It was thanks to a surprise drop off of a slightly used New York Times food edition that I got to thinking about our family's meal time tonight.
Writer Sam Sifton's "Why Does It Matter That Families Eat Together" article, accompinied by the modest photography of Stephanie Sinclair, held my attention immediately as I poured over it's pages. This was a story of families eating together. Not what they ate, or where they ate it, or who they were, simply the act of sitting together to do it.
I like to think that we sit together, as a unit, at least once a day. In truth, I hope it's more than once - but that's optimistic in a world full of drop-offs, ballet, swim team, work and chess club. Still, once a day I sort of assumed.
But tonight, as the three of us (minus our fourth for the moment) closed in on a meal (purchased way too fast after swim team), I had to really take stock in our dinner routine.
Though I'm more likely than not to cook dinner from scratch, I don't think I had stopped to evaluate whether my meal prep and clean-up also included a space for communication and nourishment. I looked at both my kids, this recent article discussing the merits of family time around the meal, including healthier eating habits, fewer teen pregnancies and higher education, was swirling fresh in my head. Have I talked to them lately while we ate? Really talked.
Somehow, sitting there with my two bobbing bouncing bubbles, I could only come up with fart noises and giggles as recent topics of conversation. Yes, we all sit down to satiate our starving hard worked frames, but the missing link, at least according to the New York Times, was in fact me. I hadn't been asking, prodding, poking for more.
I asked my son to close his book. Reluctantly he did, and I began.
"So, what did you do in enrichment today?" I asked.
A shrug. At all of eight years old I more often than not get the shrug. I didn't expect it so soon in our life, and it posses a certain kind of obstacle, but he's only eight, so it's not a cement wall - just yet.
So I asked more. And, I mirrored the same questions to the darling golden-haired three year old. Her responses were more ad-lib. A fart noise. A fake burp learned and perfected from her older brother. A mention of ballet and how fabulously "pink" it was today (as opposed to other days when it is also very pink).
It took some time, a few minutes really, but over our wrappers and premade meal we had a conversation. A real conversation that had me reeling in the absence of it for so long. This tiny check-in over burritos was actually making my children better people. More successful. Less Pregnant.
And bed time? Bed time was easier. Everyone had aired their dirty laundry and in a slightly deeper state of closeness, all went off to bed without worry or concern. Tomorrow will be another day, and tomorrow's dinner will be one more time to talk about what life's all about.
What's on the menu at your house?