It’s common knowledge that to have an optimally awesome family, you are supposed to eat dinner around the table together a lot. It’s bonding time, everyone can catch up on their day, and you are more likely to eat nutritious food if you sit down and eat together. It’s the bedrock of civilization!
The thing that ruins family dinner, though, is television. If you turn on the TV, there’s no more talking, no more bonding, and everyone just sits there and absorbs all the morally degenerate media messaging.
My family was really good about family dinner when I was growing up. We had dinner together almost every night. We discussed our days, and all kinds of issues. We practiced our manners. For a while we did this thing where if you committed a manners infraction you had to go to your room and count to 100 by a multiple chosen by my dad.
We only watched TV if:
1. The Packers were playing (obviously)
2. We were in the middle of watching an episode of Wheel of Fortune that my mom had turned on to distract us while she finished making dinner
3. ABC was showing a Disney movie on Sunday night that we didn’t own.
I am so glad for all those dinners. It was a stable thing, knowing that we would all be together. It got tougher when we started getting into high school, with sports and extracurriculars, but we still valued it. When we were little we couldn’t wait to be excused, to get back to our Legos or Barbies or video games, but when we got older we would sit around the table after dinner, just talking.
When I got married, I assumed that I would keep this tradition going. I love family dinners, and I understand that they’re important. But it didn’t turn out that way. Andy and I eat dinner in front of the TV. All of the time. And it is amazing.
It all started pretty soon after we got married. We were spending a lot of time together. He went to the same school that I worked at, so we commuted together. We usually ate lunch together. If he needed to ask me a question, he could stop by my office. If I wanted to check in with him I could find him in the library. We drove a lot (to church, to see his family, to explore the area) and we would have long conversations on those drives. I never felt like we didn’t have enough time to talk to one another or catch up.
Instead, when we got done with work and school and our commute back home, we usually didn’t want to talk. That’s when we wanted to eat whatever I had thrown in the crockpot that morning, and watch TV.
That was a huge novelty for both of us, since both of our families were big on family dinners. It felt like a special treat, every time. We not only got to be married to each other, but we got to eat dinner AND watch TV! Could life get any more glorious?
Sometimes, if one of us had planned a nice dinner, we would eat at the table like grown-ups. We also liked to eat outside on our patio. But most of the time, we ate on the couch like perfectly content savages.
We watched The Office and Friends and Parks and Rec and Yes, Minister and Community and Mad Men and Breaking Bad and Jane the Virgin. We’re finishing up Breaking Bad now. Truly, we live in a golden age of DVD collections and streaming services.
I don’t think we will live this way forever. We still have a lot of time together now--we don’t have kids, and Andy works at the church across the lawn from our house, and I work from home. We still eat lunch together a lot. We have lots of time to talk. And watching TV while eating dinner STILL feels like a novelty almost three years in!
If one day we have jobs that take us away from each other all day, or we have less time together, or when we have kids, we will reinstitute family dinners. But I will always look back upon this period fondly, as the time when we spent a lot of time together and watched a ton of amazing television and enjoyed every minute of it.
What kind of dinner is working for you/your family right now?