At my house, we eat together. Everyday. Everyday, we sit down and share food, space and time together.
There are various studies that show the importance of a daily shared meal. This simple activity is supposed to increase social skills, improve academic achievement and many other wonderful things.
Truthfully, not is not why my family eats together. We just do. It seems important to sit together, literally face to face and eat. There are few things are more basic, more primal, than eating (and those other things are best done in private, even in my house). Over the years, there have been sweet and sensitive conversations, tense discussions, terse silence, and even the rustling of papers. For the most part, we just share a meal, a little time, and a few words. Simply spending time together on this mortal coil.
For most meals, the table is set: forks on the left with a napkin under, knife and spoon on the right, glass above the spoon, filled serving dishes in the tables’ center. Some meals are just bowls of cereal grabbed in the kitchen and then plopped on the table. Sometimes, pizza boxes are flipped open on the table and everyone is handed a paper plate, paper napkin, a glass of milk. (Yeah, I like milk with pizza. Shhh… Don’t tell.)
Once when the kids were little, Cody had a friend over. We were all getting ready for dinner. I was filling serving bowls. Cody was carrying napkins and plates to the table. Looking confused, his friend asked whose birthday it was. No one’s. Then the friend looked more confused and asked was it Christmas? It took me a few beats but I realized that this little boy had no idea why we were setting the table if it wasn’t a holiday. Like many families, his family only ate together, sitting around the table, a few special times a year. It made me think: our everyday ritual was truly special.
Recently, with our kids grown and out of the house, my husband and I have started eating dinner in the living room. We sit on the couch, in front of the TV. My daughter chastises me regularly for this behavior: This is not the proper way for her family to behave. And I think she is right.
The next time that I want to eat in the the living room, I think I will turn off the TV, put an extra log on the fire and then set my intention even if I am not setting the dinning room table. Sharing a meal together, face to face, it is just what we do.
K. Michelle Doyle
May all babies be born into loving hands