Coming to the TablePosted: May 30, 2012
Most parents today know that eating dinner as a family can have a positive impact, especially for our children. Over the years, there have been countless studies, articles, blog posts, and television segments on the importance of coming together to the table over a home-cooked meal. Some statistics suggest that eating a meal as a family plays a bigger role in a child’s developing vocabulary than story time. Children who regularly dine with their parents are less prone to drug or alcohol abuse and eating disorders, and they are more likely to achieve better grades in school. In short, these children are generally happier, healthier, and smarter than children who dine with parents in front of the television or alone.
My family eats several meals together every week. I cook for my family (or serve leftovers) for supper during most weeknights, and also on the weekends if we happen to be at home. Sometimes we eat on the go. We have been known to pick up a meal at the McDonald’s drive-thru and eat in the car when we have places we need to get to in a hurry. Sometimes we eat out. Last week our son had his first T-ball game of the season, and we celebrated his efforts (Mommy’s bragging moment: He helped earn the team THREE outs! That’s a pretty big deal in T-ball!) by eating at Dairy Queen afterwards. And yes, while it’s a very rare occurrence, sometimes we even eat in front of the television! (We are sports fanatics and St. Louis Cardinals fans, so if an important game is on, we have been known to watch the game together as we eat.) But at least five times throughout the week, we come to the table as a family for a home-cooked meal. And I can not fully express my love for this simple tradition. We live such busy, fast-paced lives that I am constantly trying to slow down, and dinner is one of those times. We have time to talk. To listen. To ask questions. To give answers and opinions. To discuss. To laugh. We are sitting still (unless you’re my squirmy five-year-old, and then you’re usually shifting around in your seat like there are ants in your pants!), we are facing each other, and we are open to wherever the conversation may take us.
Almost as much as I love eating as a family, I love to prepare a meal for them. But I didn’t always feel this way. I used to dread having to cook. I wasn’t very good at it. I didn’t like standing on my feet and leaning over a hot stove after a long day. I burned things. I messed up the recipe. It took too much time. I had a ton of excuses, and my husband ended up doing most of the cooking for us. But over time, something in me changed. I opened myself up to cooking. I let go of the idea of it being a burden, and the act of cooking turned into something therapeutic for me. Cooking for my family meant I was fueling them. I was satisfying their need. And that made me feel good about the task at hand. By changing the attitude with which I approached the task, cooking for my family went from being a dreaded chore to being something I really enjoyed and looked forward to. And now I’m always searching for new healthy, delicious recipes to bring to the table for my family to enjoy as much as we enjoy each other’s company.
One of the things we ask each other at every mealtime together is “What was your favorite part of today?” And a lot of the time, for all of us, the answer is “Right now. Eating this meal with my family.” And it’s not a cop-out; it’s just the truth. And even more so than all of the statistics and experts that support family mealtime, that makes every effort in the kitchen worthwhile.