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Editor’s Note: September 2013

In our house, summer gives us permission to drop daily routines and let wake-up and go-to-sleep times slip and slide. One week's activities bear little resemblance to the next. If we do manage to eat together, the meal is usually a smattering of leftovers or takeout with an occasional glorious summer feast of local fresh veggies and barbecue. By September all that spontaneity is edging us toward chaos, and inventing a new day, every day, is exhausting. The school year regimen tied to the clock is a welcome relief.

In general it's a struggle for our family to be orderly, but we have an anchor that keeps us more or less on course once the fall hurricane season of activities begins: the weeknight family dinner routine, launched with a spaghetti dinner on the first night of school.

Despite having five kids and therefore having made thousands (millions?) of parenting decisions, not much is obvious to me. And my youngest, now a 17-year-old, does an excellent job of showing me that lessons learned from one kid don't necessarily apply to the next. Anybody who thinks they have parenting figured out is delusional. But I do know one thing for certain: When I manage to regularly get my family to sit down over delicious, nutritious food with everybody sharing their "rose" and "thorn" of the day, I've done something very good.

On a Tuesday night in late August my oldest and youngest daughters and two grandchildren showed up at my 99-year-old mom's apartment with takeout Thai food. Minutes later we were gathered around a patio table, soaking up the still warm late summer sunrays and enjoying our picnic. Years ago my mom's four kids sat around the table most school nights eating her good food. Now here we were: She'd had a rough day but by the end of our meal she'd revived like a wilted flower given water, having enjoyed good food and been reminded that she'd done something very good.

Ann Bergman is publisher, editor and founder of Seattle’s Child.

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