Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Does Serving Dinner at the Table Make You a Better Parent?

On the CNN site, there's an article entitled "8 reasons to make time for family dinner" by Sarah Klein. As you might expect, the article encourages the tradition of gathering around the kitchen table with spouse and kids and sharing the last meal of the day. The author cites studies and includes expert opinions.

According to this article, if you all sit down to dinner together, your kids will eat more veggies, say no to drugs and do better in school. You'll eat healthier, be less stressed and save money.


When I was growing up the family dinner was a no-exceptions rule; attendance was mandatory. It was the time of day when our parents could tell us exactly how crappy their day was, and yell at us for making it crappier.

My husband has equally 'fond' memories of the nightly dinner table. His mom had one recipe: Open. Heat. Serve. A tall glass of whine often accompanied the meal.

When our kids were little, we didn't have a kitchen table, or a dining room table. We didn't have a dining room. We barely had a kitchen. So we ate around the coffee table in the living room.
When the kids were a little older, and we finally bought a house, my husband worked second shift. The kids didn't want to sit at the table unless we were playing games or painting or doing crafts. As my daughter once said to me, "Dinner tastes better with cartoons."

So be it. Throughout their school years, my kids ate healthy foods, said no to drugs and did reasonably well in school. Stress wasn't a problem because I didn't have to enforce a mandatory attendance at the table rule.

My kids are pretty much grown now, and if I do say so myself, my husband and I did a good job. They're good, kind, responsible people. And they're happy.

I've read other articles instructing parents to insist on the mandatory dinner table rule. I'm not against such dinners. We occasionally gather together and share a meal at the table. It's not a miraculous moment, though. It's just dinner.

What I object to is how these so-called experts insist on making ordinary people feel like they're doing it all wrong. The tone of these articles is that if you're not doing this thing, you're not a good parent. Your kids will grow up to be high-school drop-out druggies who don't know the difference between a carrot and a potato. Oh, and they'll be obese.

You'll be a stressed out, bitchy fool of a parent addicted to fast food. Because, you know, if you don't serve your meal at the dinner table, you're probably not cooking.

I have one thing to say to these guys: Bite me.

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