When we still had children at home we had dinner. Now understand my definition of dinner, food is prepared or purchased, a table is set, you sit at the table, you eat and you have conversation. When the kids were younger this “event” occurred between 6 and 6:30 pm, when they got a little older, between 6:30 and 7 pm, and when they were even older with one foot out the door, between 7 and maybe even as late as 8 pm. The point here is, we had dinner at the very least 5 days out of 7, a sit down, chew your food, take your time, no cell phones, “how did your day go” dinner. My wife and I still do this though we do eat out a lot more now.
It didn’t matter if the menu was pot roast and potatoes or take-out pizza we ate at the table, not in our laps in front of the television. This was the way I was raised, this is the way my wife was raised. As our kids got older we would typically have extra guest at the table, children whose parents didn’t necessarily share our view or values in dinner. If I was smoking ribs, or a boston butt or making my world-famous (okay maybe not world) Low Country Boil the headcount would swell but that was good. I hate having leftovers, and I always cook way too much food. My wife and I enjoyed the conversation, the laughter and the chaos. We learned a lot about our children, their friends and they learned a lot about us as well.
My wife and I met our oldest last night at the Cracker Barrel, sadly the only decent restaurant at the halfway point between our homes. As my wife and daughter chatted I watched the people at the other tables. The vast majority of them weren’t having conversations they were looking at their cell phones as they waited for their food. But as soon as their food arrived they ate it as if they hadn’t eaten in three years. A family of four were beside us, mom and dad were obese and sadly so were their children. All four were on their cell phones until piles, and I do mean piles of food arrived. The little girl ate her food so fast it almost made me ill watching. Throughout their meal I heard nothing from the table except the sounds of slurping and chewing. And as quickly as their food arrived, they were done, up and out. This scenario was repeated at table after table, cell phones, eat, and leave.
I know people and families are busy, I have been there. I have lived the life in carpool lines, dropping kids off and picking-up more than I came with. I understand that sometimes it is easier to go out for dinner, or pick-up a pizza. But I don’t understand not putting your cell phones away, not checking Facebook every five minutes and taking thirty minutes or, grab your seat, maybe even an hour to chew your food slowly and have a conversation with the people you love. You won’t miss anything in that hour, you can like the “cute” video of Aunt Martha’s puppy licking its crotch later. Turn it off and tune in. Life is short, the time you have with your kids is short, dinner is the main meal of the day, enjoy it.