Friday, February 18, 2011


Yesterday we had a rare treat, where all the stars aligned and our entire family sat down to dinner together.  Shocking, I know.  This is clearly a multi-dimensional event: the kitchen table (also known as the school room, the craft center, and the kitchen prep area) was cleaned off so that everyone had a place to sit; I actually cooked a meal that everyone would eat; and the husband got home early enough so that we could all eat together.  yay!!

People the world over say that eating dinner together as a family five times a week or more is revolutionary.  Without citing actual statistics (I'm too lazy for that!), I've heard that this phenomenon combats childhood obesity, prevents teen drug use, and reduces the incidence of divorce.  Who knows if it is true, but if you think about it....  It kinda makes sense.  You have an intentional connection with a group of people and you carve out time for them during the meal.  It makes sense to me that there are going to be other effects outside of the now-I'm-not-hungry-because-I-ate-dinner effect.

My husband and I differ in our views of the purpose of a family meal.  He believes meals are for eating.  Period.  Too much talking is bad.  Just sit down and eat your food.  It's a family culture thing.  I recall the first time I sat down to a meal with my husband's family, and it felt soooo awkward.  Everyone was eating.  No one was talking.  It was incredibly quiet compared to meals with my family.  Sure, at my house growing up we would gobble up plenty of food.... but there was always plenty of talking, too.

One of the very best touchpoints that I've added to our family tapestry is the daily "Highlights and Lowlights".  It's an easy way for each person to share about their day, picking their one highlight and one lowlight.  It gives us something to talk about, and amazingly enough, is tolerated by my husband as acceptable "conversation" during a meal.  Obviously, as a law enforcement family, it's not always at dinner time ~ sometimes it's bedtime or even breakfast ~ but each person gets a chance to share their piece, whenever it is.  It's been interesting to watch the highlights and lowlights change over time as the kids grow.  It took a long time for our now-4-year-old to figure out the difference between high ("good") and low ("bad"), and sometimes they don't even remember what we did during the day and they have to be reminded.  :)  It's been a great tool to discover what's important to our children; things that I could have cared less about are almost always one of their highlights.  It gives permission to each child to speak his mind, and be the center of the family table for a few minutes.  There are lots of positives about this ritual in our familiy.

I've heard this regularly recently, and it's so applicable to me as a mom-in-the-trenches of early childhood with three children: "The days are long but the years are short."  So true.  I get bogged down in making breakfast, washing dishes, and wiping butts and noses over and over again every day.  I treasure the opportunity to reflect, celebrate, and learn from my kids with our regular sharing of "Highlights and Lowlights." 

What kind of rituals have you woven into your family tapestry?  I'd love to add more to our family, so please share!

Image courtesy of Rubink1 on flickr.

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