Come & Get It: Sunday Dinner & The Next Phase of Parenting

These were special candy drinks we made for Sunday Dinner today.  We were celebrating Elie's birthday!

These were special candy drinks we made for Sunday Dinner today. We were celebrating Elie’s birthday!

My husband and I are journeying through the next phase of parenting.

We are not empty nesters.

But we had one who flew the coop.

It was not as dramatic as imagined. Not really. One day, we picked her up from her Disney College Program, and the next day, she moved in with her friend.

We did not even receive 24 hours with our child after a 6 month stint in Disney.

That did not feel good! In fact, it felt like someone had ripped a huge band aid off a gushing artery!

After the initial shock of the child moving out, as her mother, I began pondering how to keep the family together. The child truly needed to spread her wings and test out these years of lessons, so I did not grieve her moving out. Truly, it was a right of passage. After all, I did the same thing to my mother. However, Momma never told me how much it hurt. It is something she must have allowed to pierce her heart.

Once I completed about 2 days of moping at work, along with sighing at home, I had a plan. What if I were to offer FREE Sunday dinner to the child and her roommate: EACH SUNDAY??

I knew I had 2 legs up on this offer: I can cook and said child cannot cook.


Sunday dinner at the Wallace household has never really been all that much fanfare. After Mass, we usually end up at the local Mexican restaurant, or I announce the ever hated, “Have a sandwich.”

But now, Sunday dinner could be an occasion. Sunday dinner could be a festive time for family. Sunday dinner could be the moment we reunited after a week of being without a key ingredient of our family: the oldest daughter. Sunday dinner could be, if we were not careful, a TRADITION!

This is truly a new phase of parenting for Steve and I. We cherish the time we have together as a domestic church – our sacred places and spaces that help us to be part of the Body of Christ. When Liz was entering college two years ago, we knew things would be different. It was not until this year that we realized, once she moved out of the house, that our family life would begin to look different. And that we needed to be okay about this, and make new traditions.

And that’s what Sunday dinner is. What was so great is that Liz, upon moving out, announced, “Don’t worry Mom. I’ll be here on Sunday for Mass with the family.”

Now that, my dear sisters in Christ, was unprompted, and a complete blessing. It was a balm to my wavering momma heart.

Time is precious, it is not?

We have 5 kids ranging in ages from 20 – 9. Our 9 year old is celebrating her birthday today. We celebrated by having Sunday dinner. Today on the menu was homemade egg rolls, fried rice, teriyaki chicken, and homemade cupcakes. Who knows what it will be next Sunday? I do know it will be our Sunday Dinner Family Time – a new phase in parenting, which I am quickly embracing.

What are your strategies when you enter new phases of parenting? Here are some questions to ponder, as you may find yourself in this position sooner than you think:

1. How do I cherish our family time? In what ways do I make moments with our family?

2. How do the traditions of our Church feed into the traditions of our family?

3. How often do we attend Mass together as a family? When we are in Mass together as a family, how do we make the most of being with one another in the Eucharist?

4. What ways do I need to make more time and space for our family?

5. How do we celebrate one another in our family?

Let us lift motherhood in our prayers. Let us ask the Lord to walk with us in our journey as mommas, and to bless our sweet babies, whether they be 20 or 9, anywhere in between, older, or younger. God bless them all.    Send article as PDF   


  1. I almost laughed out loud at “if we were not careful, a TRADITION!” We often had Sunday dinner when I was a child–not always, but I loved that. I have three “adult” kids. So far we are still waiting for them to leave. :-) My oldest son already informed me that when he does leave he will be coming back to eat and have me do his laundry. So I may not have to invent a tradition to keep them coming back. In all seriousness, this is a beautiful and thought-provoking post.

    • Thanks, Leslie! I’m trying it out…seeing what will happen. I would be totally fine with them living with me forever – but it’s probably not too healthy :( My husband is more excited about this than I. Then again, he is always the more rational one :)

      God bless, Leslie!

  2. Mary, so many things are running through my mind. #1) Friday night I ran into a woman from church who started the same tradition 6 months ago! Her kids have gone off to college, but are coming home for Sunday dinners. She shared with me that recently she was out of town for a couple weeks, and the first question one of her kids asked when she returned was, “Mom, you’re going to make Sunday dinner, aren’t you?” This tells me lots of things….we thrive on tradition and it really does help build family cohesiveness. We need to return to family traditions. #2) I’ll experience my own new phase soon. I’ve homeschooled for five years, but for various reasons have decided to place our kids in public school this fall. As the start of school nears, I’m experiencing many emotions. I’m so used to having my children with me and will deeply miss them, but at the same time am looking forward to some selfish “me time.” Life…it’s constant change. Thank you for the reminder that change can breathe new life into our families!

    • Kim…thank you for reading and commenting.

      This is so new to me. I would be lying if I told you I haven’t freaked out 1 million times about Liz being out of the house. But I remember at these times, she was never “mine.” She is also a very faith-filled woman, who is trying out her faith on her own. I give God thanks that she is still coming to Mass, being fed by the Eucharist.

      I love that you know others that this tradition works! I remember days at my grandmother’s home where Sunday dinner was always on the stove. Whoever showed up was welcome to eat!

      Bon Appetit, right?

      God Bless!

  3. Lori Brown says:

    Such an awesome idea, Mary! Ken has been counting down how many Christmases Ryan has left with us since he was a baby! Now that he is a junior and planning to go to La. Tech., I’m hoping and praying he will continue to come home every Christmas. (I know Ken’s heart will really break if he didn’t!) Also, maybe if we promise awesome Sunday meals, he’ll find time to come home more often. We haven’t started the tradition, either because catching up around the house, going to Mass, tending to the yard and pool, takes up the entire weekend, leaving us exhausted and it being too late to start a big dinner on Sunday. (Lack of planning, though, i know!) I think we need to change that! You are right! Maybe if we start the tradition now, it will be something they will all look forward to and want to come home to more often! Thank you for the wonderful idea, Mary! I don’t know how far away her school is from home, but i hope your eldest comes home every Sunday and I hope mine will too!

    • LORI! How are you guys doing? I hope all is well with the Brown’s!

      It really is a different game when a child leaves home. There is nothing that really prepares you for it. I release all my children to the care of Our Blessed Mother, who protectively brings them to her Son. It is all I know to do. And to offer Sunday dinner! I remember how much we appreciated free food in college. Hopefully, it continues to be a draw!

      We need to catch up soon!

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