I love family dinner. Not just because it is my one meal a day that I’m not eating alone or conversing with someone who is more intelligent, but less wordy than myself (AKA Addie)- but because there are health benefits to sitting around the table together. Lots of them!
We began having family dinner when Addie was eating our food without hesitation. Splitting up our dinners seemed like a waste of time and she was often not hungry at 5, so now she eats with us at 7:30, then a quick bath and bedtime. It’s super simple, and we often get less than an hour at the table, but we learn about how the day went for everyone – we sit. We sit and eat. It’s a novel idea. And we turn off all electric devices and remove them from the room. There are no toys at the table, no cell phones or sounds- except some nights when we put a record on (yes, a record).
I have loved this nightly routine since it started, but more than that, I love what it means to us and the downtime it gives each of us as a family and individuals- to decompress, to share and to let go of outside distractions. I fell more in love with the idea after reading an article about passing down family stories in Good Housekeeping, the December issue. It was amazing because it truly showed how valuable it is to know about today, yesterday and the dreams of tomorrow- they are what shape our future generations and show them what their family is made of. This theory doesn’t just apply to the traditional family, but to single parents, or those of loss.
In my family, the art of sharing stories is so important that I can tell you how my parents met (my Mom asked my Dad out- who was her temporary insurance agent) like it’s my own story. I can tell you where my parents graduated from high school (Abington and Livingston High) and college (Wheeling/BC and Northeastern). I can tell you where my parents worked as they moved throughout their careers. I can tell you where my grandparents grew up and all the funny stories from my grandmother reaching over a candle (and you can bet what happened- she was OK) to the time my brothers drove a trike down the stairs (that one is only funny in hindsight). I know my family has prevailed through loss of job, illness, death, and addiction. I know that my Mother is proud to have met her biological family and is so in love with her adoptive. I know that my Father had some family strife, but that’s what pushed him to keep us together to identify as Worths- strong and powerful. I know that we have been happy and successful and that we continue to carry on because we know that’s how it’s done. I know this from family dinners, holidays spent together, and nights where I asked please tell me a story over and over.
This is why we have family dinner (and why Dave and Addie have their own special time each morning to eat breakfast together- just the two of them).
At dinner, I tell Dave all about what we did, and then Addie chimes in with a come back work, Dada. And I see… that some days, no matter how much we do, she really misses having Daddy there. Or she will talk incessantly about a strawberry because we went to the store and I didn’t buy them for her, but she really wanted them. Dave will tell me about mundane things and then say, “Oh yeah, and [insert awesome news here],” as a total side note. I’ve learned that my values and what I hold important is not always the same as my husband and daughter- and that teaches me about them. While I get excited about some things that Dave cannot understand, he supports me. And me, him.
For many it is unrealistic to eat together every night, and as schedules get more packed, we will have the same issue- but I know that making time even once a week, still serves as beneficial to making us a more united front. To keeping us a healthy unit. To identifying us as the (Worth) Martinka clan. We learn how strong we are each night as we talk about the walls we faced and how we tore them down. We talk about things that need tackling and the goals we are setting for the next few months. We discuss how we will continue to grow and prosper and love and share and cherish each other and those we love.
10 Health benefits to eating together:
1. Healthier foods- generally sitting down to eat means less “fast food”
2. Identity to your family
3. Healthier foods=healthier kids=more sleep=better grades… it’s a great cycle of good.
4. Eating at home means portion control and the ability to offer new foods to children- studies have shown children who eat family meals enjoy vegetables more than those that do not
5. Children who eat with and relate to their families are more likely to say no to drugs/alcohol due to parental fostering
6. Time to talk means time to connect!
7. Instills family routine and tradition (Sunday dinner… we go to my inlaws every Sunday to connect)
8. Children are less likely to have disordered eating when eating at home.
9. Families who eat at home save money. Period.
10. Families who eat together starting from children’s youth are likely to instill good eating habits and thus decrease the risk of weight/obesity issues in their kids.