Rule No. 3

When my daughters were teenagers, if they wanted their own car, they had to have an after-school job to cover the cost of gas and insurance. Those were the rules.

All three wanted their own car, so all three worked.

Which led to other rules, primarily:

1. Grades must remain satisfactory.

2. No working at fast-food restaurants.

3. Absolutely no working on Sundays.

Rule No. 1 is pretty much self-explanatory.

Rule No. 2 was due to our high expectations of the girls. There's nothing wrong with working at fast-food joints. Heck, Jim and I started dating when he was my manager at a Sonic Drive-In. But we knew our girls could do better, expected them to do better. And they did.

Rule No. 3 was enforced because Sunday was family day, no ifs, ands or "but I have to works." We went to church as a family, and nearly just as important, we shared Sunday dinner as a family. Which prohibited morning or evening shifts on the job. Luckily their employers respected and abided by Rule No. 3, mostly because the girls were good workers they didn't want to lose.

Rule No. 3 extended to more than work situations, though -- it also applied to any outings the girls wanted to attend with friends. (Exceptions were made for special events and occasions. I'm not that mean of a mom.)

On Rule No. 3, Jim and I stood firm. The girls were required to go to church with the family, required to have Sunday dinner with the family. Some things are worth fighting for, worth demanding. To us, Rule No. 3 was one of those things.

In accordance with Rule No. 3 was yet another rule -- this one for myself and Jim: No lecturing at the dinner table.

Because of our rules regarding dinner with the family, some of our most-cherished family memories are of times around the dinner table. Throughout the years, dinnertime -- and not just on Sundays -- meant catching up, sharing jokes, quelling fears, answering questions. We'd talk about movies, family, sports, friends, work, politics, music. We'd laugh. We'd snort. We'd cry. We'd lament. We'd sometimes even sing.

Then the girls grew up.

And moved away.

And the dinner table was empty. During the week and, most noticeably, on Sundays.

This past Sunday, Andrea drove from Denver, Brianna drove from across town, and we enjoyed Sunday together as a family. I can't recall the last time we had Sunday dinner together; it was surely sometime before the holidays.

It felt like a special occasion. It was a special occasion. We laughed, we remembered, we talked about movies, friends, work, sports, music. It was just like old times.

The only thing missing was Megan.

And the requirement that the girls be there.

Which made it all the more special -- and me all the more thankful -- that they were.

Photo: Flickr/Beverly & Pack

Today's question:

What is your usual Sunday dinner routine?