My father recently penned an article in which he touched upon his fond memories of the family eating together around the dinner table, and it encouraged some serious thinking on my part. I'm the first to admit that dinner time for us is not always what it should be. While we always eat together, we aren't quite so careful about eating at the table (with the television off). As a borderline "news junkie," I admit it.... I enjoy eating dinner in front of the television. There, it's out.
I suppose I'm a recovering news junkie now, but that's another story. The bottom line is that the family dinner table is a wonderful thing that I think is too often overlooked. Let's face it, with the Middle East tensions and economic worries, there's a lot of sense in being informed on current events. What I'm (slowly) learning, though, is that there are other options for getting the news than devoting your dinnertime to that activity--and the same goes for any other type of program, too. What I have begun doing, for instance, is recording the news shows (or Dr. Who episodes) to watch them later.
It's not exactly rocket science, but it definitely is much easier to carry on a meaningful conversation at a quiet table with no distracting television or radio in the background. It also helps children develop their table manners and conversational skills (sometimes some debate skills thrown in for good measure). It's not an exaggeration, but simple moments like these really help parents learn who their children are growing up to become. It is also a wonderful time to talk about faith and belief in God and trust in His Church--why we believe what we do.
While life is easier on the surface now with luxuries we take for granted such as electricity and running water, sometimes I wonder what we've surrendered in exchange for these comforts. Remember literature of the past century or two and recollect the fondness and warmth frequently reflected in the authors' vivid descriptions of family dinners--Charles Dickens, Daniel Defoe, and perhaps Robert Louis Stevenson come to mind. (An interesting example of this kind of writing comes from early issues of Good Housekeeping.) It's possible these described sentiments of old will begin to fade and vanish, becoming foreign concepts for future generations, if we let the opportunities to be true stewards of family time today slip by. After all, for parents there is no option for "re-do."