Some of the most important traditions our family has occur around our table. Food draws people together and creates an environment of nurturing and comfort. We use our time around the table to socialize our kids (one of our favorite things is to explain our emphasis on table manners by having them imagine visiting a future girlfriend/boyfriend’s family…and they get that!), find out about them, discuss our values and what’s going on in the world, and just to enjoy them and laugh together.
There are three things we do regularly around the table, but the most important is the first one:
1. Eat dinner together every night.
There have been recent studies and news articles on the importance of eating together as a family, but it is sad to me how many people we know do not. Why should we make meeting around the table each night a priority?
- we will communicate better with our children
- our kids will make better choices (specifically, choices about drugs, relationships and school)
- our kids will eat healthier
- they will have a better academic performance
Yes, there are many things that can interfere with nightly dinners, but we are under no obligation to say “yes” to everything. Making dinner a priority has guided our family’s choices and involvement in things. We view it as a special time and our kids see how important they are to us when we choose not to answer the phone or watch TV during the dinner hour.
The second thing we do as a family is to:
2. Celebrate birthdays with special meals.
Every year the birthday person gets the “you are special” red plate and gets to choose the whole menu, no matter how weird or far-fetched. Captain Crunch cereal? No problem. Dessert first? OK. Actually, though, neither of our kids ever asked for crazy things- and they usually always include a vegetable of some kind!
One other thing became a tradition without planning. Since we have a big family party for our kids that doesn’t usually fall on their actual birthday, but does include a big cake, we didn’t want more cake just a day or two later. I started making a giant chocolate chip cookie which I write on with melted chocolate and add candles. It’s a great change from cake and now we all look forward to it.
The last thing we do regularly around the table is:
First, I never knew what to do about Sunday evenings. We’d come home from church and eat a “Sunday Dinner” around 1:00 or 2:00 and then everyone would be hungry about 6:00, but I wouldn’t want to cook again and no one really wanted a lot of food. We’d usually snack or make popcorn.
Then I started thinking about the teapots I had been given that I hardly got to use and as well as a collection of tea cups that rarely saw the light of day. Since it wasn’t feasible to have tea everyday as a family, I decided to make Sunday evenings a family tea time.
And it’s really become a cherished tradition in our family, even if some of our kid’s friends think it’s, um…odd.
Sometimes I feel like making traditional tea sandwiches and scones, but most of the time it’s pretty simple fare- a cheese and cracker plate, some meat roll-ups, fruit, muffins and a cookie. I’ve even served popcorn for tea before.
There are no “tea police.”
And my kids have been drinking tea (black only- no fancy flavors for us) with milk and sugar since they were 4 and 7 years old. Admittedly it was more milk in the beginning, but after a few years, they were having just what the adults did. We’ve invited guests to our teas and we’ve taken our teas out-of-doors.
And talk about socialization- they know how to hold little vintage tea cups. I’m sure they can go about anywhere after that.
What traditions does your family do around the table?