Katherine Schwarzenegger Pratt Believes Firmly In The Family Dinner
But also in eating at 5:30 and serving grilled cheese sandwiches as a meal.
Katherine Schwarzenegger Pratt knows the chaos of a family dinner. The eldest of Maria Shriver’s and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s four children, Schwarzenegger Pratt has deep memories of — no matter what else was going on — making family dinner a priority. “We sat down together as a family at 7:00, no matter how much homework a kid had or what activities somebody had. I remember my mom telling us one night at dinner that there was a study that came out that talked about how to raise well-rounded children, and family dinner was part of it,” she tells me over Zoom. “Because it’s the only time for a lot of families where they could connect and converse with one another because people wake up at different times; they do things during the day. And I think that it was such a huge and beneficial part to my upbringing.”
Schwarzenegger Pratt, who has two daughters — Lyla, 2.5, and Eloise, 9 months — and a 10-year-old stepson, Jack, with her husband, actor Chris Pratt, really pushes for family dinner to be a part of her own family’s routine now. From sharing tips on starting solids, hosting a #TuesdayCookingClub with Rubbermaid on Instagram, and talking about food, lunches, and cooking with kids on her weekly Instagram series BDA Baby — Before, During, & After Baby, author Schwarzenegger Pratt shares a lot about nourishing families and filling tummies. Here, I got the chance to ask her how her family deals with the whirlwind that is dinnertime, and why a grilled cheese sandwich totally counts as a meal.
So I would love to know what is dinnertime like at your house? Is it just chaos?
Correct. Dinnertime in our house... well. We go back and forth from having dinnertime at our house and then dinnertime at my mom’s house.
Oh, that’s so nice.
At our house, I try to start feeding Eloise at about 5:15 p.m., and then Lyla eats at 5:30, and I eat with her. So I eat my dinner very early. It’s not for everyone, but I actually really enjoy it. I’ve also found that she eats a lot better — it’s not so much of a chore of me making her eat or making it a project. When I sit there with her or even with both of the girls, it’s a much more enjoyable and relaxed experience. So that's been really fun, especially now that she’s 2.5 and she’s eating normal food, not just mush.
If my husband’s home, he’ll sit with us, and if my stepson’s with us, he will sit down there, too. We definitely do it a little bit earlier in my house [than we did growing up], but it’s such a big priority for all of us to be able to sit down, even if it’s for five minutes — because Lyla will get up and run into the other room! To have that be a part of our daily routines is so important.
It definitely sounds like a routine already for you guys.
It usually looks like that! And then either myself or Chris will do the dishes and we will very quickly, by 6:00, make it upstairs to give baths and then do story time to have them both asleep by 7:00. That’s the goal.
The literal dream.
When we’re together, we can tag team it. But dinner’s very simple for us right now just because the girls are eating such simple foods. We grew up in our house saying grace before dinner, and so Lyla also will say her version, which is saying what she’s thankful for. Every Sunday we go to my mom’s for dinner, and the other day, Lyla said, “I'm grateful for my family, for God, for my face and for my birthday cake.” I was like, “Your birthday’s in August, but great. And I'm so happy that you feel grateful enough to be so grateful for your face.”
There’s nothing I love more than going to my mom’s or my mother-in-law’s for dinner because I’m like, “Someone else is going to feed me. They’re going to feed the children, this is the best.”
I know. You’re like, “I don't have to clean up a kitchen? That's crazy.” There's a lot of us now, so it looks much more chaotic as far as the amount of people and making sure we all fit at a table, whether it's inside or outside. And we do it buffet style at my mom’s house because there’s just too many of us to have a Lazy Susan that’s accessible to everybody. Lyla’s now sitting in a big girl chair at the table, and Eloise is in a high chair. Dinner just looks... it’s fun!
So when you guys all eat dinner together, just in your house, do the girls often eat something separate from what you guys eat? Or everyone eats the same thing?
I wish I was... it’s just not going to happen. Every person that I talk to for my Instagram series, we talk about feeding and mealtime and all that stuff. Everybody’s just like, “Just feed everybody the same thing. Everybody will get the same thing.” And I’m like, “OK, well Eloise is getting mushy, solid, kind-of-a-food.” And Lyla, unfortunately for my husband, has my palate. She just likes children’s food, like as bland as possible. She likes chicken nuggets and french fries or plain grilled chicken and some rice. She’s not a very adventurous eater, whereas my stepson and my husband are very adventurous eaters. So they’ll usually eat the same thing, and then Lyla and I will eat the same thing, and then Eloise has her own meal. So a lot of different things. I feel like when they hit an age where they’re all eating similar kinds of food, then I can try to bring in the “everybody gets one meal” thing.
I know, everyone says, “Make it easy on yourself!” I'm like, “It's actually easier for me to just make the grilled cheese for everybody that's under the age of 9.” And then my husband and I will eat something else.
Trust me, I totally get that.
Does your house have a witching hour going into dinnertime? Is everybody pretty chill?
I feel like 5:00 comes around so quickly now, especially because my youngest just dropped her third nap. All of a sudden, I'm like, “Oh my God, it's 4:45. What are we doing for dinner?” So, it's a little bit of scrambling, but it always ends up working out and being fine. I try to do planning in advance, and then when my husband’s home, if he wants to cook something, I try to get him to plan that in advance, too. Because sometimes we’ll be sitting there and I'll be like, “Oh no, we don't have anything to give the kids. What are we going to do? Is it going to be a toast tonight? Are we just going to have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich?”
Toast night is one of our specialties here at my house.
Listen, everybody loves a grilled cheese.
I love it. Is Lyla interested in helping in the kitchen?
She likes to wash the dishes. So I got this toddler tower that I’ll bring up to the sink and she’ll rinse off dishes and then I put them in the dishwasher. And she likes to wash her hands... she likes to try and wash her babies, puts everything in the sink. She definitely has my personality of being the oldest and wanting to help, be a little helper girl. She’s definitely my child.
She’s got your personality?
Yeah, for sure. The other day she was in my closet and I was like, “Lyla, it’s time for bed. We've got to go to bed. It’s getting late.” And she said, “Mommy, I’m in my closet and I’m organizing.” I was like, “Go for it. I'm not going to object to that. You organize. As long as you want to stay up, you can organize the whole night. I don't care. I'm proud of you.”
So funny. There was a tweet that was going around that was about how the oldest daughter is the manager of the family.
A hundred percent.