Thoughtful Thursday: The Family Dinner Table

Thoughtful Thursday

This one will be less “ranty,” I promise.

Well…maybe.  More kind.  More motherly, at least.

I strive for family meals as much as possible.  Of course, when Josh is on call and doesn’t get home until LATE (after midnight in some cases), sometimes it’s a Muffin and Mama meal.

Now, I see no problem with those meals, at times, coming from restaurants.  Of course, we are eating out much less on purpose (yay, meal planning!), but we do still enjoy an occasional visit to Chick-Fil-A (Muffin’s favorite and Josh and I each have one of the calendar cards).

Meal time conversation is unrehearsed and unplanned.  We talk about issues that are important to us (sometimes mine become a bit “ranty”) or how our days went.

To Muffin, family meals are meals that include our family and his granny and granddaddy.  He gets very excited about those family meals.

Note:  one of our lively dinner table discussions lately has been what meal we are eating.  I’m not talking about the contents of the plate before us.  Muffin wants to dissect the semantics of various meal names…breakfast…lunch…and supper (that he insists should only be called “dinner”).

We tend to have very adult discussions at the table…not X-rated or R-rated, but of topics such as work, the news, and the like.  You have to realize that for much of my youth and adolescence, my parents had the news on at all meal times.  Issues were discussed, sometimes vehement debates about current events.  For the most part, I tended to agree with my parents, so basically it was a case of who could voice their very similar opinion the most articulately (with the best evidence-based support).

This is where I’m afraid I might turn a bit “ranty.”  In the Pinteresting Blogosphere, I have started to see what is (to me) a troubling phenomenon:  conversation jars or starters, little slips of paper to pull from a jar about what to talk about at the dinner table.

My sister made me one, not for my family, but for when we have guests.  It is very useful for dinner parties.

I’ve looked at several of them, not just the slips that my sister included in my jar.  If our conversation at the dinner table ever becomes so stilted or nonexistent that we have to rely on conversation starters, to me, the concept of the family dinner has been lost.  Bonding (which is what family dinner time should be) cannot occur with conversation starters.  Meeting and mingling, yes.  But to be the tether that holds down a conversation between my life partner who I hopefully know very well and the child that is my own flesh and blood?  If things get that far off track, we have bigger problems than family mealtime.

And family mealtime won’t solve those problems or save anyone from those problems.  In fact, at that point, it may be a mockery to the family dining institution.

Do I banish the telly from the table?

I realize that I’m going to make the anti-screen time types angry when I say this, but no.

I grew up sharing mealtimes with my family and a screen that served as our jumping-off point for discussions.

Sometimes, I wonder if Muffin’s lack of picky-ness (although sometimes it rears it’s ugly head) comes from the family dinner table.  He eats, with very few exceptions, the same meal that Josh and I eat (I do well to plan out one set of dinner menus.  Two would probably cause a mental shutdown.), seeing us eat and enjoy the same meals he eats.  We discuss the meal.  Sometimes we even prepare it together.  He’s become a real whiz at slicing olives with a plastic knife.

And…ultimately…I am a Southerner, born and raised, on one side first generation, but on the other one, at least five generations.  One way I show love is by sharing a meal.  So, to me, the family meal is the ultimate expression of love, at least from a culinary day-to-day standpoint.

I hope that I have encouraged Muffin to have that same idea, even from this early age.

I would love to hear you weigh in on your opinion of family mealtime.


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