NOT LETTING GO OF FAMILY DINNER

It’s been a month or so since Mr. Mom’s Kitchen and I (tearfully) delivered our oldest daughter to her first day of high school. She tolerated us walking her almost to the front door…generous when you consider that it’s nearly scandalous for a girl of 14 to be witnessed with her parents.

She’s adjusted happily thus far, as if she’s been a freshman in high school all her life. It’s me who’s struggling with her newfound independence, suddenly wanting to tether myself to her legs, just as she did to mine when she was 2 and 4 and 6, so she can’t go out into the world.

But she is in the world, on her own: up and out the door often before her sisters have even clamored out of bed, riding the city bus to school, playing sports every afternoon, then home and doing homework. Some days I feel I hardly see her.

I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised. I’d heard this would happen…that she would grow up and turn outward, that friends would become more alluring than family. I’m not complaining, I just miss her, which is why I’ve never been more grateful for the one little capsule of time in the day when we are all together, at the dinner table. I’ve let other things go in deference to her growing independence, but not family supper.

Of course, I’ve always known that sharing meals is important. I’ve read the research, just like you probably have, that kids who break bread at the family table are more academically successful, better adjusted, happier, and better nourished. But now I realize that all the data pales in comparison to the simple satisfaction of locking eyeballs with my kids each day over supper. Sometimes it may be all of 10 minutes, sometimes with bickering or bad manners, or with people complaining that they aren’t hungry, are too busy, or don’t like family dinner.

But they know…this ritual is non-negotiable. We’ve been at it since they were old enough to sit in a highchair. And it’s not going to last forever. Four years from now my oldest girl will be sitting across from her peers, not her parents, in a dining hall in a college somewhere away from home. I’ve got precious little time left for these family dinners.

You better believe, I’m not giving them up.

How about you?

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10  Comments

Comments

  1. Anne Mullen
    09.27.2012 at 4:17 AM #

    Our kids lived through family dinners through high school, often with little communication, but they were there if they wanted to eat. Since cooking isn’t my favorite thing, I certainly wasn’t going to do it more than once, so it was their only chance at food at night. I don’t know that eating dinner together is the reason my children are so wonderful, but I’m sure it helped.

    • katiemorford
      09.27.2012 at 7:28 AM #

      Yes, sometimes I’m sure they feel like they’re “living through” family dinner….and I hope my kids grow up as wonderful as yours.

  2. 09.27.2012 at 6:37 AM #

    I nearly cried the whole way through reading this (though my wee girl is not yet two) thinking about meeting this day myself. Your writing is always so honest, and always moves me. It’s no doubt, like you said, that that gathering at the family table has impressionable results in so many areas of a child’s life, but I love that in the end, our hearts are what keep us bound to these traditions.

    Breakfast is our non-negotiable shared meal, and dinner most nights, even if that happens around the picnic table in our community garden or on a blanket at the beach with friends, but our table, with just us three, I have to admit, is my favorite place of all.

    • katiemorford
      09.27.2012 at 7:24 AM #

      Thanks Sarah, and yes, it doesn’t matter what meal is your family meal or where it takes place…it’s the being together part that matters.

  3. Tara
    09.27.2012 at 8:20 AM #

    Some of my favorite family memories of childhood and adolescence involve our family table, Katie, so I’m with you 100%. Glad the big Irish pine table we bought before any kids has space enough for the 5 of us, because I’m committed to spending quality time there. Thanks for your thoughts.

    • katiemorford
      09.27.2012 at 11:31 AM #

      Those wee ones will be tableside before you know it.

  4. Leslie
    09.27.2012 at 10:04 AM #

    Thank you Katie,
    This was beautifully written and a gentle reminder to think about and act upon what is important to us.

    • katiemorford
      09.27.2012 at 11:32 AM #

      Thank you, Leslie….sometimes our busy lives can get in the way…

  5. 10.01.2012 at 11:59 AM #

    Katie – This post made me cry! I still have one in a high chair (for a little while longer, anyway) and one in first grade. I already feel like life is speeding past too quickly, like I have precious little time left with my sweeties. I just know if I blink I’m going to open my eyes and there they will be, teenagers, getting ready to move on. I’m holding on to every moment. :)
    Leah

    • katiemorford
      10.01.2012 at 1:09 PM #

      Yes, hold onto every moment. Thanks for sharing!

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