My greatest childhood memories were created around the dinner table. Family dinners were a staple, every single night. And on Sundays, we were lucky enough to have our grandparents join in. Things seemed so different back then. We played outside all day without needing to be tracked. Activities and sports were not ‘year round’ things, at least they weren’t where I came from. Kids weren’t overscheduled. And parents weren’t running around trying to keep up with all of it in a constant fit of stress.
Now, while I know there is good that comes with our generation of parenting, it saddens me so much to see that with all of the busy, Time Around the Table as a family has completely taken a backseat. Meals are now often on the go, as the family separates for activities. Or done through a drive-thru.
What I feel we have forgotten, as parents, is how negatively this could be affecting our families, our children. Something as little as taking 30, even 15 minutes a day, to have that time together as a family makes a much greater impact that many of us could even imagine. Time Around the Table is invaluable, for so many reasons:
When we sit down at the table for a meal together, it may sound harsh, but there’s no out. We are all stuck there until the meal is done. No getting up to turn on the TV, no toys, no devices, no distractions. It is time we have committed and dedicated to only each other. What a gift.
We all have a chance to be heard. To talk about our highs and lows of the day. Imagine the security a child must feel knowing that they can come to the table, over and over, to be heard. That dependability and trust are unbeatable. It doesn’t need to be elaborate or staged. A simple what was the best or toughest part of your day is all it takes to open up a conversation.
We all have a chance to listen. If we can all learn to truly listen and hear one another, to show empathy and compassion, that is one of my greatest wishes as my family grows. That will carry us all so far, beyond our immediate families and into our communities. And around the table is a perfect place to start.
We are able to offer our kids more nutritious options vs eating out. We simply have more control over the quality, taste, and nutrition of our food at home. And just like we teach our kids how to go potty, or read, or tie their shoes, we also have the ability to teach our kids the value of delicious, healthful food. The best place to start with that is by simply making healthful choices a normal part of their daily lives, at the table. And let’s be honest, if the food is good, everyone is more apt to enjoy themselves, right? Its sort of what keeps the party alive!
It allows us to give our kids a sense of tradition. Something to rely on…something to remember.
And if all of that isn’t enough, how about this: Studies have shown a positive connection between regular family meals and: higher academic performance, better vocabulary in young children, lower depression rates in adolescents and teens, higher self-esteem and better overall health. Take a peek at this study….pretty remarkable.
But the real question is how can we bring back our time around the table? How can we make it the norm again? Is that even possible? The truth is, unfortunately, the activities and overscheduling probably aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. So how can we ensure that our kids will reap the benefits of this family togetherness around the table with all of the hustle going on?
We can try. As best as we are able. We can do what works for us, for our families…even the smallest changes can make a huge impact. Maybe if we aren’t currently having meals together as a family, we start by committing one designated day a week to a family meal around the table.
Or maybe we focus on becoming more intentional with our meals, shutting off the TV and truly looking at how we are spending that time at the table together. Are we truly communicating with one another? Are we listening and showing interest in what our kids are telling us? Listen, I get it, sometimes we just want to eat…and move on to bedtime. The days can be long. But this is 30 minutes out of a 24-hour day we are talking about; it can have a huge impact. Every bit matters. Let’s do this, mamas, let’s bring back time around the table!
It doesn’t need to be fancy food, or gourmet by any means; pb&js work just fine, whatever works for your family. All it needs to be is a bite to eat and our family, in the same place, at the same time, dedicating a tiny bit of our day to one another. As my own children continue to grow, I know the days will only get crazier and dinners as a family may become more difficult to achieve. But my family has my commitment to keep this time a priority, once a day, for as long as I am able.
Will it be a homecooked dinner every single night? Likely not. It might mean waking up 15 minutes early to have breakfast together. It may be dessert together. Or a pre-bedtime snack if that’s what it takes. But I will be intentional, and it will happen, once a day. Carving out that time together is one of the best things we can do for our children and ourselves, both emotionally and physically, and the bond that it can create within a family is every bit of motivation I need to keep it high in my priorities.