“Us” vs. “You and I”: Coming together around the dinner table

I’ve read a lot of articles lately (most recently this one on NPR: http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2013/02/26/172897660/family-dinner-treasured-tradition-or-bygone-ideal)┬áthat explore the benefits and challenges of family dinners. Working parents feel pressured to whip up a fantastic, healthy dinner for their brood, while ensuring their kids are still excelling academically and in about five different extracurricular areas. That certainly sounds exhausting, and it’s understandable that family dinners are falling by the wayside.

What I’m grateful for today are the family dinners I did enjoy as a kid. My family made a point to have dinner together every night when I was growing up. Of course, once or twice a week I would have basketball practice, or my parents would have a date night and we would eat in shifts. Overwhelmingly, however, our dinners were spent together, and I’m pretty grateful for that. Research is starting to show that the one-on-one time parents spend with their children reading, playing games or walking the dog can be just as beneficial for the parent-child relationship as eating dinner together. I don’t dispute that; what I do dispute is how getting rid of family dinners affects the entire family’s relationships, not just the relationships between parents and children.

My brother and I were like most siblings growing up, meaning we did nothing but fight. My parents refereed us as best they could, but it was not an easy job. There were only two instances in which he and I would get along: at the dinner table and on road trips. In each case, there was something about coming together as a family, as a single unit, that encouraged a friendship between us.

The point of this blog is not to judge other families’ traditions and practices. There is no doubt in my mind that families can be happy and healthy without eating every meal together. But to put it in simple terms, I’m grateful my family did make that time to sit down together, and I’m grateful my husband and I make a point to sit down together for dinner every night, regardless of hectic work schedules. It reminds me that we are more than just him and me, that we are an ‘us.’

What about your family? What family rituals or traditions are you grateful to be a part of?