Back in the 50’s families dined together. My family ate in our kitchen at a green Formica table with chrome plated legs. The chairs were done in a matching color of vinyl and also had chrome plated legs. Hey! Don’t judge! It was the style back then. The dining room was reserved for special occasions, like when we had company coming over or Thanksgiving.
Meals were served “family style” every night with us all getting our meal from communal bowls or plates that were set on the table. Dinner was, what dinner was, and if you didn’t eat what was served, you went hungry.
One of the things we had for dinner was boiled cabbage and corned beef. She boiled wieners and she boiled pasta until it became an overcooked mess. We also had something called a boiled dinner which was potatoes, carrots, onions and meat. My mother was an expert at boiling everything to death (Sorry Mom). We also had liver with onions. Yum (sarcasm intended.)
Oxtail soup was a staple at our house. (Again something boiled). This consisted of a thick barley soup that was made with the tail of a cow. Many, many years ago, it was actually made with the tail of an ox, but there just weren’t enough oxen with tails to go around in the 50’s. The cow tail was skinned and cut into sections with each section having a bone with some marrow in the center and a meager portion of meat surrounding it. The marrow would melt into the soup and give it a rich, hearty flavor. I used to love this thick, meaty tasting soup.
Dinner was a time when we would sit around the table and discuss the things that were going on in our lives and what was going on in the world. We didn’t have the distractions of smart phones back then.
I tried to carry on these valuable traditions with my own children when I could. To encourage conversation, nobody could get up from the table until everybody was finished with their meal. We played a game called “Useless fact of the Day” where everyone brought a totally worthless fact to the dinner table. Television wasn’t visible from our dining room table so we would not have that distraction. It was turned off during dinner time anyway so we could focus on each other.
If the phone rang, I would answer, tell the caller we were having dinner and that the person they were trying to reach would call them back later. My children’s friends quickly learned not to call at dinner time. This also helped us avoid the “dine and dash” syndrome. There was no reason to gulp down your meal if you had to stay seated at the table until the slowest eater among us was done. One last thing we did is that our children had to ask permission to be excused. I have to admit that sometimes I ate slowly just to watch my children squirm.
We have lost this family time together with our smart phones and over extended activities. Children are now bouncing from one activity to another with barely enough time to change clothes in between, much less sit down and eat dinner with their family. Quality time with the family has taken a back seat to giving our children everything they want. It is not bad to try and spend some time making memories with your kids.
When we all are together as a family, my children are constantly saying “remember the time we all flew kites” or “remember the time you woke us up in the dead of winter to see the Aurora Borealis.” Not once have they said “remember the time you dropped me off for soccer practice.”
We have lost this valuable bonding time. Lost it to things that beep and whirr with tiny screens. We have lost our children to YouTube, Snapchat and Pinterest. Take a look some time at the students leaving school. Many of them are walking with their noses buried in their smart phones. They don’t talk to each other but are texting back and forth, not with the people they are walking with but with someone at a distant location, a few blocks away or maybe across town.
We, as parents, have to shoulder some of the blame for this. Our children are not the only ones that don’t make the time to eat as a family. We have failed as parents by pursuing our dart teams, baseball teams and volleyball teams, satisfying our own desires instead of living up to our responsibilities as parents. It’s time to step back from doing what we want to do and start raising our children properly.
A good place to start would be to limit the extracurricular activities that both you and your children participate in. Neither one of you is going to die if you aren’t busy every second of every day. Sit down to a family dinner with your children. Reconnect with the reason you had them in the first place. By eating with them you may just find what you have been looking for by hanging out with your buddies. You might just find the love and acceptance you have been seeking all along.
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