I'm big on habits. I've written about how making your bed is an important habit and how I've fallen in and out of habits. I've read a lot of books on the topic. (Two favorites are The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg and Better Than Before: What I Learned About Making and Breaking Habits--to Sleep More, Quit Sugar, Procrastinate Less, and Generally Build a Happier Life by Gretchen Rubin.)
I was intrigued when I saw that tonight's Blogapalooza* topic was “Write about a habit or routine of yours that you would either like to break or that you hope never ends” but nothing immediately sprang to mind, other than getting out of my less than stellar food habits. It was my husband who said as he walked through our kitchen that my favorite daily habit is eating dinner as a family.
It didn't immediately occur to me as a habit because it's something that just happens, but once he pointed it out, I realized he was right. The fact that I didn't think about it probably means it is a true habit - something that happens without really thinking about it, activities that are "no brainers."
I am well aware that many families cannot do family dinners for a variety of reasons, including work and activity schedules. I've heard of other families who enjoy a breakfast ritual because dinner isn't feasible. Whatever works for your family is great. Family dinner is something that works for us.
As a family, we have family dinner pretty much every night.
The time varies based on my daughter's schedule and my husband's work schedule, but it happens. We both grew up in households where it happened and while we didn't think much about it as kids, we've both found that family dinner time is something we value as adults.
That doesn't mean that family dinners always fun, or easy. I don't claim to be an amazing cook, and our meals are never elaborate. There are (many) nights when Trader Joe is the chef, but family dinner is far more about family than then food.
We turn off our phones but have been known to head to the computer to research answers to questions, or settle debates. Tonight, I introduced my teen to Snopes when she was explaining that the 7-Up logo features a red circle because the inventor had one red eye, which Snopes said was not true. Occasionally there'll be a good reason to grab the atlas and consult it at the table, which delights me and guarantees an eye roll from my daughter.
Sometimes, like tonight, we tease each other and laugh a lot.
Other nights when we gather around our table there are tough conversations and tears.
There are some family dinners where my teen starts talking and doesn't stop until the dishes are cleared, leaving me amazed that she managed to eat at all.
Then there are meals during which she utters only a few syllables and the sound of the knives and forks and chewing is deafening. (And sometimes maddening, as I'm pretty sure I have misophonia, but that's a topic for another post)
For a habit, our family dinners are remarkably inconsistent, but I think that's why I cherish them. Our family dinners are perfectly representative of the roller coaster that family life can be.
I would love for our dinners to be like those that the Braverman family enjoyed on Parenthood, one of my very favorite television shows, but my experience is not exactly like theirs, in part because our family was small. I think I loved the dinners on the show because, in addition to the witty repartee, there were disagreements and frustrations.
It wasn't always perfect, but there was always love.
The same is true at my house.
I'm also coming to realize that I loved the Braverman dinners because while they didn't happen every night with all three generations present, there was a regularity to them. As my daughter edges closer to leaving home, I know that when she's gone, I'll miss our nightly dinners. But I'm hopeful that even if the habit isn't a daily one, it will continue. Because gathering around a table and sharing our meal, our day, and our lives is an event I adore.
* Blogapalooza is a monthly exercise during which the bloggers of ChicagoNow all spend exactly one hour writing on the same topic. You can see all of tonight's posts on the topic of habit here.
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