The Family Dinner
By Bruce Sallan – Have a Special Meal Every Week
I had a discussion with some other dads the other day about “the family dinner.” To my surprise, many of these men described their family eating adventures as just that, an adventure. Or, more specifically: a circus, trial, ordeal, and other pejoratives.
My immediate thought was about the classic image of Norman Rockwell’s painting, “Freedom From Want” with the image of “mom” or “grandma” presenting the turkey at what is likely a Thanksgiving dinner, with the whole family eager, excited, and present. “Dad” or “grandpa” is looking on, with the expectation that he will carve the bird. How quaint; how lovely; how sadly antiquated, I fear.
What was evident in our discussion, as is so often the case, was that each man’s personal background and family experience, informed their own family experience. And, of course, their wife’s background also contributed to the ritual or lack thereof in the family.
I believe that the “family dinner” is an essential, valuable, and powerful ritual for every family unit, whatever it may be. It is even more important in our currently hectic times when each family member can pursue their own interests separately, alone, and with multiple technological tools at their disposal.
One wonders what happened to the whole family sitting around the one television in the home and watching, “The Ed Sullivan Show,” “Leave It To Beaver,” “The Donna Reed Show,” “The Bill Cosby Show,” as well as more contemporary examples. What happened to the shared experience of watching current events as I painfully remember watching Walter Cronkite cry on air when he announced JFK’s death (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2K8Q3cqGs7I) or when the whole family watched in wonder when Neil Armstrong landed and walked on the moon (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RMINSD7MmT4) and said those immortal words, “This is one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.”
Let’s face it; those times are long past, at least in the shared television experience. But, they don’t have to be in the family-time arena nor should they be. Another thing shared by the men in the original discussion that motivated this column was the fact that their own best memories often took place around the family dinner table. I know that was so true for my childhood and I’ve worked very hard to create a similar experience for my sons, during the hard time and now, the happier ones.
Our ritual is Friday Night Shabbat dinner. Shabbat is the day of rest for both Jews and Christians however it is “celebrated” differently in each faith. As a Jew, we observe the Sabbath on Friday nights. I helped create our family Shabbat tradition and it’s been, truly, special and memorable for my boys, myself, my lovely new wife, and equally for friends. The boys are eager to invite their friends over for our Friday night dinners.
Why? Because, it is sadly unique among their contemporaries. Any family dinner seems unique to many of my boy’s friends. Ours is extra special because of not only the good meal, but also the rituals we observe each Friday night. They’re simple, they’re easy, they’re short, but they’re meaningful. This sticks with people and is one of my main reasons I’m advocating the family dinner. My recommendation is to start with a family dinner one night a week that is designated as sacrosanct and special.
What do you do that is different and special? First, I bake fresh challah each week. The smell of the bread baking in the oven fills the house and announces that this day is different from all the others during the week. My wife, who is a talented cook, makes an extra effort and we have a very lovely meal. But, it all starts with the simple lighting of candles and a blessings. It is followed by three other short blessings; one for the wine; one for the challah (bread); and one for the children present, boys and/or girls.
Our special Sallan family tradition goes one step further as we take turns going around the table with each person sharing the best and worst things that happened for them during that week. Only one “worst” is allowed to prevent excessive whining and complaining but there’s no limit on the “bests.” For new friends and guests, this is a wonderful way to share things about them we might not otherwise learn or know. For us, it’s an opportunity to be grateful, share the good news and also the bad news, and basically just get closer.
I look forward to our Friday night dinner with great anticipation each week. We also try to eat together other nights as well, but life and our individual schedules do intrude, yet I would estimate that we sit down to eat as a family at least four times per week. I heartily encourage you to do the same.
About the Author:
Bruce is a resident expert at www.DaddyBluez.com. Check out his new web-site, BoomerTechTalk.com. For the cool peeps! Please listen to “The Bruce Sallan Show – A Dad’s Point-of-View” Thursdays at 11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m., PST (U.S. Time) on KZSB AM1290 in Santa Barbara or on the Internet via a live stream. For that link and all information about the show and Bruce, visit his Bruce’s column, “A Dad’s Point-of-View,” is available in over 100 newspapers and web-sites worldwide. And, don’t forget to “like” his “A Dad’s Point-of-View” Facebook page, along with the over 3,000 members from all over the world that make up this great community of dads and moms!
Michelle is an active member of the nanny community. She is the founder and president of Boston Area Nannies, Inc., a local non profit educational organization and has served on the International Nanny Association Board of Directors for the past five years. During that time she has also served as the associations 1st Vice President. Michelle is also a proud member of Christian Nannies.
She is called on by the media as a nanny and parenting expert, and has been affectionately dubbed America's Nanny. Michelle has appeared on television and has been featured in print.
To learn more about Michelle and to get your parenting tip of the day, please visit www.michellelarowe.com.
Books by Michelle LaRowe
A Mom's Ultimate Book of Lists: 100+ Lists to Save You Time, Money and Sanity - Grocery lists. Checklists. To-do lists. Lots of people love--and live by--lists. And parents are no exception. Today's families are busier than ever, and moms don't have the time or energy to search and scramble for the parenting information they are desperately seeking. This handy, practical reference guide will save time, money, and sanity for today's busy women.To learn more, visit www.michellelarowe.com.
Working Mom's 411 is your one-stop resource guide for navigating through the often choppy waters of managing kids, career and home. With extensive experience as a credentialed nanny, household manager and as a working mom herself, Michelle is sure to make you laugh out loud as she shares her expert take on the common dilemmas that working mothers face.
Nanny to the Rescue - America's nanny offers a large dose of healthy parenting advice with secrets for raising happy, secure, and well-balanced babies and toddlers.
Nanny To the Rescue Again - Faced with multiple choices regarding school, friends, and activities coupled with the ever-widening influence of the outside world, parents of 6-12 year olds need help. America's nanny is back to offer a large dose of healthy parenting advice with secrets for raising happy, secure, and well-balanced children.
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