In a day and age where technology takes over and the economy can’t decide what it wants to do, it’s easy to get lost in the relationships – or lack there of – with your family. This world is changing at such a rapid pace, that it would do us and our children more good than we can realize to create some consistency. It’s easy to do with what I consider the best family tradition to start right now – having a meal around the dinner table together.
Of course I can’t think of who has it trademarked now but I’m sure you’ve heard that saying, “Life happens around the dinner table.” As a mom, a wife, a busy business owner, I can honestly say that every important part of my life has involved food and some type of dinner table. Whether it’s been out at a restaurant or having a difficult conversation around a family dinner table, those times, conversations, and people have shaped me to who I am today.
It could have to do with growing up around the dinner table. While the dinner table wasn’t always a pleasant place to be growing up, it did give me a sense of what I wanted when I grew up. For us, that was one place we were expected to be every night. I could go out all day or hide away in my room as I often did, but when my dad got home my mother would have dinner ready and we all needed to sit until we were finished. In my younger years before my parents divorced, the dinner table was one of the only places we were all together. I was able to examine my parents in their roles as they knew them. I was able to watch how they interacted with each other, my sister, and myself. Like I said, it wasn’t always good. However, it was stable.
Fast forward to my teen years after my parents separated and the dinner table became even more of a necessity. So many important conversations happen around the dinner table. A time for quiet, a time for reflection, a time to laugh and love. Some of my favorite memories were around my Nan’s dinner table in my teens. Every Sunday we would go there for dinner. It was the perfect start or end to the week. Everyone was just so happy and loving, even when we were complaining. There was such a sense of family and openness that encouraged me that, that dream of a complete family could in fact be real.
When my mom remarried and I had my license, I moved in with her as a primary residence. My dad had always worked weird and demanding hours for his job, and he and I didn’t get along very well. Of course being a broken teen, let’s face it, I didn’t get along with either of my parents very well. Even not getting along with my step-dad didn’t excuse or plague me from the dinners at what I now considered home. Sometimes we ate the same thing for weeks on end (deer steak, potatoes, and sauteed onions – still one of my favorite meals), and sometimes it was a very late meal. Most of the time it resulted in meaningful conversations or arguments.
I know what you’re probably thinking… arguments and bad memories don’t sound like a tradition I want to start with my family. That’s true. But what I do want you to understand is the stability and opportunity that was created and shaped me by having those designated areas and times to converse and confront life with those that loved me most. As a mom now, Travis and I aim to provide that same stability and comfort to our kids – in a slightly different way. Yes we are going to make our own set of mistakes, but we realize and are working through making the dinner table a place of safety, openness, and family time.
We put our phones away. We shut off the TV. We wait for daddy to get home before we eat. We don’t get into anything else until everyone is done. Our kids are 5 and under. Sometimes those rules are hard to stick to, but the more we try, the better chance we have of succeeding. Kids, and more often times parents, need stability. We need a place we can go to every day and just be. We need a constant. A place to be accepted. We need a place to be together. Sometimes meals will be quick. Sometimes they will be out and about. Sometimes one of the kids will be at a friend’s house. However, it’s important to know and create a space that is safe, comfortable and inviting. It’s important to fill that place with good and trying memories. Why the tough and trying memories? We need to be able to show our kids that even through the tough times, there is a place they can come. Whether it’s breakfast, lunch, dinner, or an end of the night gathering, choose a time good for your family and lifestyle to sit together on an equal playing field, look each other in the eyes, and share life together. You’ll be surprised at how quickly those little moments add up and shape not only your kids, but yourself, into a better person.