Monday, March 30, 2015

Eat Dinner Together

Yesterday my husband asked me if I had one piece of advice to give to families today, what would it be? He is a prolific reader and scans articles and posts from a variety of sources. And a theme that he says is emerging is the crisis of the family in today's world. Fractured families create fractured individuals and it is everywhere.

Some of us grew up in the days when divorce was rare. But that is not the case for today's adult generation. It is more the norm to come from a divorced family. And that takes a toll on people.

Keeping families intact should be high on our agenda. How do we do that? How do we make that a priority in a real practical way?

When he first asked the question, I replied that I didn't have one thing to say, but more like a dozen. But then I mulled it over for a few hours. And, keeping in mind that so many people don't have faith as an integral part of their lives, did I actually have any advice that was more generic? 

For those families raising their children in a faith perspective, that is obviously the #1 priority. Or should be. But what about the families for whom that doesn't take a center seat, where perhaps one spouse is not rooted in faith, but these are still families for whom relationships and inter-dependence are important?

And then it became quite clear to me. One very practical piece of advice that I think every family could benefit from. Eat dinner together.

I know it is not possible every day of the week, but it should be a priority five days out of seven.

I heard some years ago that there were new townhouses being built in London, England where there was no dining area. There was a mini kitchen where simple dinners could be cooked or heated, but no place for people to sit facing one another at a table.

In our own family, this was a rule. Everyone was expected to be at the dinner table. There had to be a really good excuse not to be there. The dinner hour was kept sacred.

And I think the reasons for that are pretty clear once you think about it. Sitting at a table and eating is probably the only opportunity for family members to talk about things all together. Families might spend time watching a movie or playing a game together, but they really begin to talk when they sit down for a meal together.

Sometimes the talk will be rowdy, sometimes it will be quiet, but there should always be talk. This can often be the time when problems that lie dormant can surface. Perhaps one of the kids will "tell" on another and that might be the way for a  problem to become public. But it is crucial that parents and kids talk out things together. For some reason, the family dinner table is the best occasion for that to happen.

I recall one occasion in our house when a daughter couldn't hide her irritation with us any longer and she threw her breakfast (it wasn't dinner that time)  at us, much to the delight of our dog. Being covered in scrambled eggs and bacon got our attention in a way that worked really well.

Dinnertimes can also be the time to invite a friend over to share that family time. And for me, those are some of the happiest memories of our family. Sharing a special dinner with a friend or two and having the kids all joining in with the jokes and the chatter were precious times that we all remember.

Dinner doesn't have to be long. Half an hour is plenty of time for people to get into important stuff. But if you don't make time for that, a regular spot each day, family members will tend to draw into themselves more and make up their own life schedules without a thought for the others.

In this time when families are being attacked from all sides, one really simple piece of advice is to just break bread together. There is something about meeting our physical needs together in the same way that also helps to meet the deeper emotional and spiritual needs that we all have.


Elena said...

Ummm, which daughter?

Julie Culshaw said...

Your baby sister. You and Rebecca were gone by then.

Anonymous said...

My mother tells me the same thing for a strong and connected family. People are too busy these days. It's unreal.