Everyone sitting in 'their' spots around the table, tv is most definitely off, good, nutritious food served most nights, conversation, some sibling arguments, Mum and Dad asking us about how our day was and what's new.
This was most evenings in my house when I was growing up.
At around 6pm I would hear Dads voice bellowing though the house intercom (which seemed pretty common in 80's houses) calling us all from our corners of the house down for dinner. If I wasn't there within 5 minutes, someone would pick up the other receiver of the phone and tell me to get off the phone and get to the dining table. They knew me too well.
Needless to say Family Meals were a priority in our house. If you were grumpy or moody (which is also pretty common for young teens I believe) you didn't get to skip it, you ate at the table with everyone else. It was the one time of the day that we were all at the same place at the same time. To leave the table we had to ask to be excused, if someone else was still eating, you weren't excused.
What it really was though, was a lot more than just eating. My parents put a high value on family dinners. All 4 of us kids were given an opportunity to share about our day, to be listened to, to have real and undivided interest given to what we were saying or feeling. We got the opportunity to listen to each other share, and to participate in family discussions. It wasn't rushed (at least not when we were old enough to put ourselves to bed), Mum and Dad weren't shooing us away so they could get to the tellie. I believe that these dinners helped our family dynamic, they enabled us to connect on a real level with our parents, and know that we always had this time if we wanted to talk. Mum said often the ones who wanted to talk would stick around, whilst the rest of the kids went off to do their own things. They were more than just eating, they were about creating deeper relationships.
Since I've become a Mum myself I've started looking at these family dinners differently. Realising that they were deliberate, they were based on the family values my parents held. When Ezra started eating 'real' food, I became more aware of our own mealtime habits, which were mostly Joel and I sitting in front of the tv with our dinner on our laps. So, we made a specific decision to change this when Ez started eating dinner, because we both have experienced and understand the real value of family dinners.
Even though Ezra can't really talk yet, he can still participate in dinner. He watches and learns from us, he sees our example in the food we eat, and he eats it too. He listens to our conversations and we all interact together as a family. Its not always a relaxing meal, but, for me it is more about setting the precedent early on and getting him used to us all sitting down together. I don't know if this is why he pretty much eats most foods or not, I would like to think it is, but we could end up with a super picky eater next time round. We just make one meal at night, that we all eat (because I want to eat together, and because I'm lazy and I really hate the thought of having to prepare multiple meals every night). He's learnt to love meals that I never would have expected a toddler to enjoy and he's slowly learning how to behave at the dinner table.
Now that we are in the habit, we are not about to break it. My hope is that we can be as successful in our value of family dinners and the positive impact they have, as my parents were.
How do/did dinners work in your house?
If you want to keep up with the goings on at Yellow Dandy, I would be so happy if you LIKED my facebook page!!