Heart, Mind

Connect for Life: Dinner at Mum & Dad’s

It’s World Mental Health Day today and also Queensland Mental Health Week.  The theme for 2018 is to value mental health with six steps:

1. Be active – Physical activities like walking can positively influence the way you think, feel and function.
2. Keep learning – Our well-being can improve by taking up a new hobby or practicing the piano.
3. Connect – Close relationships with friends and family can add up to 7 years to our lives
4. Give – Practicing random acts of kindness or volunteering time can work wonders for your well-being
5. Take notice – Savouring our surroundings gives us, quite literally, more breathing space.
6. Care for our planet – Keeping our blue planet in tip-top shape is the best recipe for world well-being.

Over the years I’ve learnt the importance of all of these practices & have included them in my life.  In this post I’m going to focus on connect & connecting with family in particular.

Mum & Dad have us over for dinner just about every week.  We’ve been doing this since we got married.  So when we were first married there were 5 at the table, my family of origin and my husband.  Then my brother’s girlfriend (who became is wife), was included.  She even continued to have dinner with us each week when my brother was working in Adelaide for a few months.

And has we had kids the table grew from 6 to be 10 each week.

When food intolerances were added to the mix, my parents embraced this.  They have a list of what each person can’t eat and have several meals that we can all eat.  In the last few years my niece has been diagnosed coeliac but with my husband already being gluten free it wasn’t too much to change.  Although where as it’s okay if my husband accidentally has gluten my niece can’t have even a trace.

So what’s often on the menu when we go to my parents?

Now that my kids are grown the numbers vary but it often includes up to 12 if my daughter & her boyfriend and my son & his girlfriend are all there as well.  My children will even sometimes go for dinner even if we’re not, for whatever reason.

family lunch2
Family lunch at our house

Then the table can swell if other extended relatives are part of the mix or when my friend and her family are visiting from England.  My friend and her family even have their heights marked in the pantry along with the rest of us.  Her oldest was added to the pantry heights when he was about 6 weeks old & is measured each time they visit.  The children are all measured around their birthdays and new height marks added to the wall in the pantry.

What has been valuable about weekly dinners at Grandma & Grandad’s?

  • my kids spending time with grandparents
  • my kids spending time with aunts & uncles
  • the cousins playing together
  • generations talking together
  • generations playing together
  • sharing some of life together
  • a night off from cooking

My kids are quite a bit older than these cousins but they get on very well together and will often play together.  My niece’s game of choice would usually be hide and seek.  We also play board games.  Occasionally we have 3 generations playing together.  The other night my niece wanted to play “AFL”, she’d found a mini AFL ball with the toys at Grandma’s.  My daughter and 2 nieces were set to play but needed a 4th to make the teams even, so I was asked to join them.  It was an interesting  version of “AFL” with both teams having the same goal area, kind of next to where we were kicking off from.

Even though feeding 12 each week can be a lot of work, we’ll continue gathering each week. This will part of the way that we’ll continue connecting, to foster close relationships with extended family.  By doing this we may even add some years to our lives!

How do you like to connect with family and friends?

2 thoughts on “Connect for Life: Dinner at Mum & Dad’s”

  1. Jillian, what a fantastic post. Firstly a great reminder regarding mental health. Secondly, Thankyou for sharing some of your family rituals.
    Both my daughters are career girls and work interstate. It’s pointless chasing after them as they move on from project to project. We do have three or four girlie weekends a year, where we each fly in from our different spots to meet up. No boys allowed. We do it flash with cocktails, shows, dinners and long walks. We allow the blokes to join in at different times throughout the year.

    1. Thanks for you kind comments about this post.
      I like the sound of your girlie weekends. I might need to remember that for a few years time, as my daughter may well end up working interstate.

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