The Dining Room Table
Today’s blog post is submitted by our featured guest contributor, Tanya Pritt. We hope you enjoy the post and look forward to more posts from Tanya.
I returned home to Santa Cruz, California a month ago for my mother’s 83rd birthday. My sister, brothers and I meet together seldom, so there is always an air of excitement when we do! As I sat there, watching my mom (who can still dance in high heels and backwards) smiling at each of us, occasionally shaking her head and laughing, I was drawn back to the “remember when…..” conversation and was struck by the importance of tradition, storytelling, and culture of our family.
It’s the stories and the traditions of our family that have served to build foundations in our own families and now in the families of our children. From things we said we would never repeat, but do, to the way we plan for the holidays, eat dinner together every evening, to checking in with each other even if it is just a quick text. The similarities in my siblings’ families come from the way we were all raised and what was important.
Dinnertime was sacred when I was growing up. We didn’t answer the phone, we didn’t get up until all had finished, and we talked about our day. I loved these times. Because we talked everyday during this time I felt able to bring up topics of concern when I needed to, or shortly after. No topic was off limit. We, depending on our ages, broached subjects that included school troubles, what was happening in our neighborhood, and more serious subjects like date rape (when we got a little older), divorce, and hunger. I remember those serious topics and they set the stage for my own children and me when we had our dinnertime.
All of my boys were athletes and our day didn’t end most evenings until 8pm, sometimes later. Our dinners weren’t the dinners I was fed because of the late hour. Often, I am sorry to say, they were fast food we could pick up after a game or a practice. The table was different too, because the homework was often stacked on top of it. Our dinner table was the large ottoman in the family room (with a sheet thrown over it for a tablecloth.) But we gathered around our “table” each evening and talked about our days. And it gave us strength. No matter if life had knocked one of us down that day we knew we would be together that evening and that somehow, it would be ok. Often teammates from my boy’s sports would join us and were sometimes surprised at the topics we discussed. But they joined right in; some hungry for that level of sharing.
Whatever your family traditions are, they become more important as children grow. They offer safety, openness, a chance to set aside the cell phone and convey that the child and time as a family is most important person at that time. Rich or poor, formal table or the ottoman, we found the dinner table was our sanctuary and that no topic was off limits. Communication proved to be what made the difference in my children’s’ lives when they faced issues that included: drug and alcohol use, choosing friends, setting goals and expectations, and confidence and self-esteem. Today, with busy lives, they continue the tradition of the dinner table, however that is defined. And when I join them, I become my mother, listening and laughing at the stories they tell and their memories of “remember when…”.