KAREN NAZOR HILL: As a child, one of my favorite times of day was when my family sat down for dinner together. We enjoyed my mother's homemade cooking and shared the events of the day. It was like a brainstorming session. My brother and I told our parents the highs and lows of our day. If there were problems, we tried to work them out in between the main course and the dessert. But, mostly, it was a time of joy because not only did we share highlights, so did our parents. In fact, one of my most treasured possessions today is that very table that was the center of our family meals and discussions. With that said, I sadly didn't pass on that tradition to my own children. We did eat at the table together during my first few years of parenting, but as soon as my oldest child started dancing lessons, soccer and swimming, things changed. Most practices or lessons were around dinnertime. When my next three children got into extracurricular activities, we almost never sat down together for a meal, except for Sunday. Now, I see it's going to be the same for my granddaughters. My 3-year-old is already into sports.
MARK KENNEDY: My childhood memories are similar to yours. We, too, still use the old oak table that where my parents held court when my sister and I were kids.
Now, we try to sit down together a couple of times a week; but if it's not ingrained as habit, nightly family meals are hard to pull off. I've seen research that shows that families who eat together have kids that are more academically successful in school. I'm not sure if there is any cause and effect here, but it's an interesting phenomenon.
KAREN: Though we've seemed to lose the tradition of family dining, new and equally important ones have cropped up. I treasure my sitting-around-the-table meals with my family mostly because of the camaraderie. But with my own kids, the one-on-one time I spent driving them back and forth to practices or lessons was equally as rewarding. Some of our best conversations took place in the car. And, for the most part, it was usually one-on-one. It was our time alone together where we could talk about anything or nothing. It was valuable bonding time that I never let go to waste. Today, many years later, I still have those one-on-one talks with each of my children on a regular basis - table or no table.
MARK: I agree. I usually spend one-on-one time with my two boys, ages 8 and 3, at bedtime. Book reading is part of our nightly ritual, and I try to linger for a few minutes after the book is closed to have a conversation with each of my sons. This is where problems and anxieties get vetted in a comforting environment. It's not the same as traditional family means, but it gets the job done.