Sunday, January 17, 2010

Meal Time

There was an article in the Philadelphia Inquirer on January 14th giving step-by-step instructions on how to break into the habit of having family dinners – at home (pathetic). I don’t really remember a time not having family dinners at home – regardless of who made up our family and where we were living. Okay, maybe for a period when I was single and childless I may have eaten out more than a few nights a week – but more than likely I was content with a bag of potato chips and cream cheese and chive dip, and a scotch and soda.

Mom always cooked dinner. Eating out when we were growing up was a major treat; almost like a vacation (which we never really went on). When I started high school and was getting home early, I had to cook. Got to the point where the family would gripe that I always cooked the same things all the time. After my divorce, and Lauren and I had moved to our own place, we always ate together, in the kitchen, at the table. On weekends we would have fun meals in the living room in front of the TV (other evenings the TV was off limits).

When Doug and I married, we still ate a home cooked meal together every evening. Friday was fun meal night (tacos, pizza, in front of the TV), Saturday may have included friends (or was our night out), and Sundays were extended family days. I worked full-time and Lauren needed to be picked up from daycare, so our evenings were usually rushed. Often the trains were late and I was the last mother at daycare. For almost five years I went to night school, and worked, and cooked. Occasionally Doug would make a meal, and when she got older, Lauren began to learn to cook - and she is a great cook today.

I really believe those dinners had a lot to do with our closeness as a family. It provided a great time for everyone to decompress and express what was going on in their day-to-day lives. We told stories, debated issues, argued sometimes and I am sure cried.

We were lucky because Lauren’s sports were right after school. She would get home in time for dinner and then do homework. I do not know how parents with more than one child who are involved with sports do it, nor do I really understand why they want to do it…. put up with all that running around, I mean. Kids are involved in so much – maybe too much, with multiple activities going on at the same time. I wonder if parents think it is easier to run their kids around than having them at home. I believe athletics and the arts are an important part of a child’s growth, but not to the point where they become frenetic, obsessive and all consuming.

It is difficult to have “family” dinners when there is soccer or hockey practice at meal time. It is also difficult to have a family meal of any meaning when the TV or the computer is on, or when someone is texting. More and more I think adults are texting as much as the kids do.  I hate to admit it, but as Thierry and I eat our dinner at our lovely table with the million dollar view of the Ben Franklin Bridge, the TV is sometimes on (ohhhhh!). Maybe I can justify that by stating we spend an awful lot of time together!!!

In our family, a lot of what we do is centered on meal times. Tonight we had 13 around the table, three or four conversations going at the same time, lots of noise, lots of laughter – these are the days we’ll remember. So, maybe its quality not quantity, but family meals are a great way to stay close and share – and there are so few times that we really do share as a family today.

We’ve had a terrific weekend. Dinner and a concert (with great seats) on Friday; movie (Avatar 3D) and dinner with Lauren and Mike on Saturday, a visit from friends this afternoon – and then there was tonight, and a wonderful night it was.

No comments: