There it was in today’s paper, “Family Ties: Five simple steps to strengthen the bonds between parent and child.” It’s characteristic of the era in which we’re living that we’ve become so unfamiliar with how to be a family. Something that generations of humans have been doing since Adam and Eve now needs to be taught to us. How have we permitted our pace of life to disconnect us from our own instincts? Mistrusting ourselves we think we need to be taught how to be a family. Really, we just need to listen to and trust our inner selves. It’s something we all know how to do.
I remember what time supper was at our house when I was growing up. It was at 5:30 every day. No matter what else was negotiable between me and my parents, suppertime was not. I was expected to be there, with my hands washed. Usually my mother would call me a few minutes before, but when she called there was no lingering. We all knew it was time to be together, time for us as a family to eat, to talk, and to share the activities of our day. Its importance was never stated but understood, valued, and internalized.
Somewhere in our busy world of this the 21st century we’ve misplaced our family dinners among soccer practice, working late at the office, and grabbing a bite at the fast-food eatery. The effect of this omission on our family has been profound. It’s caused a kind of amnesia to overtake us resulting in our inability to remember how to be a family. Not only do we suffer this loss but our children suffer even more. Because when their childhood disappears into adulthood they won’t have any old tapes to replay in order to create a rebirth of family rituals in their family. We face the possibility of family life becoming obsolete. All because we’ve underestimated the importance of the family dinner as the glue that holds our family life together.
As each of you think back to your own childhood you may like what you remember or you may wish to rewrite the events. But you probably had family dinners together as a routine and a hallmark of who your family was. As you live your family life today you are free to be as creative and as different or as similar as you wish to your own memories. But realize that whatever the quality of life you experienced you learned what a family was and you still know that today.
Whether you follow the newspaper’s five simple steps* or not without the family dinner as your foothold not much else matters, or should I say, not much else matters more. Bon apetit.
* 1. Schedule special time with each child.
* 2. Join your child in an activity he or she enjoys.
* 3. Institute game night.
* 4. Institute reading night.
* 5. Set weekly family meetings.
Director/Elementary 1 Teacher