner together every night of the week, despite the typical challenges that face all busy families. “There are the occasional times during the week that illness, travel and extracurricular activities cause us to change the daily plan,” says Janeth, “but we always manage to come together…even if through a phone call.”
Like most families we hear from, the McLaughlins struggle most with time management. Between busy work schedules for Janeth and Mark, and a typical on-the-go calendar for pre-teen Jhaedyn, actually managing to get a meal prepared and on the table to enjoy together at a reasonable hour can be a feat. But Janeth reflects on her upbringing as one of 10 children to help inspire her. “My mom was a schoolteacher and dad worked hard to provide, but always was home for dinner. It’s from these many family dinner times that I remember and embrace the importance of thanking God for his blessings, the focus of individuals within a family, gathering around the table at the end of the day and in doing so, keeping the lines of communication open in a very busy home.”
The McLaughlin family’s strategy for gathering at dinnertime is simple: Make it happen. “No matter how long and busy the day has been, whether dinner is a sit down, eat-out or everyone-for-themselves type of meal, it is important to make a point to end the day together.” Both Mark and Janeth boil down the reasoning behind their firm adherence to prioritizing dinner by pointing out the unspoken message that eating together sends to the family:
“It is important to us as a family to spend time asking each other about our days and letting each other know that amidst the chaos of the day, in the end, he or she is ultimately what matters in our lives.”
Baked potatoes and salad are the sides that please everyone at the McLaughlin table, but preferences for main dishes vary. Mark likes seafood, Janeth prefers salmon, and Jhaedyn likes baked beans and bacon — extra crispy, if you please.
Through connecting with The Family Dinner Project, Janeth says the family has stayed open-minded about trying new recipes and different games, conversation starters and other ways to keep dinnertime fun and engaging for everyone.
The Best Part:
Jhaedyn: “Coming together, because it is when we finally see each other after being separated all day.”
Mark: “Seeing each other, giving thanks for the day’s blessings and talking to each other.”
Janeth: “I like hearing from my son the appreciation for a home cooked meal. He never fails to say thank you to us for providing. I like listening to them both as they break down the day’s events. I just love being with my family; we always end up the evening cuddling in one way or another.”
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