Family Dinners

Along with a good portion of other people in the Internet, I read Dooce and sometime last year, when Heather started doing momversations with other prominent mommy bloggers, I started watching that, too. They're smart, funny women with interesting takes on issues of parenting and despite not being a parent, not surprisingly, I have opinions anyway. The older I get, the more I'm aware of how I was parented has shaped some of the best parts of me and I am lucky enough to have been elected co-parent of two amazing boys, which has made me think even more about the ways we parent. And I find it pretty funny that I feel compelled to justify being about to opine about parenting, but it's a bit of a sticky issue, isn't it? For people who don't have children to have an opinion about raising them. However! This blog is about me having opinions, so here goes.

One of the recent momversations was about family dinners, about having them, not having them, why we think they’re important or not and I'd wait here while you went to watch it, but for some reason it stops after the first 30 seconds, so I'll recap really briefly. Some people thought family dinners were important , not just because it allows a family to spend time together, but also to discuss life, debate, etc. One of the women weighing in hadn’t come from a tradition of the family gathering around the table for dinner and stayed in touch with her daughter in other ways, among them text messages, figuring that this is the way her daughter communicates, so she’d communicate with her in a way in which her child was comfortable.

I'll admit my bias up front. I grew up in the tradition of everybody meeting around a table for dinner, nobody starting until my mother sat down and indicated we could begin and everybody sticking around until the last person was finished, at which point we’d thank my mother for the meal and helped clear the table. Dinner was where we talked about our day, it was where all the important things were discussed - many of my favourite memories of growing up involve the table (by the way, my mother kept it, after all), a meal and our family together. And it was where my sister and I learned the debate game, our parents encouraging us to take part in discussions, expecting us to be prepared to back up our opinions and over time, we learned the joy of juggling ideas in the air between us over dinner.

Times have changed and it is often harder now to gather the family around a meal, what with shift work and second jobs, afterschool activities, recalcitrant teenagers and what have you. However, I believe that whenever possible, gathering together once a day does a number of things that are important . It builds family bonds, it teaches children about etiquette - yes, the manners Nazi strikes again, but having the ability to conduct oneself properly around a meal is important when you grow up and may, if not have dinner with the Queen, then perhaps your boss or a person whose pants you’d like to get into (I once knew somebody who never called a girl back for a second date because she slurped her coffee. And I understand that). And it develops the ability to have an intelligent conversation, also a really handy tool when you grow up. Family dinners are an important socializing tool and therefore an important parenting tool.

Your thoughts?

BBut before I turn the soapbox over to you, thank you so much to everyone who left a comment on the Birthday Goddess post, helping to celebrate my mother properly. 47 comments, some from people who never commented before and I'm pretty jazzed about that. I asked mor to select a number between 1 and 45, she picked 35 (being born in 1935) and - drumroll, please! - the winner is Fridawrites. Congratulations, Frida! E-mail me at landers5ATgmailDOTcom with your choice of photo and address and I'll get on it immediately, if not sooner.