Times on My Side

holds a heralded position in our household. Starting around 7:00 am (later on weekends) The Husband and I take turns peeking out to see if the blue plastic bag is lying in our driveway yet. The Times is the closest thing The Husband has to a bible in that he reads it religiously, pretty much cover to cover (omitting the Business section unless there’s some news about Apple). I’m a skimmer, breezing through the pages looking over headlines and then lingering on the obituaries.

Yesterday, right there below the fold of the front page, there was a whole story on people trying to get dinner on the table. It was exciting to find a topic so close to my heart right there, and I admit that there was a bit of pride of ownership. I was onto the Crisco Challenge way before The Times. [They must have done the same Google search that I did.] The long article had a lot of the familiar discussion with lots of statistics about how healthier kids are when there’s a regular family dinner. It reported that "children who eat dinner with their families regularly are less likely to get involved with drugs and alcohol than those who do not. They also tend to get better grades, exhibit less stress and eat better." They didn't mention that having dinner at home can be cheaper, that cooking dinner together can be a way to connect, or that the food can be much better when you make it yourself. But then they didn't consult me. This one Upper East Side woman kind of got to me:
"We try to have dinner together every night, and sometimes that means not eating until 9 o'clock," said Ms. Tatge, who lives on the Upper East Side. "But I think it's really important. We always have candlelight. It sets the mood and calms everyone down."
I don’t know, the candlelight kind of puts me off; it has that nuance of competition, that throwing down of the gauntlet (oven mitt?) that makes me cringe.

The article also mentioned the impulse to over-schedule ourselves (something I’m prone to do) and our children. For me, having a full calendar gives me the sense that I’m important, I’m popular and busy. But when I over-schedule myself I see the effect it has on everything else in my life, and I take myself away from what is meaningful, sometimes hard, occasionally thankless, often tiring, and extremely satisfying: making dinner for my family.


SF Mom of One said...

OK I read the article.
As someone who very very rarely manages a family dinner at home, I just have to wonder:
1.What kind of data do they have on the less dinner/more drugs correlation?
2. Dinner at 9 pm? Aren't they all going to get some really bad indigestion in bed?

Oops, I forgot, it's NY, you eat dinner late.

Does going through a drive through together count as family dinner?

Your devoted fan,
SF Mom

SF Mom of One said...

Not surprised you are riding the crest of the trend, though. :)

Deb St-Claire said...

SF Mom: I'm with you. Correlations can lead to sloppy thinking. Maybe there's a correlation between eating dinner together and corporal punishment? Or maybe family dinner and wearing underwear that's too small?

My big complaint about the article is that they didn't really seem to take a very cross-cultural or cross-economic perspective. I wrote a letter to the editor saying that I know of families that have a lot more to worry about than Tae Kwon Do lessons interfering with Lacrosse practice, and that the article could have been richer with a broader perspective.

I think the question you raise is good. And I think we have to figure out what works in our family. I know sometimes when E. and I go out to dinner we have a nice little bonding time without me being busy with the food. On the other hand, sometimes when the two of us go out she just wants the waitress to hand over the crayons or the glow in the dark bracelet (her favorite restaurants have these accoutrements) and is completely disinterested in the food let alone any kind of coversation.

Some drive-thru experiences are memorable!