Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Let's eat.

With the holidays approaching, I wonder how many of us are engaging in food, fun, and family the traditional way - sitting together around the table.
Anymore it seems that families and their overstuffed schedules are running in fifty different directions from the time the bell rings to the time everyone falls into their beds way past bedtime. So how are we making time to actually sit and eat together? 
According to a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association, "families who eat together have healthier, more balanced diets. Making family mealtime a priority not only improves everyone's physical health, but it also contributes to their overall well-being and mental health."
One thing about eating together that appeals to me is that it allows me to control what my son is putting in his mouth. When he is elsewhere, I never know what he is receiving in terms of food and nutrition. And as he gets older and spends more time away from home (boo-hoo), I know that this will be an even greater struggle.
Additionally, eating together as a family allows parents to establish hopeful habits for their children. One day my son might go off to college thus taking a sabbatical from home-cooked meals for weeks or even a month at a time (say it ain't so). But I will have some peace in knowing that five years at college surely can't negate my eighteen years of meal-together rituals established here in my home.
Furthermore, my husband was raised in a small town miles away from a restaurant of any sort. Nearly every evening meal that he consumed was prepared in his mother's kitchen and delivered to the family at the dining room table. Now my husband might be a rare breed, but because of this delicious upbringing, my husband can cook a serious meal - breakfast, lunch, dinner - you name it, he can cook it. What joy that brings me my family!
Additionally, mealtime is a perfect lab setting for learning socialization skills and manners. The dinner table is a wonderful place for children to practice how we want them to behave in public. Though mealtime can and should be enjoyable, there is no harm in learning how to keep our napkin on our lap or how to ask, "can you please pass the salt?"
Finally, eating together establishes ritual and tradition. I take great comfort in knowing that, no matter what happens during the day, my family will be together for dinner. Growing up, I always sat in the same seat on the same side of the table during our meals together, and it would not have felt the same had my father, for instance, taken a different chair at the table one evening. To me, our everyone-has-an-assigned-seat was like a security blanket.
In fact, a 2004 Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine study found that families who regularly eat together are closer than those who eat separately. When we sit down with our children we create an environment conducive to communication. Mealtime is a great opportunity to actually talk with our kids rather than simply mentioning something in passing as we often do when we are scurrying off to the next event. Also, dinnertime occurs at the end of the day, which means that by then, we all have some catching up to do.
As we approach the holidays, it would do us all good to break-in the dining room table before our company arrives. Nothing fancy, nothing formal - just family, food, and memories.
To read more about the wonders of mealtime, visit this article.

1 comment:

ali said...

I love sitting around the table at dinnertime! Hubby's a police officer so his hours make it hard for everyone to enjoy a meal together:(