My Family Had The Same Thing For Dinner Every Night
My family had the same thing for dinner every night! You may not believe me, but this is true. Every night, we really did have the same thing. It was served up the same way and in similar fashion every time we sat down for dinner. The proportions and amount may have varied, but it was the same fare every night. Now, I know in some countries, this is a reality. However, I know in the United States, most families have a wide variety of meals and, most definitely, do not have the same thing for dinner every night. We are in America. We are supposed to be able to have variety and that makes us happy. But, my family had the same thing for dinner EVERY night.
So, you may be wondering at this point, why this matters. You may even wonder what we had for dinner every night. I will tell you. We had tension! We had upset feelings, emotion, anger, confusion, distress, outrage, criticism, and more unpalatable emotions and actions. Dinner time was not a good time in my home. I hated it. I hated family dinner time.
I am happy to say my family now is very different. We serve a very different fare and dinner time is most often one of the highlights of my day. We laugh, tell jokes, dance around, act crazy, and have a very good time. We are sometimes way too loud, goofing off more than we maybe should. My parents would be shocked if they were to observe what happens at our family dinner table today! It would have been forbidden. I am grateful to be choosing to do something much different. How did we get it to become so different? What helped make the change?
You see, a group of researchers have been studying marriage and family relations. Many of us have heard mention of their research and statements about the importance of family dinner time. There is evidence showing that family dinner time is related to better outcomes for children in their lives. There is evidence family dinner time is connected to decreased likelihood of addictive behavior. Family dinner time is being shown to be an important part of keeping families strong, protecting children, and fortifying children against a host of the world’s most challenging problems. What happens at the dinner table is important!
One finding really helped me to make changes in regard to family dinner time. A group of researchers observed conflicts at the family dinner table — Maybe they were in my childhood home (Scary thought, but perhaps instructive)! Anyway, over time with hundreds of experiences with many different families, they came upon a curious but troubling trend. When they analyzed their data, they concluded something startling, but quite significant:
Up to 75% of conflicts and problems at the family dinner table were started by the parents!
When I read this conclusion, my first reaction was to dismiss it. I have kids. I know what kind of things can happen at the table. Then, in my usual fashion, I began to pay more attention to my behavior at the table. It did not take long for me to see patterns of stress and conflict at the table. You guessed it! Who did I find was serving up most of the tension at the table? It was me. I did not do statistical analysis, but I am not proud to say I believe my percentage was much higher than that found by these researchers. Frankly, most of the conflict was in fact started by me and something I said or did. I was guilty.
So, I went to work on myself. I began to look at what happened in my home. I definitely did not want to have any more of those kinds of dinners. I also began to look at what I was doing and how I was choosing to talk and act at dinner. Finally, I had to look at what I wanted the family dinner to look like. Once I did this, I determined what adjustments I needed to make. Most of the adjustments have been minor. Many of them have involved learning to let go of things which do not really matter. The little things were the hardest for me to change. As I made the conscious and active decision to change at the table, things began to feel better. I did all of this without telling anyone. I just focused on making sure I served up good feelings, comments, and actions at the table. The changes have been rewarding to observe.
Occasionally, our family still has tension for dinner. Most of the time, I am the one that prepared and served it. However, that meal has become quite infrequent. More regularly we are blessed with a smorgasbord of delightful conversation, laughter, sharing of ideas and experiences, and enjoying being together. This is the best kind of dinner!
What does your family dinner time look like? If you are choking down too much stress and tension; if you are trying hard to swallow anger, aggression, and even frustration too much; if you are not happy with family dinner time, would you consider making a change? Start with yourself and see if you are a part of planning this menu. Determine to make a change. Visualize what you want it to be like. Enlist the help of your spouse or children. Then, start making some changes. It will surely take some time for things to shift to a more delicious tone, but stick with it. You will like what happens. It will produce great memories and be of benefit to all in the family.
So, what will you serve up for dinner tonight?
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