Monday, October 5, 2009

On Dinner

There was a slightly irksome article in the New York Times this weekend about the “family dinner” and how guilty some parents feel when they can’t get their whole families to sit down and eat together on a regular basis. What bugged me about the article was that it focused on the guilt and stress involved with the situation rather than what could be done about it. And I’m sure that getting all stressed out about eating together doesn’t exactly make for nice mealtimes when the family does get together and eat.

I’m curious to hear what dinner time is like in your homes. Do you eat at the table? In front of the TV? In separate rooms? Does it stress you out? Is it an enjoyable experience?

When I was growing up my family ate together every night and it was, as far as I can remember, usually enjoyable. It was a time for us to chat, tell jokes, and check in. For a family where we are all pretty independent and involved in our own stuff, it was our one bit of “family time” during the day. I likely would have resisited enforced “family time” having never been a joiner of any kind, but having those meals together allowed us to connect in a non-stressful way. There was never pressure involved, no “you have to be home for dinner or else!” decree. If we were busy doing something out of house that was fine, but if we were home, we ate together at the table.

My current little family of two (well, of seven, but the animals don’t eat with us, as much as they’d like to) eats a whole lot of our meals in front of the television. We don’t have cable, so we watch shows on DVD or on the internet. I don’t mind eating this way because we still have a relaxing meal and reasonable conversation. I don’t think I’d do this as frequently if we had kids. The Man of Science and I can easily chat and check in while focusing on The Daily Show. With more than two diners, that might get difficult.

Sunday night

Lately, we’ve had more non-TV meals than usual. This weekend we ate a few meals outside on the back porch (our last few outdoor meals before the cold comes, I imagine) and last week we had a nice meal at the dining room table after a long, long work day. I like knowing that we can still enjoy a meal and a chat without the TV on.

And I like the act of setting the table, whether we’re eating in front of the TV or at the table. We have nice placemats and napkins and glasses, we might as well use them even if we’re just crashed out on the couch in front of Battlestar Galactica instead of sitting across the table from each other eating by candlelight. Spending our mealtimes together is what really matters to me at this point.

Oh, and the delicious vegan food. That matters too.



Parasol said...

Our dinners sound a lot like yours except that I watch Jon Stewart over breakfast. At night it's usually Top Chef or ANTM or Dexter or Bored to Death. We spend an hour power-walking the dogs after work to catch up with one another.

Eating around here is always enjoyable!

kim g. said...

I hadn't really thought about it before reading this, but my husband and I do usually eat in front of the TV, watching The Daily Show. We still talk and I never feel like we aren't spending that time together. When I was little my family always ate together at the table, and I imagine that we would do that if we had kids. I love your idea of still setting the table, even if it is in front of the TV!

Chandelle said...

As a kid, I ate alone while my parents watched TV in another room. That was pretty lame, mostly because they wouldn't let me at least read a book or something since I had to be sitting by myself.

We don't like our kids being exposed to all that much media so we don't usually watch TV during dinner, though very occasionally we will have a casual meal while watching The Office on our computer (we don't have a TV). We have dinner together (most meals, actually) more or less every night, but it's not an enforced thing. Our kids are little and maybe this will change as they get older.

I don't like anything compulsory. For me, it just takes the pleasure out of it to say we "should" be doing this or that. I believe in quality more than quantity. If families don't eat together, I wouldn't assume that they don't have quality time in other areas.

Hilary said...

Weird, we also often watch The Daily Show while eating. We're trying to eat more at the table, though.

As a kid it was dinner round the table every night (unless it was a Saturday, when we sometimes got lucky and were allowed to watch TV.) What I remember most was the dreaded "three interesting things" from your day that you had to tell. This was to avoid the usual "What did you do at school? Nothing." scenario, though it didn't work that well...