Growing up, I did not sit at a table with my family for dinner.
My mom was a working single mom, and I remember dinners on the couch, in front of the TV. For awhile, we didn’t even have a kitchen — just a hot plate and a microwave — so the couch was where we parked ourselves for each meal. I remember these family meals fondly. My brother, mom, and I would watch “Roseanne” while eating our English muffin pizzas or the latest TV dinner.
The times we did eat at a table were at my Grammie and Grampa’s house. When we spent time at their house, we knew dinner was at 5 p.m. on the dot, milk was what we were drinking, and you could not leave the table without asking to be excused. The dinner conversations at that table were very different from the casual banter we typically had on our couch while watching “Roseanne.” But, everyone was together.
These meals on the couch, or, occasionally, the more formal dinners at my grandparents’ home, were our family dinners — and our normal. But it’s not what dinner looked like in many other homes. I remember having dinner at friends’ houses when I was growing up, and I always left their homes thinking, When I have kids, I am always going to eat dinner at the table.
That was what everyone else did, and I should do it for my own kids, I thought at the time.
Since having children of my own, I have come to realize the where isn’t important. What is important is that we are together. This time together, eating, gives us an opportunity to catch up, share our favorite foods, try new dishes, and enjoy each other’s company in a common place.
Currently, I try to eat at the table when we are home. Our table is small and tall and always overflowing with food. (Partly due to the growing taste buds of a 4-year-old and picky 2-year-old.) But, more important, also included at the table are chatter, laughter, and (maybe sometimes) an occasional tear. Some nights the dinner table is only three of us due to my hubby’s schedule. But, even minus Papi, we are together.
“May I please be excused from the table?” and hot TV dinner brownies are what worked for my family when I was a child. Sitting at the high top, appeasing the tastebuds, and still asking to be excused from the table are what work for my family now. We’ve meshed my childhood memories of being together with our current dinners together.
Whether your meals are on a couch at dinner time, at the counter in the morning for breakfast before school, or on a picnic blanket for dinner at the playground, do it together. Find your normal, make it a priority, and stick to it. It doesn’t matter what other families do. Do what works for you.
Photo credit: Karyn Novakowski owns and operates Kin & Kid Photography, which serves Boston and the surrounding areas. Get in touch with Karyn here.