November 8, 2011

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Share a Cherished Childhood Memory or Tradition

Maybe you played catch with your dad at the park every Sunday or maybe you ate a certain brand of peanut butter on a spoon. Or maybe there's an old movie, book, or song that reminds you of your childhood and your parents. Share this--or many--memories with your children.

Childhood Traditions

My husband and I both come from small families. We are each the baby of two with parents that came from small families themselves. Family holidays and gatherings are usually small and casual, although the food is always outstanding.

One tradition Colby and I both shared growing up was sitting down to the dinner table every night and having a meal as a family. My early memories include learning to set the table, clearing the table after our meal, and helping my brother do the dishes. In between setting and clearing there was plenty of conversation, laughter, and a chance to catch up on everyone’s day.

As a child of the ‘60’s, the family dinner table wasn’t as uncommon sight. Now it is almost a dying art. But, when Colby and I decided to be a family, having dinner together was really important to us. Having grown up the same way, we knew the value of sharing a meal, sharing a day, and looking our children in the eyes over mashed potatoes and meatloaf.

Dinner at our house always includes a set table, no television, no cell phones, and a balanced meal with at least one green vegetable. This isn’t always a crowd pleaser, but a mother has to do what she has to do.

Over broccoli and grilled chicken, we discuss our days. Did Elle do well on her math test? Is Bunny ready for her soccer game? Did Elle practice her flute enough today?

The dinner table is where my daughters learn their manners, where they try new foods, and where we can laugh as a family, especially when a six-year-old Bunny knows her multiplication tables better than her 13-year-old sister.

It was also the place we realized something was wrong with Elle. Before her Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) diagnosis, dinner was a nightmare. The battle to get her to eat, the blank affect on her face that stared back at us, and the feeling that something was not right with her behavior.

We’ve had tears and temper tantrums, anger and silence, and spilled milk and clean plates. The dinner table is the place we talk about feelings, emotions, behaviors, and therapy. We’ve discussed books, boyfriends, and sex education. Nothing is off limits, which makes for interesting table conversations.

I am reminded of a scene from my favorite movie, The Blind Side. It is Thanksgiving, the first for Michael Oher with his new family. As the family fills their plates and sits in front of a football game, Michael takes his plate to the dining room table and sits alone. Leigh Ann Tuohy realizes the importance of sitting as a family to a boy who has never had such a tradition, so she turned off the TV and moved the entire family to the dining room table.

Every time I see this movie, it resonates with me how important such a little thing as a family dinner can be. As my children get older, it does get more challenging to have dinner together every night. But, the nights we have therapy or basketball games, I throw something in the crockpot and we make it work.

So, during November and National Adoption Month, plan a meal, set the table, turn the television and cell phones off, and enjoy a meal as a family. You’ll be surprised how fun and fulfilling it can be.


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