Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Family dinner

Growing up, I was blessed enough to live in a house where family dinner was not just a weekly occurrence. It happened every single night. With rare exceptions, we were all at the table each night, eating home cooked meals. It was not long after my departure from this idyllic setting that I discovered this is a rare thing these days. It is so rare, in fact, that public health agencies and addictions services authorities now actively promote the importance of regularly sitting down for family supper.

The beauty family dinner repeatedly emphasized for me when I watch what must be one of the best TV dramas in years, Blue Bloods, every Friday night. You see, besides the complex crime dramas that unfold and the rich characters on display, the true beauty of Blue Bloods is in its unforgiving depiction of traditional family values, most notably expressed in its repeated display of the Reagan family dinner.

Now, I like to think of myself as a fairly progressive guy. I took my wife's name when we got married for crying out loud. But I also understand that there are some traditions that should be continued because of their overall benefit not only to society as a whole, but to individuals within society, and one such tradition is family dinners.

The benefit is not just perceived. Research demonstrates the positive impact of regularly eating together as a family, like here and here. It is obvious why this would be so. But the beauty of the Reagan family dinner on Blue Bloods, and in my humble opinion, the recipe for perfect family dinners, is its insistence on consistency of attendance, thoughtful thankfulness prior to dining, preparation of home cooked whole foods, and most importantly, lively discussion.

This weeks episode outlined some of the rules of the Reagan family dinner table.

1. Nothing is secret. All topics are fair game.
2. Everyone's opinion counts.
3. You can't be criticized for expressing your thoughts, only debated.

This is what dinner should be among families, particularly those with a significant population of mature individuals. Of course my family dinner involves the kids telling me about their day, Ivy being silly by spitting out applesauce, and us trying to keep them entertained long enough to stay at the table for a full meal.

But I dream of a day when I can have my children over to my house every Sunday with their children. Where we'll all do our part to prepare the meal and all give thanks for what we receive. Where we'll all be fearless about expressing our opinions, even on controversial, emotional subjects and in the face of seemingly irreconcilable differences. A day of consistency and security in an otherwise fast-paced, unpredictable life where all the worries of the week gone past fade and the challenges of the week ahead become irrelevant. Because all that matters in life is before us in that short, sweet gathering of those we love known as the family dinner.

No comments: