Mealtimes with Family

23 Dec

The square glass table stood light and airy in our dining space. Its teak base with unique markings has been carrying that sparkling glass for the last 25 years.

If wood could talk, it would tell stories of birthday parties, and so many  family celebrations that its been a part of, over the years.

When I look around my home I realize that this humble table has been the one place where we as a family have spent the most time.

Whether the kids had music lessons or tennis practice or homework to complete, dinner time meant rounding up everyone and settling down at the table.

That’s where conversations happened.

During their early years it was all about …. What they did at school, which friend they shared lunch with, the bus rides back home, who they played with and so on. They talked incessantly, the only rules being – not talking with their mouths full and giving everyone a chance to speak.

The teen years weren’t the same. They no longer felt like sharing every bit of their day …. but that was ok; We spoke of the current happenings around the world; Discussed, Debated, Shared Opinions. They learnt to respect and accept different points of view and patiently listen without racing to talk before the others.

Some evenings began with silence and the responsibility of starting a conversation fell upon me …. Didn’t much enjoy this role but managed it, delicately introducing topics of mutual interest……… And gradually the mumbling grew into a little colloquy, and even the reluctant sullen faced kid had an incy wincy smile on his face.

Its all about picking the right subject, infusing it with a little bit of light heartedness and you can initiate a lively discussion.

As parents, we also spoke of our day …Our ‘Roses and Thorns’ aka the best and worst parts of our day. Some days we shared stories of our childhood, the different people in our lives and the impact it had on us.

We spoke of our frustrating moments, our happy times and much more. Children love listening to stories, and many a time we narrated the same story [ by demand ] quite a few times.

Conversations moved swiftly from one topic to another. At one moment we would be talking of a family holiday and not much later we would be having an animated discussion on some new innovation or Tendulkar’s brilliant shot against Shane Warne’s delivery.

The best discussions were always generously sprinkled with a sense of humour.

Sometimes we had friends over for dinner; at other times we were invited out. Its interesting to note the varied range of topics people talk about. I remember at one home the grandfather, a major in the army, kept giving us gory details of the war and the bullets he pumped into the enemy that we all lost our appetite and were silent all the way home. Of course this was just a stray case, for most of the time whenever there was a large group around the table – Everyone got a chance to voice their thoughts and even the quieter ones were gently drawn out of their shell.

The atmosphere around the dinner table is what’s important – Warm, Engaged and Connected is what helps children up their confidence levels and build self esteem.

These exchanges around the dinner table are a safety net for children as they go through the challenges of growing up.

Its here they pick up anecdotes of resilience, strategies to cope with adversity, empathy and other life skills.

One important stance we held, was that meal time meant no technology, no books ; and this was good coz it helped limit distractions

Around the table we found a safe space to share our joys, disappointments; dreams, plan vacations. Something that required very little of us – just half an hour away from our everyday distractions created a tangible sense of connect and belonging and was invariably the part of the day that I most definitely looked forward to.

Even today meal times translates to meaningful time with loved ones. Its therapeutic, a time to reflect, talk of memories and loss interspersed with the challenges in new beginnings

If I were to think of all the things associated with eating together , there would be just one word to describe mealtime with family – Sacred!

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