When I was young, I remember our mealtime very clearly. We sat together at 6 pm every single night, all 6 of us: my parents, 3 siblings, and me. My mom and dad began the meal by passing food around, as we all helped ourselves. After that, children were seen at the table but not heard; we were quiet most of the time! My mom and dad spent the mealtime discussing their days. My dad would share stories about work and his office and my mom would listen and respond. We did not share our days, thoughts, emotions, or anything else related to us. This was very difficult for 4 rambunctious children with lots of energy.
I distinctly remember one meal in which my older brother got mad, who knows why and threw his fork across the table at my dad. He was immediately dismissed from the table for the night and his dinner was over. It seems now, looking back, that this particular form of punishment was more shame producing rather than an opportunity for teaching. Times were so different back then. Our parents did the best they could with what they knew.
As a child, I can remember feeling really uncomfortable at my dinner table. I was not a quiet child, and it was quite difficult for me to just sit and eat. I distinctly remember shaking my leg, a habit that I endured because of my attempt to contain my need to speak. My mother always placed her hand on my leg and shook her head with contempt. I had so many things that I wanted to share about my day. They all came out at bedtime. However, this was not a good time in my family either, since there were four children to put to bed. Looking back, I love that that my family sat down together every night; however, I wish that my parents had created an opportunity for me and my siblings to share our day, perhaps one by one, and all have the chance to listen with respect to each other. This is how connections are built. Perhaps my relationships with my siblings and my parents would have been different back then if this were the case.
I would like to think times have changed. In my family and the families that I work with worldwide, mealtime is a special time to connect as a family. In today’s society, there is so much rushing around. We’re all caught up in the hamster wheel of our own lives that we don’t always have a lot of opportunity for time together as a family unit. This bonding time can be an opportunity for beautiful conversations and connections, where each member of the family has a voice and an opportunity to share their day. It is important that as a family, we listen to each other and engage without distractions. Perhaps this is a no cell phones zone. It certainly is at my dinner table. This give and take of thoughts and feelings, of presence and attention, and of connection is such a powerful opportunity to listen to our kids, learn about them more, and enjoy their company, without distractions. Imagine how much value our children feel during in these special moments of connection.
How do you create time to bond as a family? Does technology get in your way? Do you have a tech-free zone in your home?
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