The Importance of Family Dinner
Photo by Regina Charboneau
We all stay too busy, young and old. It is hard to figure out a time when the entire family can sit down together. Then there is the preparation of the meal (typically by the ones who are the busiest: the working mom or dad). How do we do it, and is it worth it? People often ask me, "How do you do all you do?" I answer, "Just not very well." Sometimes when we fit everything we want into a day, the result is not always stellar. With family dinner it is just a matter of getting everyone to the table.
Sometimes what you serve can help that happen. I know all I had to do to get my oldest, Luc, to the table was have something that resembled Easy Mac. Then it was up to me to add some other ingredients of value. As with anything you do in life, organization helps. You have to plan ahead. I try to cook a couple of dishes on Sunday for the week. Macaroni and cheese is an easy dish to make the day before and then just bake it when you get home. One of my favorite versions has smoked bacon, ham, or smoked turkey, and Roma tomatoes on top, then some mozzarella cheese. I think one dish a week with cheese and cream is okay. Just add a big salad to the table.
Every generation is different, no doubt. Being a child of the '50s and '60s family dinner was just dinner. Even if we played sports, took dance class, or were president of a club, dinner was at home most every night. Dining out was a rare treat reserved for special occasions. Sundays were absolutely non-negotiable: You had to go to church, and you had to be present for Sunday lunch. I look back at Sundays being the days we were educated about politics, religion, and anything controversial at the time.
Parenting is never easy; we learn as we go. Having a forum for your children to discuss whatever might be on their minds is the best way to stay connected.
Every generation was seated at the Sunday table and everyone was allowed an opinion, from age 9 to 90. There were many hot topics in Mississippi during the '60s. The conversations were often heated between the different generations, whether it was as benign as short skirts and long hair or as heated as the Civil Rights Movement and Vietnam. The food was always comforting and bountiful on Sundays and the conversation was never dull at the dinner table at the Trosclairs' house.
My children arrived in the '90s, and what a difference. Although they had a chef for a mother, I was always working and their nanny Maria would put together a decent meal, but too often without parents at the table. My boys did miss me being home and would bring it up quite often. I remember my heartstrings being tugged when they would say, "Mom, I wish you didn't have to work so much." Even though I had an adequate amount of guilt, I used to tease my boys that the older they got the more I would be at home. That truly was my plan and I was fortunate to be able to move them back to Natchez before their teenage years hit. When their teenage years arrived they had me around more than they cared for.
With each year of settling into the slower pace in Natchez, family meals became more frequent. One thing I learned from my parents is the dinner table is the best forum for difficult topics of the day. The conversations at our supper table were different than the topics of my generations; who would have thought I would be having conversations about everything from violence in the schools to Internet viruses and even Internet porn? Parenting is never easy; we learn as we go. I do know having a forum for your children to discuss whatever might be on their minds is the best way to stay connected.
I also think having dinner with conversation is a wonderful tool for helping your children become comfortable with themselves in other social settings. I hope my boys don't bring up Internet porn at someone else's table, but I hope they can partake in intelligent conversation and realize everyone has a voice whether you agree or disagree.