Growing up in my family, dinner time was spent as a family at the table in the dining room. It didn’t matter what activities we had going on, how much homework we had left to do, nor what game was on television; we were at the table for dinner every night. I can still clearly picture it in my head, Daddy at the head of the table, Mom to his right, me to her right, Kip at the foot of the table, and Amy across from Mom (Amy is left-handed and needed her personal space, and she was forever knocking over cups and spilling things). We had those fabulous square mirror tiles on one wall, and the dogs sat at the edge of the carpet in the kitchen behind me. I can’t remember the conversations we shared at that table. I’m sure there were nights full of lectures, and nights when nothing was said at all. One of the hardest parts for me after my brother left for school was his empty place at the table. Dinner at the table as a family was just the way we did things.
We are a busy family. All three kids are in sports and G also takes ballet, so most weeknights are spent running to one practice and/or another. We’ve developed the habit of just eating on the fly, often with Michael and I standing at the counter or sitting at the kitchen table while the kids sat at the kitchen island. Usually, we have the tv on in the background. I know….pull out that Mother of the Year trophy…I’ve earned it. Eggo waffles have been standard fare about once a week for the past year or so, as are frozen pizzas. It’s just easier to throw whatever at them when we’re not getting home until 6:30 or 7.
Our older two are heading towards those wonderful pre-teen and teen years. I’m afraid, very afraid. I worry that they won’t want to talk to us at all, especially if we’re not building the foundation now. How will we manage a conversation about anything five years from now if we can’t even talk when we’re sitting in the same room together now? Everything I’ve read, heard, or seen talks about the importance of those family dinners at the table together, whether they be talking about surviving the teenage years, or childhood obesity. So we’ve started a new routine at home, that of the family dinner around the kitchen table. I’m definitely not promising it will happen every night, and yes, some nights the dinner still consists of frozen pizza, but we will do our best to eat it together, tv off, conversations on. Each one of us gets a turn talking about our day, stating our favorite part and our least favorite part of the day. It makes my heart happy to hear the kids discussing what order we’ll go in around the table as dinner is cooking, already anticipating the conversation during dinner. I like to think it’s helping us know our kids, their friends, their likes/dislikes, strengths and weaknesses. I also like to think it’s helping them know us as more than just their parents, but as people who have good and bad parts to our days.
It’s a new way of doing something old. I hope my kids remember these dinners when they have their own families. I hope and pray that it keeps the conversation doors open as we head into the years of turmoil better known as the teens. I really hope they continue to look forward to our time together each night.