Connect At The Table

Jul 31, 2020

This will be my first official post.  I have recently created an Instagram account as well as Facebook, but have yet to really post anything more than hitting the “like” button or saying Happy Birthday.  It’s not that I am totally against social media, it’s more that I have generally chosen to focus my attention and energy in other directions.  Rather than going on some long rant or tirade about an issue, I look to make an impact with those people I am close to, in my family, career and community through my actions rather than typing and hitting send.  For me, personal relationships are developed by an interaction that cannot be duplicated digitally.  It is way too easy to just “Unfriend” someone via technology, because many times there is little real investment in a digital relationship.  I realize that this may be considered “Old School” and out of touch with the world today, but this is a truth from my perspective.

Where have the conversations around the dinner table gone?  Do families still share meals together?

When I was a child, there was one time of day that we all got together and shared a meal.  This was dinner. We sat down as a family, ate, discussed any events of the day and shared plans for tomorrow. We joked, laughed and interacted together, bonding over food.  There was never an option of, “I’m busy” or “I’ll eat later” or God forbid, “I’m playing a game”.  We knew when dinner was and we were expected to be there.  As I look back now, there were many pivotal life experiences that happened around the dinner table.  We were able to share our accomplishments and listen to others, we shared happy family news as well as the devastating.

It would be hypocritical of me not to acknowledge that when I started my own family it became difficult to maintain a “Regular” family meal on a daily basis.  Being a Chef, I am usually providing for others when my family would be together.  However, my wife and I were committed to making time as a family to share a meal.  We have three boys, and as children they were very “Busy” and we had to wrangle them up to get them to the table.  Herding cats is an expression I have heard that is fitting… If you have ever had cats or multiple young children you get this comparison!  We tried to make these meals fun, not every one of them, but when we could.  The boys especially liked it when we would get a bottle of sparkling grape juice and serve it in wine glasses.  Another favorite, candle light dinners.  It had to be dark and all of the lights off in the house.  It quickly developed into each child having their own candle at the table.  As the boys grew up, schedules became more crowded with school, athletic and social activities that these meals happened much less often.  Now they are 24, 21 and 18 years old and we still have a family meal together as often as we can.  We reconnect with each other, share favorite memories and create new ones.  There is still a “no cell phones” at the table rule, but we still have to give reminders to them almost every meal. The urge to stay digitally connected often overrides being engaged in actual conversation.

So this is where I have been heading — your dinner table needs to be utilized for something other than a surface to gather “Stuff”. 

My challenge to you is to use it to gather family and friends around.  Develop relationships, create memories and share a meal.  It does not need to be a Norman Rockwell painting for a setting, make it real for your situation.  Have fun, share a meal, try new foods, but most of all be present.

Photo Credit — Norman Rockwell’s “Freedom from Want”, 1943


by Andy Mettert

Project Rooted Board Member, University of Dubuque

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