Why My Family Always Eats Dinner at 6

updated Sep 30, 2020
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(Image credit: Minette Hand)

Recently my wife Laurie and I attempted to reminisce about the carefree days before our daughter Iris was born in 2003. I was reviewing restaurants and getting into home sausage-making and bread-baking. We were young and flexible.

It turns out we both suffer from parenting-induced retrograde amnesia, because we couldn’t remember a damn thing about what we ate for dinner back then — or when we ate it.

Now we have a strict dinnertime and it turns out I love it even more than our daughter does.

How We Started Eating Dinner at 6 p.m.

When Iris first settled into a reliable sleep schedule, we’d put her down to bed at 5:30 and then I’d start making dinner (not bragging; she always woke up within a couple of hours). I’m glad no one ever shot a picture of us at the dinner table back then. Between exhaustion and our crappy 2001-era digital camera, I’m sure the photo could have been titled First Meal After Escaping the Cult.

In any case, dinner was always on the table promptly at 6 p.m.

Iris turned out to be the kind of child who thrived on routine. We turned out to be the kind of parents who would sooner let our child play in a tiger enclosure than skip naptime.

Once Iris’s bedtime allowed her to join us at the table, dinnertime became equally sacred. Not “dinnertime” in the sense of a good-old-days polemic about the importance of family dinner, but dinnertime in the sense of 6 p.m. (Not the barbaric hour of 6:05.)

Six o’clock was just late enough to feel like a plausible grown-up mealtime and still get the baby to bed by seven.

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20 Dinners Your Family Can Serve Themselves | Beef and Broccoli Fried Rice (Image credit: Lauren Volo)

Why We Still Eat Dinner at 6 p.m.

It’s been over a decade since we first settled on a six o’clock dinner bell. Iris is a teenager now. She stays up past her bedtime and nothing terrible happens. She’s outgrown her childhood routines.

I haven’t. I still get panicky when it’s 6:10 and dinner hasn’t quite come together yet. I’ll announce, “Dinner at 6:40!” in my Ma’am, I have some bad news; why don’t you sit down? voice.

Nobody else cares; turns out I was the toddler all along.

This summer the Seattle school district announced later bell times starting this fall. Laurie is a school librarian, so she and Iris will both be getting home half an hour later. So dinnertime is moving to 6:30. I’ll try to keep my tantrums to a minimum.

Welcome to Dinner with Kids

This series explores the shifting dynamics of the dinner table when kids are involved. We asked families of all shapes and sizes for their tips on mealtime success. You’ll learn a few things, laugh a whole lot, and find that when kids are involved, dinnertime is always a little more eventful.