Growing up, my friends always thought it was strange that come dinner time, the TV went off and we all ate at the kitchen table, even if we weren’t eating the same things. I often fixed my own dinner once I reached an age where I could safely (well, safely for me) use the stove.
Now, I could snack in my room, in front of the TV in the living room, down in the family room in the basement, wherever, but we always ate meals together, unless one of us wasn’t eating or was horribly sick. Even as a teen, when I often had nothing to say to either of my parents, I had to eat dinner at the kitchen table, and the TV was always off.
When my nephews moved in with my mom in 2004 and I was in college, the tradition continued. The TV could be left on, but we couldn’t see it from the dining room, just hear it. The nephews complained about it, like I had as a kid, but they did it, because it was demanded of them. They were not given an option, if they wanted to eat dinner, they had to sit down at the kitchen table. Even if they didn’t say an entire word during dinner, they still had to sit at the kitchen table where they couldn’t see the TV during dinner.
I still didn’t have an understanding of why this was so vitally important to my mom. But with age comes wisdom and now, I get it.
Because even on nights, I despised both of my parents as a teenager, sentences still occasionally left my mouth, directed at my parents, meaning I still talked to them during dinner no matter how I felt about them at that exact moment. Same with the nephews my mom and I raised. Even if they hated the world, they still talked during dinner to her and me. And not the “I hate you,” kind of talk, but actual talk, “my friend Joe did this yesterday”. Especially since they couldn’t watch TV during a meal.
And now, as adults, when the kids come visit, we all sit at the kitchen table to eat and often to chat. And since they grew up being forced to eat at the kitchen table, without distractions like the TV, in my mom’s house, it became a focal point that went beyond food.
To be sure, it was neat that my friend Angela could eat dinner in her room in front of her TV, because that was so different from what I was used to, but now that I’m an adult, I appreciate all those meals where I was forced to participate in conversation with my parents because it was meal time and there were no distractions and civilized conversation was required, even when I was mad at them for whatever ridiculous, teenage reason I had for hating them that day. And I seriously enjoy all the conversations I’ve gotten to have with my adult nephews that my mom raised, because they were trained to sit and eat meals at the kitchen table, just like I was. Some of the best conversations I have ever had with the boys happened over a meal because the TV wasn’t on distracting everyone from each other’s company.
Moreover, now that cellphones are a serious thing, my mom has forbid them from being at the kitchen table during meals. Continuing the tradition of a distraction free meal where everyone can talk and be civilized. In a world where everyone lives in distraction mode because of TVs, radios, cellphones, etc, meal time is still a distraction free zone where talking to each other is demanded.