Protecting the Dying Art of the Family Meal

Categories: Chewing the Fat

OldDinner.jpg
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In the old days, the flatscreen behind dad was always off.
Thursday morning on Sports Radio 1310 the Ticket, the Musers dedicated a segment to the lost art of family dinners. They (loosely) cited a new report supporting the old doctrine that a family that breaks bread together stays together.

Their conversation was, as always, insightful and thought-provoking. They made P1s ponder the state, or lack-there-of, of family meals. Have times changed so much that it really is a fading tradition? And, as Rich Phillips might ask, is that a good thing?

Evenings are just so different, especially for families with school-aged kids. A big issue the Musers brought up is recreational sports. Back in the day, most of us played on school-sponsored teams where practice was tagged to the end of the school day and kids were home by 5:30 p.m.

Now kids play in recreational or select leagues (mandatory if you want them to even be considered for the 7th grade B-team) and practice and games don't even start until at least 5:30 p.m.

From a housekeeping perspective, how many working moms and dads want to clean the entire kitchen after dinner at 9 p.m.? And don't forget about baths, homework, reading logs and mandatory xBox. And God forbid it's a standardized testing week (which it is).

So instead of cooking a meal, it's easier to grab something on the way home or, the cheaper route, have everyone forage through the fridge, fending for themselves.

There's also a gluttony of distractions from phones, games and TV. Competing with a teen bent on a Twitter feed is almost a futile effort. Even adults for that matter. An authoritative zero-tolerance policy is the only way out, creating some delicious mealtime tension.

Again, is it easier to throw in the dishtowel and let everyone do their own thing? Or as one Muser put it yesterday, "Hook their lips up to the boob tube and suck away."

Then there are those of us, particularly Phillips again, with younger kids who find dinnertime to be mandatory beat-down hour. The nostalgic concept of a harmonious meal where we all rehash the day's events unfortunately doesn't often play out.

"We sit down three or four times a week and there are no glorious moments," Phillips said. "It's a litany of corrections."

I can sympathize with Phillips. Dinner with my four young kids is like a frat party (for them). I love it that they all find each other so entertaining, but asking them to calmly break bread often feels like the patients have taken over the asylum. Sometimes I wonder if they do it just to make us crazy so they can leave quicker. (Ding!)

Old ladies stop me in the cereal aisle at the grocery store, look at my brood, and tell me with sad eyes that it all passes by so quickly. I invite them to dinner at 7. They never show.

Maybe the modern family meal has morphed into something more cursory. It's also at times impractical with the hectic pace of things. And captivating a reluctant crowd seems defeating. Why cook? Why clean? Why spend the time on it if no one wants to be there?

But as George Dunham continually emphasized to Phillips and P1s, it's just what you have to do as a parent. He advised that we have to work through those moments. "It's part of the deal," said Dunham in his calm dad voice.

There is absolute truth to his point. If our kids won't act right for us (which often, they won't), hopefully they'll at least know how to act around other people or in public if we battle through the dinners and continue to fire off those "litany of corrections." The frat party has to end at some point, right? (Please tell me yes.)

So, while a fruitful family dinner might only be achieved by those hell-bent on making it work, it's worth the effort. It has to be.

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16 comments
Josh's broken records
Josh's broken records

The little ones, that mooch off of my wealth, sit down everynight and eat together, I sit at the end of the table and referee.. pretty much...me and momma don't get to eat til much later in the evening. 

TheRealDirtyP1
TheRealDirtyP1

I'm a father of 4(12,7,6, 11 months) and we sit down together every night. It's really hard during baseball season with only Fridays and Sundays being the days we have nothing going on. It's normal to sit down at 8 and eat until at least July. Like Jub says, it's what you do as a parent. The tv is off, cell phones are not at the table, we say grace and then talk about the favorite and worst part of everyone's day. Dinner is the highlight of my day.

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin

I grew up with with sports and after school activities and my parents always made sure we had at least a few nights a week of sit down dinner time.  My younger brother and I hated it, we did the routine to make them happy, we got corrected and scolded for misbehaving at the table, but if not for those day, I wouldnt have the manners that I have now when eating out, or go to other peoples places for meals.  Without all that scolding, how would you know whats appropriate for the dining table.?

guest
guest

We always had family dinner even if it was after practices or games (soccer and baseball). It may have been something we picked up if it was late but it was eaten at the table all of us together. It wasn't a beat down it was hysterical...no discussion was off limits. It can be done and it's worth it!

No praying, just eating
No praying, just eating

We have two teenagers and family dinners every weeknight and even on weekends, when possible. To make that happen, we often eat at 8:30. No fighting, phones, or TV. It's a labor of love. Sometimes our son eats in five minutes and rushes off, and I want to cry because of his table manners (believe me, I've tried everything), but it's worth it.

BandoBaby
BandoBaby

Always had dinner with my folks but couldn't scarf it down quick enough before my dad asked questions like "How's school coming along??  Makin' those A's??" 

Kergo 1 spaceship
Kergo 1 spaceship

LDD, the Musers addressed this Friday.  Family meal..........BEATING!  All I did was create eff'ing chaos whilst everyone else tried to relax, and speak-nothing has changed.

Lkrooks
Lkrooks

Oh my, oh my, how things have changed.   Gone on the days of saying grace, reading bible scriptures, saying please and "may be I excused".  At least I have the  memories.

LaurenDrewesDaniels
LaurenDrewesDaniels

Yep. That's it. That's what we do. It's okay for now. We'll keep refereeing and all that. One day they'll get it. Sooner than later, actually.

LaurenDrewesDaniels
LaurenDrewesDaniels

We tried this last night. It was fun. The kids enjoyed, but I had to keep getting on them about interrupting (we have a shy one. If she gets cut off, she's out.) I love it that for one kid, the high and low involved soccer and kickball. 

LaurenDrewesDaniels
LaurenDrewesDaniels

Agreed. It's why we do it. Maybe kids will at least act nice other places :) 

Admonkey
Admonkey

And you're welcome to them.

TheRealDirtyP1
TheRealDirtyP1

that's good to hear. I'm always open to different parenting techniques, as my kids find ways to defeat them when I get on a roll. We do this one every night, and we take turns. For example, on my night, I call on each person, I take volunteers first and then after that I pick who goes. After my night is done, the next night we start with the youngest going next until we get to me again and it starts all over. This way the kids look forward to doing it, and if their brother picks them to go first every night, then they'll do the same to them. Here's a Deadspin article that I favorited and look at once a monthhttp://deadspin.com/5875779/9-...

Jon Daniel
Jon Daniel

No shit - I wonder of non-whites and non-Christians think those were the "good old days"

jamal
jamal

 his/her rather.

jamal
jamal

 What the fuck does his post have to do with being white?

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