It all started when I realized that I couldn’t afford any more baby-sitting – all the money I was making teaching a class at a local college, I was paying straight to our sitter. So I asked around to other parents in the neighborhood to see who wanted to make a trade. Our friend Michelle, who also has two kids and was desperate for a block of time to run some errands and pick up the house, was thrilled. She takes my kids on Thursday morning while I teach, and I take hers on Monday afternoon while she checks off her never-ending to-do list.
Have you ever tried to separate great friends at the end of a play-date? Especially if the only reason you can give is that they have to go home to eat. Great cries of despair from the five and six year olds fill the house, and the two little ones follow along in sympathy.
“Why don’t you just have dinner with us. I made enough.” I whispered to Michelle so the kids couldn’t hear – good to keep a united front for all difficult transitions.
“Yes, of course.”
“Oh, my goodness, that would be great, I didn’t make anything and I was just going to open a can of tuna,” she admitted sheepishly.
“Ok, kids, we’re having dinner together, but only if you can set the table in 60 seconds! And….GO!”
Thus began a tradition of shared family dinners between our families and one less home cooked meal I had to make myself. If I stay home with the kids, I do the cooking – with their help – and make twice as much as usual. If I take them for a hike, Michelle puts on a pot of lentils and rice while she does her work, then brings it over at dinnertime. If I’m missing an ingredient like grated cheese for the spaghetti, she picks it up on the way over. The kids have more fun at the table and sit longer, and they are happier telling stories of their day.
So now I try to turn every play date into a double family dinner date. Try it, it works!