Today, All Things Considered reported about the tradition of family dinners. It's a topic that seems to resonate with me more nowadays, as many of my friends are starting their families and the what-makes-a-good-kid subject is frequently addressed. I can't speak yet as a parent, but based on how my brothers and I turned out**, one tidbit of advice that I've gleaned from my childhood involves eating dinner around or at a table.
|Start 'em young: Me (right) "helping" my favorite cousin Keilly.|
Dinner wasn't routine; it was something we looked forward to from a young age. Dinner was our time to unload about our day. (Note to parents: Asking your child "how was your day?" as soon as they arrive home from school or their jobs is maddening; you won't get much more of a response than an unenthusiastic "good." Dinner is the time to grill your kid; they might even volunteer information.) Both my parents worked, we didn't have a ton of money and, of course, homework and after-school schedules consumed much of our time, but we still managed to eat together. Even in my mid-20s, I look forward to sharing meals with family and friends around a table.
So, I resent the reasoning that family dinners are an antiquated tradition. It's really easy to make excuses for not eating together. It often involves some iteration of being too busy. But, what does that mean exactly? Too busy to be a civilized human being for about a half-hour? Of course, the obvious reason to maintain this important social tradition is to nourish a support system and community. Yet, in my old age, my reasoning also involves a tinge of selfishness. Sitting down to eat food with others re-centers my mental state. Sitting down to dinner with family or friends forces me to reclaim a few calm (hopefully), mindful moments. It allows me to notice my surroundings, the food at my plate, and recognize and acknowledge the unique personalities and insights of my fellow diners.
But, enough about me. What's your take on the family dinner?
**Oh, by "turned out," I mean to suggest that the three of us are perfect, wildly successful and brilliant. Like geniuses. OK, an exaggeration, but we are all kind people, pretty smart, extremely capable individuals...and, not to be overlooked, excellent cooks.