What is your "dinner tradition?" That may sound like a funny question to ask but I think that it is a valid one. Do you sit down to dinner as a family every night or almost every night? Do you just eat "catch as catch can" or get fast food? What do you do?
I started thinking about this quite some time ago after hearing several radio commentators talking about recent studies on the family dinner tradition and the effects that it has on our children. That got me thinking, yes I know that is a scary and dangerous thought but sometimes the little grey cells must be taken out and exercised. A study done in 2004 that was published in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine (if you have trouble sleeping this should help) found that frequent family meals seemed to be associated with a lower risk of drinking, marijuana use and smoking as well as less depressive episodes and thoughts of suicide. And to top it all off these kids seemed to get better grades. Who would have thunk it! Other studies indicate that adolescent girls who eat dinner regularly with their families have less incidents of eating disorders, children have expanded vocabularies and more diverse views of the world at large. Eating as a family seems to increase children's intake of those things that we know are good for them, things like fruits, veggies, grains, dairy. All those dumb things on that food pyramid that you learned about it school but didn't really pay attention to. Also, eating at a table, at home as a family reduces the amount of saturated fats, sugars, salt and soda that kids take in.
It seems funny to me that we have to have studies done (ones that I am sure have been funded by us the over burdened tax payer) to tell us what has always been obvious to me. I have a feeling that a lot of studies are like that, telling us things that we can readily figure out if we use our common sense. At any rate, it has always seemed to me that sitting down at the dinner table with your children is a good thing. It is one of those "d'oh!" kind of things.
We have always made dinner a priority in our family, even before we had children....I am not sure I remember back that far but I know that even when hubby and I were first married we sat down to dinner no matter what time he got home. When our daughters came along we just continued on with this. We sit down to dinner between 6:30p and 6:45p, the girls know this, the hubby knows this, that is how I plan this. It is what it is.
I can't say that sitting down to dinner together has always been an uplifting experience. When they were little it was more about just getting them to eat what was on their plates. I am not a short order cook and if you didn't like what was for dinner your options were 1. eat what was there, 2. go to bed with nothing to eat until the next day. It is funny how much better the meal looks when you know that you have to wait until morning otherwise. When the girls were teenagers it wasn't that they didn't like what was being served, the tension was more because they were......teenagers, and girls to boot. There were plenty of meals where it wasn't so much a dinner as a meeting between warring factions intent upon distruction. Ah good times, blood shed, verbal abuse. Does great things for the appetite.
But now, when we sit down to dinner together it is really a great experience for the most part. When all the girls are home we often linger, chatting and joking (and the occasional yelling). My daughters have strongly held opinions on things and this is the time when we get to know what those opinions are. But this phase of our dinner tradition wouldn't be possible if we hadn't set up the tradition when they were little. Sure it would have been easier to just feed them early and put them to bed rather than waiting for Dan. It would have been easier to manage things when they were in high school and going every which way just to let them eat when they wanted. But we sit down to dinner together and it has made all the difference.
P.S. We ALSO sit down to breakfast every day. We are really a strange, throw back, Leave it to Beaver sort of family. Fear us.