In the spring, my family flew to New York City for a vacation. As former Brooklynites, we were excited to reconnect with friends and family. Yes, our 17-month-old daughter screamed on the plane. Yes, we should have bought her a seat. Yes, we should have packed warmer clothing. But during our sojourn, we picked up an even bigger lesson – one in civility. And my clan, proud Georgia natives supposedly schooled in the ways of all things proper, never thought we’d look north for that.
We stayed with friends, a dynamic 30-something couple and their two children in their fabulous brownstone in historic Bedford-Stuyvestant. This family sits down for dinner together almost every night. The lady of the house sets the table and her boys, 4 and 1, sit, eat, talk and share. And, wonder of all wonders, the parents actually get to eat dinner together too.
Watching their exchange ripped the veil from my eyes. A family dinner? Oh, the possibilities.
In our North Tampa house, where the kitchen and the den form one great room, the television dominates the space. Before our spring vacation, our nightly routine went something like this: I walk in the door at 7 p.m. and my daughter leaps into my arms and demands my full attention until she closes her eyes for the night. Most of the time, I don’t eat dinner until after 9 p.m. Then, it’s off to bed with calories cruising to my hips and thighs.
Inspired by our New York kin, we decided to experiment with the nightly family meal. What if we attempted to sit down for dinner together every night? What if we plopped our 17-month-old in her high chair and made her sit there until we all finished eating as a family? Much to my surprise, it worked. My husband gives her a snack when he picks her up from daycare to tide her over until I get home. At dinner time, she sits in her high chair, clasps her hands together and readies to say her grace. Confession: She doesn’t actually say the grace, and while my head is bowed and my eyes are closed she often starts her meal. But, hey, sitting together is progress. The routine has made us more civil. And often, my hubby even mutes the television so we can have actual conversation.
The Huxtables would be proud.
-- Sherri Day