As I mentioned in an earlier post, every night at the appointed time our little family would gather together for dinner. There was nothing really exceptional about this as this scene was repeated all across the nation. Dinner came from the kitchen – not a little bag from a fast food restaurant. It was the norm – not the exception.
A few years ago I began noticing ads that appeared on television in the fall. These ads, promoted by a number of Hollywood celebrities, advocated a specific night when all members of our families should gather to enjoy an evening together at a “Family Dinner.”
When I first saw the ads I thought it was a joke. Then I realized that it was a serious appeal to the families of America. And that’s when I realized that, far from being funny, this was a statement about the tragic decline in family bonding and values.
While I applaud this effort to re-enforce our familial interactions, doing so once a year is like brushing your teeth one time every twelve calendar months. I’d hate to see the report you got back from your dentist if that’s how you maintain your oral regimen.
Whatever happened to the role of parents in setting the agenda for their family? Have we abdicated that responsibility to our friends in the entertainment industry? If so – how do we justify that to ourselves?
I realize that there are so many more extracurricular activities available to our children today than when I was a child. But I was able to participate in sports, take a weekly piano lesson, practice piano an hour a day, do my homework and still be with my family every night for dinner. There were other things in which I could have participated, but my parents and I decided what activities I could enjoy and which would interfere with our family’s evening schedule.
Both my parents worked, but my parents made sure that they were there for our dinner together. Our evening meal together was one of those certainties which formed a part of the rock of stability on which I relied as a child. And it had a profound effect on my development as an adult.
The other day as I was taking my groceries to the car, I helped a lady who had dropped the mail she had picked up from her post office box. She thanked me warmly as I retrieved the letters that had fallen to the sidewalk. I pulled the four bags from my cart and offered it to her to use for her two large packages and the loose envelopes. What does this have to do with a family meal?
At those family dinners I learned the basics of manners and courtesy and respect. “Dad, would you please pass the string beans?” And at the meal’s conclusion, “Thank you for dinner, grandma. That was delicious. Can I help with the dishes?”
Although I didn’t realize it at the time, this nightly dinner ritual helped re-enforce the behavior which has been my guide throughout my adult life. And while I thank those in Hollywood who are promoting a greater sense of family, I believe that ultimately that responsibility must come from those of us who are parents.
I thank my parents for recognizing that way back then. They took responsibility and they did the right thing. For that I am very grateful.