Last Friday my favourite radio programme Life Matters ( ABC Radio National) ran a programme on the topic of the decline of eating at the table. This is a topic I have read about in the past. I can recall reading some research that came out of the USA that suggested that kids from families that ate at least four meals together a week had better school grades, fewer teen pregnancies and limited drug use. My sons are only seven and ten but I can guarantee you that eating at the dining table as a family will prevent either of them falling pregnant in their early teen years. LOL
The photos are of the table that my sons set for the father’s day meal. I cooked a lamb roast with so much rosemary that when I first put it in the whole house smelt like the Catholic Church from my childhood! LOL ( must have been a sort of incense smell).
We eat 99.97% of our meals at our kitchen table. We have a small cottage style house and the table is slap bang in the middle of the kitchen. It seems to be the ‘hub’ of the house and I believe it when people say ‘the kitchen is the heart of the home’.
I believe that eating at the family table has a myriad of benefits for our family, probably some that I am not even aware of and could probably never articulate, but these are some thought that come to mind.
1) It is a TIME OF GATHERING – we are all busy and it seems as the boys get older, that pace continues to increase. Meal times are an opportunity to gather together as a family unit.
2) It is a time to COMMUNICATE – we have a similar conversation each night at the table. It usually starts with ‘ what was the best thing about your day ?’ or ‘How was Miss Taylor (teacher) today ?’ Even when they were tiny they loved to contribute their five cents about something that happened that day. Even if it was a couple of disjointed words at the age of 18 months, it was still their contribution.
As they have gotten older their contribution has become increasingly articulate and I love how they recount narratives about their day. It makes me laugh that the ten year old’s contribution usually involves some funny anecdote about the day, about who said what that made the whole class laugh. The seven year old’s contribution usually starts with ‘ do you know what?’ and we all have to say ‘what??’ to which he replies ‘well……’ with terrific expression in his voice! Even the grown ups have to contribute what was good about their day. It often makes us think. When I am in an awful mood, it is the conversation that usually turns me around! I am hoping that as the boys get older a platform is built for open communication and sharing of concerns and issues.
3) A time WITHOUT TELEVISION. Even if the television has been on I always turn it off when we sit down to eat. I seems that the meal time is a special time. The switching off is like some great ceremonious gong that announces ‘ let the sharing begin’.
4) A time of STRUCTURED MEALS – combined with a menu plan it is a great way of looking at what the kids are eating. I have one son that eats absolutely anything and another that eats very blandly – rice chicken pasta peas saos apples and rice crackers could get him through the year. Laying meals out on the table lets me keep up with what we eat.
5) It makes me feel a bit WALTONISH – lol. Remember the show THE WALTONS? I have the compete Series One on DVD and I love it. It’s kind of strange and hard to articulate but I love the old fashioned values, the simplicity of life, the hard times, the family values and I love that they sit around the table and debrief over beautiful home cooked meals.
I know that as the boys get older and get cars, mates, girlfriends, part time jobs and hormones that this romantic notion of the family meal will probably go out the window so for now… for this season I will enjoy it while it lasts.
I ask you this………. Are you swapping the opportunity for better family relationships, a stronger family unit and greater communication for the evening news and gossip or the latest soap opera ?? Food for thought I guess………