A Case for Family Dinner

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I’d like to make a case for family dinners.

I grew up in a family of six. It was my three brothers, my parents, and me. We were a weird family for a couple of reasons. For one, my parents refused to consider divorcing one another my entire life. I’m eternally grateful that they set up ground rules before they were even married about handling conflict. We are part of the 50% of families who don’t have a step parent, brother, or sister. For this, I’m so grateful.

My parents aren’t perfect by any means, but they are pretty good. As a kid, I remember talking about the boundaries they set up for our family. With four kids, we were already a busy family, and so to help with that my mom and dad set up rules about our extracurricular involvement. We were only allowed to do one sport, one activity at a time. In other words we couldn’t play basketball at our school and indoor soccer with a nearby club. So while we were busy with other stuff, we weren’t drowning in events or practices.

Yet, there is one other aspect of my family that makes us weird.

We always had dinner together.

I guess I should use “always” with discretion.

We always tried our best to eat dinner together. If this meant that we had to eat out after a basketball or football game, we did so, together. Yet, almost every day of the week my mom would serve our family by making us dinner and we would sit down to eat it together. Of course this taught my brothers and me to pitch in and help with dishes afterwards. Yet there was so much more going on than my mom making a home cooked meal and my brothers and I learning how to serve each other by doing dishes and clearing the table.

The dinner table was the place we learned about each other. My dad would lead us into serious conversations that would stretch the way we would think. I remember dreading these as a kid. As soon as my dad would sit back and ask us a question, I would groan and do my best to tune out. I only did this because my brothers were older than me and could logically think things through better than me. Plus they were more vocal than I was. Nonetheless, I learned a lot from those deep dinner conversations. They helped open my eyes to different views that were in my family. They  gave me new respect for the people sitting around the table. They helped mold me into the person I am today.

The dinner table was a place where laughter was one of the main modes of communication. I can not count the number of meals we ended up laughing together at a story, joke, or funny thing someone told. We loved to laugh, together. We rarely laughed at someone. As kids, this  happened more than when were more grown up. Yet, whenever one of us kids would laugh at one another, my parents would quickly stop it. The dinner table wasn’t a place we were going to put each other down. It was a place that we would laugh together and encourage one another.

The dinner table was the place we told each other what we most appreciated and loved about the others. As we grew up and my brothers started going to college, we started a tradition. Before one of us left for college, we would sit around the table and share what we loved about the person heading off to college. It was awkward at first because we’d never done that before. However, it was absolutely amazing after we looked past how “weird” it seemed. In reality it wasn’t weird at all. It was needed. Each person needed to be lifted up by their family. They were heading into a scary part of their life. They needed their family to back them up.

The dinner table was where memories were made. I’m overwhelming thankful that my parents made family dinners a priority. We never ate until everyone was at the table. If that meant that we had to wait an hour until my dad got home from work, we waited an hour. We were a family. Family dinners were etched into our DNA.

So I’d like to make a case for family dinners.

Not because it’s a nice idea.

Not because it makes you feel all warm in fuzzy at the idea.

But because family dinners shape families. Family dinners set standards. Family dinners hold a family together.

Family dinners mold people into who they might become in the future.

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