Friday, November 5, 2010

Dinner Table Conversation

I was watching the Today show the other day and the topic that an expert was discussing was how to have conversations with your family at dinner. Yes, an expert on how to have a conversation with your family. She offered some real cute little ideas like collecting stuff from your pockets in a bowl on the table and talking about the stuff on Friday. Another suggestion was for each family member to take turns talking about the best and worst parts of their day.

A couple of things struck me about this:
1. There is cause for a segment like this on the Today show.
2. There are paid experts out there on how to have a dinner table conversation with your family.
3. Where did we go wrong? And by "we" I mean the U.S. population.

If you know me at all, you probably know that I would have fit in nicely in the 1940s or 1950s. That, to me, is quintessential America (minus the civil rights infringements). I'm talking about mothers and fathers who stayed together, who were involved in their kids lives, knew their kids friends and their parents, who made hot dinners that weren't out of a box. How did we get so far away from such a great place without ever leaving? Is it any wonder people don't know what to talk to their kids about at dinner? They are removed from their kids' lives. Not only are they busy with careers and running a household, but they don't know who their kids are friends with or what they do in their free time. How do you start a conversation with someone you barely know? It's awkward, right? Add on top of that the complication of kids being kids and seemingly starting with that famous teenager 'tude earlier and earlier. Now we have "tweens" you know- kids who aren't teenagers, they just roll their eyes like it.

In all truth, every family is different. Some parents really try and get nowhere with their kids. I understand that. Society is a different place now than it was in the 1950s. I get that too. Kids are growing up with a totally different set of challenges now than 60 years ago.

The bottom line that I see here is that families function differently today (on average) than they used to. Parents are busy, kids are busy, and the time that used to be spent with family has been allocated for other things that have taken higher priority. I think the impact of that has made itself apparent if you watch the news, or the Today show.

I grew up with a single, working mother and we ate dinner together every night at the table. We even had conversation. We still do. I honestly feel like that made a difference in how I turned out and what I value today. This is not to say that families who ate dinner in front of the TV in silence all turned out to be serial killers. I'm curious though -- how did your family do dinner? Do you think it made a difference in who you are now?

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