8. It’s OK to Eat Late.
I call this “European-style” dining. Given work schedules and afterschool commitments, it’s often hard to have dinner at the “normal hour” of 6 pm or even 7 pm. So what? Eat later. If you are eating a real meal together with your family, eating at 8 pm is preferable to not eating together at all.
An important corollary to this rule is that it’s OK for the kids to snack early. Eating late assumes that everyone’s had a healthy snack afterschool and are not completely starving. It also assumes that really little ones (under 3 years old) eat their dinner early and are perhaps even in bed. (No one else in the family is going to enjoy dinner if there’s a toddler in a puddle on the floor.) Balancing reasonable bedtimes and dinner is a challenge, but you can do it.
This is what works most nights in my family: I feed my 2 year old dinner at about 6 pm, then she stays up to see her Dad when he gets home from work at 6:30 pm or 7 pm. She’ll usually go to bed right after that. My husband starts (or finishes) dinner while I finish bedtime. Then we sit down with my older kids, ages 8 and 12, some time between 7:30 and 8 pm, occasionally as late as 8:30 pm. Yes, it’s bedtime for them right after this, but the homework is done (usually) and there’s time to chat.
I spent many years grumbling about late dinners and late bedtimes. But we kept it up because my husband wanted to spend time with the kids at night, and we figured having dinner together was the best way to ensure this. My kids now like to eat late and want to wait until we are all home to eat together, even if one of us has a late meeting. It’s just better when we are together.