Ep 10: Do Not Lose the Extreme Value of the Family Table
Today’s episode of the Dr. Momma Says Podcast is going to be a discussion about the family table. The table? Yes, that’s right! I am talking about the kitchen table. It has a long history of being a central point for family gatherings, but it is slowly being phased out. Did you know that the family table has extreme value?
As adults, we know that when we go to someone’s home, no matter how beautiful the house is or how many TVs are on the deck or in the basement, most people end up gathering in the kitchen.
In fact, kitchens used to be boring with just the basic appliances and the kitchen table. As their popularity grew, kitchens have become THE room to renovate to have seating at the table, around a center island and even little sitting areas with couches and love seats. People do not want to be too far from that kitchen.
Why do we gather in the kitchen with our friends? We are eating, drinking and chatting. We are connecting. Plus, food makes everything better, am I right?
But while hanging out in the kitchen, we are often using all 5 of our senses at once.
- Looking at each other while speaking,
- Listening to conversations or background music,
- Smelling the delicious meals that have been prepared,
- Touching the different textures of food, and of course
- Tasting the wide range of flavors in the variety of food and drinks that are offered.
We are making deeper connections while huddling around that kitchen isle or the family table.
Where did our love for the kitchen begin?
So why do you think we began to love being in the kitchen? Well, I am no researcher and I do not claim to be an expert in all things. But since this is my podcast, I get to share my opinions on whatever I want.
I think that we love to gather in the kitchen because deep in the back of our minds, we grew up understanding that the kitchen is an important place where our family bonds began.
Thinking back over generations, what happy times do you recall in the kitchen? Mothers and grandmothers often spent hours preparing meals that everyone waited with anticipation to eat!
Kids often play in the kitchen while mom was cooking. They make messes trying to help and of course, kid are often the unofficial taste testers.
The family table is for meals and bonding
We would set the table and then everyone would sit down as a family. We ate as a family.
It was a time for us to all to connect and catch up on what each of us was doing. We each stopped our individual lives and focused on one another.
I think the family table allows mealtime to strengthen our relationships and increase our sense of belonging to one another.
Family table time has been slowly disappearing
Anyway, I am very concerned that this rich tradition of using the valuable family table time is ending. It has been having a slow death for many, many years…but I am encouraging each of you to resurrect it.
I raised my young kids in the 90s and 2000s when cell phones were only in their infant state for adults. So WE were not distracted by them and there was no meaningful use by kids.
By the mid-2000s, my kids started using cell phones but there were used sometimes. Not 24/7 the way they are now.
Many of you know that I am a strong believer in reduced screen time. Not just based on what I see in my office, which is often rude and not a pretty sight. But also everywhere in life. Look around in restaurants and see how many families are interacting vs on the electronic devices.
Every parent says they have a plan and schedule for electronic device use, but I don’t see it. Everywhere you look, both kids and parents are on devices. Talking with people WHO ARE NOT WITH THEM!! Whaaaat? What is that about?
Why not use that valuable time to actually talk and interact with the people you ARE with? Time is precious and you cannot get it back. Your devices will be there forever.
I highly recommend you increase the use of your valuable family table. And of course, this means electronics need to be put away. For kids AND adults. We had a wicker basket to collect phones, you should get one too.
Start when kids are young so that it becomes a habit. Who cannot find one hour to be away from their phone? If they can’t, they may have an electronic device addiction that needs to be addressed. It can be a real issue.
The family table can be used frequently when not eating
Between meals, our girls soon started to stack up school textbooks, notebooks, and computers and other school gear on “their” placemats.
The family table for EATING can morph into the family table for work and discussions. Even though each girl had her own room with her own desk, they were, more often than not, sitting at the kitchen table doing work.
I loved this because it allowed me to casually walk into the kitchen, grab a cup of tea, sit in “my chair” and act surprised that they were there. Oh, what are you up to? (That’s me doing a quick check-in)
It can be much easier to check in on kids who are sitting in open community areas like the kitchen family table.
If kids learn to retreat to their private bedrooms immediately after dinner, it is a much bigger deal when you enter and try to start a conversation.
Research has shown that families that eat meals together are happier and healthier. No I cannot quote the research, but that’s what they say. Who is they? The internet of course. I am sure some resourceful person can find this actual data. Feel free to message it to me so I can look more knowledgeable in future.
Anyway, I love the description of the family table as a place to nourish the mind, soul, and stomach of everyone at the table! Just how delicious does that sound?
A brief summary of family table time opportunities
- Beginning the tradition of each family member saying something about their day. Sharing experiences and starting the concept that kids need to share about their day. Doesn’t have to be a big deal. Just something.
- Try to have one meal together each day, breakfast, lunch or dinner. Homemade, take out or delivery. Anything. Just sit still for a minute and make eye contact.
- Require a screen-free zone during meals. Enough said. I have beat this topic enough.
- Encourage kitchen time bonding over cooking, Even if it’s making cookies and brownies.
- Encourage kids to take ownership of duties like setting table and cleaning up. This is their kitchen, too. Something can be done at every age.
- Create a place that becomes the heart of the home. When you come in the house, where to do you go first? Try to ward off the immediate disappearance into separate rooms..
- Establish a sense of belonging and caring about each other. Goals and fears and accomplishments will eventually be shared when the habit of family conversations are started.
- The family table allows the family to work side by side. Let everyone whip out a laptop and work near each other.
- More together time allows for spontaneous discussions. Sometimes while we were working side by side, someone may share a topic and a brief spontaneous conversation would start that would not happen if we had to walk to another room.
- That family table needs to provide lifelong comfort. You want your kids to come to gather around it and chat as adults.
So now go home and look at that welcoming kitchen table. See it with renewed eyes. Start where ever you are and work to bring out the value of your table.
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