By Samantha Stroube-Daviss
Corsicana Daily Sun
Sometimes I feel like a broken record talking about how busy we all are, running from one activity to another. And I realize that sometimes practices run late, or are smack in the middle of your usual dinner time. Sometimes those scheduling conflicts just can’t be avoided, but what can be avoided is living completely separate lives under one roof.
We all jump out of bed in the morning, racing to school or to work, with a few “Good Morning” kisses, and another as we race out the door. Then after school it’s piano lessons, gymnastics, tumbling, golf, baseball, cheer; whatever your activities are, your family is in a constant tailspin trying to get to your next point of interest. Then it’s time for homework, tests, reading — all the stuff that goes along with making good grades so you are able to do all those sports and activities.
Next it’s time for showers and off to bed. But wait! Something is missing. Oh, that’s right, family conversations and interaction so we all know how our days went, how work is, how school is. Did anything exciting happen? What kind of grades did you pull on that test? Are you talking to a new girl in school?
We all have to eat, so why not take that time to spend a little quiet time together sitting around the dinner table, talking, catching up, and learning about anything new in your family’s lives. Think of it this way — with the TV off, and everyone around the breakfast room table, they are a captive audience. They can’t go anywhere, so they have to sit and face the music and communicate.
I’m not saying we are able to do it every single night of the week because of schedules, or weekend activities. But we try to sit down together at least four out of the seven nights in a week. We don’t allow cell phones, or iPads, or iPods, or i-anything at the table. When we are there, we are there as a family.
It’s not just a time for us to sit and talk and catch up on the day’s activities or points of interest. It is also a learning time as well. Every night I have our oldest set the table, and everyone is responsible for clearing the table. And we teach them not to put their elbows on the table, how to properly use a knife and fork, and what side their glass should go on. But mainly it is teaching them how to sit through an entire meal without having to get up, go watch TV or go play on some electronic device. It is teaching our children how to slow down, have good table manners, and understand that life is what is happening in front of them, not on that tiny computer screen.
Today’s society is in such a rush that people have forgotten how to set the table properly, where the fork and knife and spoon goes, where the bread plate goes, and your glass(es). I know it may sound simple and elementary, but if you are ever in a restaurant, look around at how many people actually know how to use their utensils properly, or where to put their glass. Sitting around the table and enjoying good conversation, is a dying art.
But more importantly sitting around the table as a family for dinner keeps you connected and a permanent fixture in their world. So they know that at dinner time they can come to you and talk about a problem they are having, or they know (whether they like it or not) “Big Brother” will ask them all the questions of the day. As a way to stay connected and in their lives, to avoid problems, issues, or possible concerns that may pop up in their lives.
Whether they tell you or not, kids need and want you in their lives and in their business. Growing up is an extremely complicated and scary process, and the more you know the more they know. You are their safety net. Regardless of how much they say they want you gone and out of their business, it is actually just the opposite. The pre-teen and teenage years are a scary and uncharted time in young kids’ lives.
Get in there, annoy them, know everything about them — I promise you in the end they will thank you for it. And they will be better people because of it.
So you see, just a simple conversation at dinner time breaks down all those barriers. It will be the best 30 minutes you ever spent. The meal doesn’t have to be fancy, and if you aren’t a cook, don’t worry about; grab something on your way home from work. But carve that “table time” out and really talk to your kids, listen to them, and have them listen to you. You’ll be glad you did.
Samantha Stroube-Daviss is a Daily Sun columnist. Her column appears on Thursdays. She may be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read her blog at samantha-daviss.blogspot.com, and follow her on Twitter @SamanthaDaviss1. Want to “Soundoff” on this column? E-mail: email@example.com