The July 29th issue of The Wall Street Journal, Taste Section, had a very good article entitled “Much Depends on Dinner.” The author, Cameron Stracher main thought was Families don’t sit down to eat together anymore. Something is lost. The family dinner table is of great importance and it has been abandoned for soccer games, dance lessons, or work. I couldn’t agree more.
Mr. Stracher cites that …fewer than one-third of all children sit down to eat dinner with both parents on any given night. The stats climb higher when both parents work. Curiously, a Harvard medical study concluded that the odds of being overweight were 15% among those who ate dinner with their family ‘most days’ or ‘every day’ compared with those who ate dinner with their family ‘never’ or on ‘some days’.
When I was growing up, we had a family dinner every single day, including Sunday’s. We crammed 7 people around the kitchen table, which was often laden with way too much food. We talked about current events, what happened in our day, what had we learned in school, how the lacrosse game went, and sometimes even got yelled at for whatever infraction was incurred that day. It was family time and we knew it. We had to be there. For the odd time when one of us couldn’t get home in time for dinner, a plate was kept warm in the oven and someone usually sat with us while we ate. It was always that way. And it was the same in the hubster’s family too.
This idea of a family meal idea was carried over when the hubster and I established our home. If one of the kids wanted to participate in something that was going to be over the dinner hour, we either changed the time we ate or they didn’t participate. That went for Mom and Dad too. It was as simple as that. When good report cards came home, the celebration restaurant was picked and we ALL went to celebrate the grades earned by the student.
In all the above instances, we ate what was put in front of us. No one got special meals or special treatment (unless of course they were puking their guts up with the stomach flu). No one received a pb&j if they didn’t like the beef and barley stew Grandmom made. You ate the stew. End of discussion. If you didn’t like it, too bad, you’d learn to like it eventually. (I never did, but that’s beside the point! I still don’t like barley in soups or stews.)
It was at the family table where we learned good table manners, which fork to use first, how to eat soup properly, how to sit with one hand in your lap and to keep your elbow tucked when you bring food to your mouth. We learned not to gulp our food but eat slowly and chew thoroughly (with our mouths CLOSED thankyouverymuch!). That drives me totally insane. How many times did I chime out, “Don’t chew like a COW!!!” We learned how to say, “Pass the peas please.” and “Yes, I’ll have seconds. Thank you.”
Mr. Stracher says the reasons families don’t eat together anymore are numerous. Among them are: women entering the work force thus fewer hands to shop and cook; both parents working longer hours and commuting further, making it harder to make meals; kids are busier (personally I agree that they are way to busy and over committed); and the availability of fast-food choices makes it too easy to grab something on the run or zap it and eat alone.
But the most interesting reason Mr. Stracher says is, Parents don’t want to eat with their children. Huh? Why? Because it’s easier to grab something at the office or at McD’s than to sit with a kid who won’t eat the tri-colored pasta on their plate and pitches a major fit about it. Who wants to fight that fight meal after meal? Unfortunately, that fight will always be present if the parents don’t sit down and teach their children to have good table manners, to try different foods, and probably more importantly have their childhood lives shared with the people who decided to create them in the first place – Mommy & Daddy.
So who’s going to be at your dinner table tonight? Hopefully it won’t be just you and a good book.