Growing up, my mom insisted that we have family dinners every night. We were lucky. She was a working mom who stayed at home (a little play on the term stay-at-home mom, because she was not just a mom, she worked her ASS off), and my dad was his own boss. Therefore, my family ate together almost every night. During dinner, we had a few rules (instituted by mom, of course).
- No elbows on the table.
- No chewing like a cow. Keep your mouth closed.
- No reading at the table.
That last one was important. We were always encouraged to talk about our day, laugh about funny things, and generally share whatever might be on our minds. Mom was a real stickler about everyone contributing to the conversation. I remember more than one occasion where my dad begrudgingly had to back away from the sports page and talk to us little rug rats. Regardless of what a pain we thought it was all of those years, those dinner conversations unknowingly created the foundation for strong and lasting bonds between all of us. I am so grateful for every dinner conversation, even though I can’t remember the details of most of them.
Anyway, I was reminded of my mom’s list of dinner rules the other day.
L and I sat down to eat. We were chatting about something or other. Then he was checking his phone for sports scores. I checked a blog on my phone. The whole scene consisted of me in my world, and him in his world. Later, I reflected on this and realized that we do it a lot. Whether the excuse is that we need to read something important on our phones or we are glued to the television (shameful, I know), we have become so easily distracted. Sometimes we don’t even eat together. That can’t really be helped (due to work schedules), but we can always try to do better.
I don’t think every meal needs to be filled with lively conversation. For example, breakfast is a quiet meal. Normally, people are still waking up, reading the paper, and/or running out the door. But dinner is different. It’s the end of the day. We should have things to say to each other.
I remember years ago, L and I spent a weekend in San Diego. We were eating dinner at a nice restaurant. I spotted an older couple eating in complete silence. I tried not to stare, but I was curious. Did they always eat in silence? Were they in a fight? Or had they just run out of amusing things to say to each other? We’ll never know.
All I know is that I don’t want to be that couple…ever. So for now, I’m gonna be that wife who tells her husband to put his damn phone down while we eat. And I need to pay him the same courtesy.