About a year ago, my husband suddenly announced that our family would linger and “talk” after supper each night, UNTIL he himself decided that we had been there long enough. It was a bit of a shock to all of us. Not the fact that we were eating together, but that he wanted us to talk. Really talk. And that he was unnaturally stubborn about it.
I grew up in a home where we ate dinner together and spent time around the dinner table. It was a time we talked about our day, and heard what was important. There was much discussion about choices people made with their lives and what the results were, both good and bad. There was never judgment, but there was so much we learned from these daily moments together. Dinner was yummy and the time together was good.
Growing up, my husband’s family did not regularly get together around the dinner table as we did, so it was unnatural for him, and we both found it a little bit of a challenge to institute the dinner time ritual after we married. Ofttimes we did eat on the couch in the living room, but there were days when we had memorable times at the table, which included a food disagreement or two. I remember the time when we had been married only a couple of months, that I put carrots in HIS meatloaf. He told me in no uncertain terms that I was never to do it again. It caused a temporary rift in our relationship which ended late that evening, after he took me for a nice long car ride and apologized for his rudeness, but didn’t back down from the statement that carrots did NOT belong in meatloaf. I’m glad to say that he is not nearly as picky as he was back then, and he has never “knowingly” eaten carrots in his meatloaf since that day.
My husband was in the Navy when we married, and I spent many meals alone, throughout the early years, as he completed his training. When he was out to sea on his first submarine patrol, the dinner table was especially lonely. After he returned from that first patrol, I made friends with Linda, whose husband was on the same crew, as my husband, and who lived in the same apartment complex we did. When our husbands went out to sea, we took turns cooking dinner for each other and spent time visiting together, at the dinner table. We built a fine friendship, Linda and I, at those tables, each with a baby of our own.
Through the years as my husband and I had other children, our family consciously ate dinner at the table, eating elsewhere on rare special occasions, like a Seahawks football game. (GoHawks!) The dinner table has been the center of our days. Over the years there have been times when we have needed to eat and dash away, but also times, especially when we have company, where we have lingered and visited long after the food was finished.
Recently, while mulling over the reasoning for my husband’s sudden desire to “talk” as a family at the dinner table, I realized over the years our meals had become rushed and we had lost some of the connection that the daily dinner table could achieve. He realized we all needed to reconnect. This was quite a challenge at first and someone even mentioned that it felt like we were being held hostage at dinner time. Gradually, at the dinner table, we began to share more and more about our days and talk about what was important. Each day I found myself consciously thinking of things to share at the dinner table, questions to ask and happily awaiting the sometimes crazy stories others would share from their day.
The discomfort over the dinner hour has left, and it is fun to eat dinner together and talk about what’s happening in our lives, and solve the ills of the world. It has been good.
UPDATE: Recently I had the opportunity to take a trip and enjoyed several dinners with others. I really was looking forward to those dinners, but was amazed at how little conversation actually occurred at some of the tables, and how uncomfortable the “non-conversation” was for me, after the recent years of actually enjoying dinner conversations with my family at home! When I returned home, I was beyond overjoyed to rejoin our crazy conversations, which just seemed to make the food taste even better, and made me love dinner time even more!